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Longtime Montana Political Reporter Chuck Johnson has died

Chuck Johnson
Posted at 9:32 AM, Mar 06, 2023

HELENA — Longtime Montana journalist and political reporter Charles S. “Chuck” Johnson has passed away.

Lee Newspapers, which Johnson had worked for, was the first to report on his passing. MTN has been able to confirm the information with friends of Johnson.

Chuck was regarded highly and well-liked by his fellow reporters that covered the happenings at the Montana State Capitol and politics in the Treasure State. He was always happy to take the extra time with a new reporter to teach them about Montana politics and share some of his bottomless knowledge.

Johnson was a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism, and in 2022 he received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Montana State University

As noted when receiving his honorary doctorate, Johnson had a reporting career that spanned over forty years. He covered 22 Montana legislative sessions, seven governors, nine U.S. senators and 10 U.S. representatives, and reported on the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention for the Associated Press. His reporting was widely regarded as clear, fair and balanced.

Retired MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison knew Johnson for much of his over four-decade career. In a statement to MTN, Dennison reflected on his old colleague and friend:

Chuck was the consummate news professional, but, more importantly, an all-around great guy. I think that’s what made him so good — people trusted him and knew he was totally fair, so when he had to hold someone accountable and perhaps write a less-than-pleasant story about them, it had all the more credibility, because you knew he didn’t have an agenda or anything personal against the subject of the story.

He also was one of the most unassuming people I’ve ever known. People knew him, he was a public figure of sort, but you never got the sense that he cared much about recognition or getting credit for doing the difficult job that he did so well for so long.

His legacy will be many things, but a big part of it has to be his mentorship and assistance to many younger reporters (myself included), always making himself available to help us learn the journalistic ropes that he knew so well.

Mike Dennison

Born in Great Falls and raised in Helena, Johnson began his career in 1967 through an internship with the Helena Independent Record. His first full-time reporting position was for the Missoulian, where he worked from 1972 to 1974. He then returned to Helena and began reporting for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau, then at the Great Falls Tribune Capitol Bureau in Helena. His work included serving as bureau chief from 1984 to 1992. From 1992 to 2015, he served as bureau chief for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau.

Johnson retired in 2015, although from time to time he came out of retirement to report on political issues or offer his commentary on an issue or candidate.

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