Montana In the 1970’s: Seen Through a Reporter’s Eyes -- Chuck Johnson “In the Crucible of Change”

Chuck Johnson
Evan Barrett, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

This interview/discussion is a segment of the series “In the Crucible of Change” - Montana’s Dramatic Period of Progressive Change [1965-1980] - From a Corporate Colony to a Citizens’ State and the Challenge of Keeping It That Way - An Evan Barrett Telefilm Series; Produced by: Highlands College/Montana Tech & Orphan Girl Productions (Evan Barrett); Executive Producers: Evan Barrett & John Garic; Host/Moderator: Evan Barrett; Produced in the studios of Helena Civic Television (HCTV) – Production unit: Kirsten Faubion, Stephen Maly, Dave Clarke, Kelsea Kimerly, Lauren Fredrickson, Jeanie McLean-Warden; Opening Voice Recording - Ian Hadley; Photos: Montana Historical Society Photo Archives - Tom Cook; Personal Photo Archives of Evan Barrett; Music: “Living Room Jam” & “Island Breeze” - Richard H. Kuschel - The Recording Center - Missoula, Montana; “Orphan Girl” used by permission of Headframe Spirits – John & Courtney McKee; Partially funded by Grants from Humanities Montana (an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), Montana History Foundation, and The Greater Montana Foundation (encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans).


It has been said that “journalism is the first rough draft of history.” If that be the case, much of Montana’s history since 1970 was first written by Chuck Johnson. He has covered the activities of 20 regular sessions of the Legislature plus an untold number of Special Sessions, the Constitutional Convention, nine Governors, eight US Senators and seven US Congressmen. Primary elections, general elections, state and national Party Conventions have been seen by Montanans through Johnson’s prism. Big and little news about policy, insights about politics, and a sense of the people behind the news (and history) has flowed from Chuck Johnson’s pen.

Johnson’s first decade as a journalist coincides substantially with the period of “In the Crucible of Change.” Having been one of those who wrote the first draft of much of the history in the series “In the Crucible of Change,” and as “Dean of Montana’s Capitol Reporters,” Chuck’s reflections and insights about the period are conveyed in this film with a maturity and understanding that can only come from one who has spent decades honing is craft to perfection.

Chuck Johnson is a journalist who has covered Montana state government and politics since 1970. Since 1992, he has been bureau chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena, writing for the Lee daily newspapers: the Billings Gazette, The Montana Standard (Butte), Helena Independent Record, The Missoulian, and the Ravalli Republic (Hamilton). Johnson, a Great Falls native raised in Helena, was exposed to politics early on when he was taken up to the Legislature one night to watch the debate on the raging issue of the day--whether stores should be allowed to give trading stamps to customers. He received a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. history from the University of Montana. Johnson spent a year studying politics and economics at Oxford University in England on a Rotary Foundation scholarship. He previously was chief of the Great Falls Tribune Capitol Bureau and worked for the Associated Press, Missoulian and Helena Independent Record. Chuck and his wife Pat reside in Helena.