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Brian McDermott

Tales 4 Sale: The Stories Behind the Classifieds

Classified ads are old news. In the Missoulian on Jan. 1, 1946, one classified ad seeks a "girl or woman to assist to cooking and housework." Those looking for job perks would have been warmed by the next sentence: "can go home nights." People familiar with housing prices in western Montana would be heartbroken by the ad for 10-acres of property in the Bitterroot for $8,500. Included for that money are "50 chickens…and some furniture." Today, there are millions of new-media classified ads on eBay alone. Classifieds are part of the advertising chatter that subsumes us, and yet because of their long history, classified print ads retain a certain old-world charm. The photos you'll see in this collection were taken by beginning photojournalism students for class at the University of Montana. Instead of shooting a classic feature assignment, the students had to choose a classified ad and photograph the story behind it.

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Brian McDermott Wedding Photography

If you’re looking to mix traditional wedding photography with a documentary flair, award-winning photojournalist Brian McDermott is booking weddings in the Missoula area for the spring, summer, and autumn of 2006. Call 406-396-4466 or email for a CD of images and for more information. Packages start at $750.

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A Glimmer of Hope, A Break in the Cycle

Mary Borris and Maureen O'Malley met only once, at the Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk in October. But both women face the same question every day: how to confront suicide. It begins, for O'Malley, with openness. She organized the walk and invited media, and the media came, cautiously. Confronting suicide requires education, too, O'Malley said. It requires mental health agencies putting aside their turf wars and working together, she said. And it requires time and money. For Mary Borris, confronting suicide means talking openly about death with her children. When Mary got a copy of the coroner's report and of photos of Stephen's jail cell in December, David and Kodi sandwiched her on the couch as she looked at them. They asked her to explain how he hung himself, and she did: by kneeling into a noose tied with a sheet on the bunk bed above. Mary believes that the healthy way to confront suicide with her children is to be unwaveringly open. It is as if talking about the tragedies reasonably can lessen the emotional monstrosity of death.

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Suicide Prevention Comes Down to Dollars, Attitude and Access

By 5 p.m. on a new autumn day last October, about two-dozen people stood in the park, waiting for the county's inaugural Suicide Memorial Awareness Walk to begin. It was a big moment for Maureen O'Malley, the coordinator of the Missoula City-County Health Department's suicide prevention network. Her position is less than three years old, and she is charged with the weighty task of decreasing the number of suicides in Missoula County. The job is 15 hours a week. Part-time. O'Malley's budget is anemic. There was a $10,000 governor's grant given to her office and to four other Montana counties last year. Otherwise "it's a matter of eking some dollars out of the current health department budget," she said. O'Malley's equivalent until November in Cascade County was Susie McIntyre, who puts the fiscal woes more bluntly. "Suicide prevention in Montana can come down to money, and yet we haven't invested in it in any systematic way," she said.

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A Deadly Equation: Suicide in the West

The dead were named. They were remembered. Then, in the hallway of St. Anthony Parish, there was an awkward shuffle to day-to-day conversation between strangers as the group moved towards a folding table with homemade cookies. The inaugural Suicide Memorial Awareness Walk in Missoula ended here. Moments earlier a circle of 22 mourners spoke the names of loved ones- some in whispers, some with breaking voices, some holding a defiantly steady tone. Kodi Borris, a ponytailed eight-year-old, stepped toward the center the hushed circle. "Stephen," she said quietly. "Stephen," repeated the group of mourners. Stephen is Stephen Adam Borris, Kodi’s stepbrother, who hung himself while in the Hill County Jail in Havre on May 11, 2004.

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