The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Column: Love what you do...


November 23, 2016

The first issue of the Whitehall Ledger features an article about the creation of the newspaper by Dean Neitz and Mick Gee.

The first time I walked into the office of the Whitehall Ledger in February of 2015, I quickly noticed a framed issue of a newspaper hanging on the wall near the entrance.

I quickly glanced at the paper, and realized it was the first issue of the Ledger. For reasons I'm not quite sure of, the issue does not have a date on the front page, but it was published sometime in the spring of 1984.

The headline for the lead story reads, "Whitehall area has newspaper", and discusses how the paper came to be. It's a story that started with two newspapermen who had come to Whitehall to watch Montana Tech play an exhibition basketball game in town. The two men wondered why there wasn't a Whitehall reporter covering the game, and would find out there was not a local paper. The wheels began turning, and the two would start to investigate if they could make a paper work for Whitehall and the surrounding areas.

One of those men was Dean Neitz, a longtime newspapermen, who at the time was publisher of the Philipsburg Mail, and the founder/publisher of the Anaconda Leader newspaper.

The week I purchased the paper, I traveled with Cheryl Cheman on a Wednesday morning to Anaconda to pickup the Ledger at the office of the Leader, who has been doing the printing since the paper was founded. Within seconds of walking into the printing area, I was greeted by Dean, who at the time was 87, and still very much a part of the Whitehall Ledger.

While it had been years since he owned the paper, Dean was busy getting the labels ready to put on each mailed paper. As soon as the Leader's massive printer started rolling, Dean walked over and grabbed me a copy so I could see how it looked.

We spent the next several minutes talking about the Ledger, the newspaper business, and what he did on a daily basis.

It didn't take long for me to think very highly of Dean. Here he was at 87, still very involved with printing, and also doing the pricing for numerous print jobs at their facility, as well as many other tasks.

He told me being at the paper on a daily basis really kept him going, and I truly admired his work ethic. Dean could have retired years ago, but he didn't. He was still making the trip every day from Philipsburg to Anaconda and didn't just go and hide in an office. He was very involved in the day-to-day operations.

He had a love for the newspaper business and it showed.

The first several months I owned the paper, I would make the trip to stuff inserts in the paper and bring it back to Whitehall. Eventually Melissa started making the trip to allow me to focus on the website and other tasks on Wednesday mornings, but every once in a while I will go with her.

A few weeks ago, she came back and told me Dean and his wife had been in a bad automobile accident and they had both been taken to the hospital in Missoula.

It was really awful news to hear, but she keeps me updated when she returns on Wednesday afternoons.


Unfortunately Dean's wife is still in the hospital recovering from serious injuries, but Dean has made his way home where he is slowly starting to return to daily activities.

Dean has yet to return to the Leader for a day's work, and after all the years I wouldn't blame him if he didn't.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see him one Wednesday morning busily preparing the labels and bringing me the paper to check the print job.

There is an old saying that says something like that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.

While I'm sure that's not always the case, Dean is a classic example that makes it ring true locally.

I've got many people I look up to in this profession, and what better person to look up to than the founder of the Whitehall Ledger.


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