After an inspiring 34-year career at The Billings Gazette, Jaci Webb is starting a new chapter in life. Rocky Mountain College students still have the pleasure of interacting with Webb as she continues her role as an adjunct professor at the institution.
Webb was the the arts and entertainment reporter for The Billings Gazette for almost 20 years and covered an immense range of plays, art shows and concerts. During her time at the Gazette, not only did she write about shows and events, but she also impacted the livelihood of the Billings community by telling the stories of local artists, their challenges and inspirations.
“She was more than just a reporter of the arts and culture around Billings,” said city editor of The Billings Gazette Chris Jorgensen. “I think she was a champion of the art scene. I think she advocated for enlarging the art scene, making it more vibrant, and getting more people to participate in it,”
Webb wrote over 3500 stories for The Billings Gazette over her 34-year career. She will continue to captivate readers with her wit, but now as a freelance writer for The Billings Gazette and other publications.
Jorgensen worked with Webb for over 10 years. He said that when his family moved to Billings back in 2000, there was an art scene at the time, but people had to hunt for it. Now you don’t have to hunt anymore.
“Now there is live music every night of the week,” said Jorgensen. “There are five theatre companies. When I moved, there was only two. You can see live theatre every weekend which is great.”
Jorgensen added that Webb’s work contributed to the increased vibrancy and transformation of Downtown Billings.
“It is just a better place,” said Jorgensen. “I think a lot of people have had a hand in making it better, and one of those people is Jaci. She has really done a lot to encourage it and expand it. ”
On March 11, over 200 friends and colleagues filled the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company for a tribute event aimed at recognizing Webb’s career and her impact in the Billings community.
“When I first heard there was a tribute about me I thought, ‘Hey I’m not dead yet’,” Webb joked during a speech at the tribute event.
Jorgensen added that one of Webb’s greatest achievements is helping people in the community understand the value of art.
“Even if you aren’t interested in the arts, she was really good at letting people understand the value it had in the community beyond whether you wanted to go into an art gallery or not,” said Jorgensen. “I appreciate her not just as her editor, but as a human who lives here in Billings.”
Jorgensen attended the tribute event and saw the overwhelming support of the community for Webb as she moves into a new chapter in life.
“It was packed with well wishers,” said Jorgensen. “They were all grateful for Jaci’s reporting, for her advocacy, and just for her as a human. She is a really lovely person on top of being really good at her job.”
Casey Page, photographer for The Billings Gazette, worked alongside Webb since 2007 and commented that she was always a presence in the newsroom.
“She was willing to give space in Enjoy to a lot of up and coming local bands and artists,” said Page. “She wasn’t just about what big Metra show was coming.”
Messages of support toward Webb are flooding social media pages. People are showing appreciation for the journalist that told their stories and gave them a voice.
“Telling your stories is the greatest honor I could have had.” said Webb during a speech at the tribute event.