MTJA Kicks Off New Trip With A Look Inside Fukushima

Logo for UM to Fukushima
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In May 2017, a group of Montana Journalism Abroad (MTJA) students will travel to Japan and report on the issues that continue to affect people displaced by a trio of disasters that struck the northeast part of the country in 2011. On March 11 of that year, a severe earthquake triggered a tsunami that decimated coastal towns, and damage from the wave led to the meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The nuclear fallout forced citizens to drop everything and leave their homes behind. After five years of clean-up efforts, the government has started to encourage people to return to their homes, but many people remain fearful of lingering radiation.

During their trip, the students will tour the affected areas, interview citizens and government officials, and then produce a multimedia package that tells the stories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These stories of displacement will resonate with Montanans who are no stranger to natural and industrial disasters, such as wildfires and leaking mine waste. As the group prepares for the trip, they are raising public awareness of the ongoing challenges of Fukushima residents.

With the screening of the documentary “Alone in Fukushima,” students invite the Missoula community to take a closer look at life inside the red zone. Just seven miles away from the nuclear power plant, Naoto Matsumura is the only person left in town. He risks the radiation to look after the domesticated animals that families left behind. Japanese filmmaker Mayu Nakamura follows Matsumura on his quest to care for the creatures and save them from starvation. poster for Alone in Fukushima film. The film will be shown Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Payne Native American Center, room 11.

This Thursday, November 17, join the students of MTJA as they screen “Alone in Fukushima” at 6:30 p.m. in room 210 of the J-School. After the film, the director will skype in from Japan for a Q&A session. Admittance is free, but any donations are welcome and will help reduce travel costs.
Check out the trailer for Mayu Nakamura’s documentary “Alone in Fukushima” on YouTube.

By Jana Wiegand

J-School part of NSF grant to study food, energy, water

UM Bridge text logoFaculty and graduate students at the School of Journalism are part of a new $3 million science grant focused on innovative approaches to studying the intersection of water, energy and food.

Nadia White, an associate professor of journalism, is part of an interdisciplinary program called “UM BRIDGES: Bridging Divides across the Food, Energy and Water Nexus.” The program will bring 30 new PhD and Master’s students to UM under the 5-year National Science Foundation research training grant.

“This grant challenges scientists to work together to better understand major areas of concern in a future affected by climate change and other dynamic modern forces,” White said. “One of our goals at the J School is to train journalists to understand the nuances and implications of cutting-edge scientific research. This grant helps create access to that inquiry.”

White teaches Story Lab, a science journalism class that pairs students pursing a Master’s degree in environmental science and natural resource journalism with research labs at the University of Montana.

Journalism faculty will teach communication strategies and journalism skills to Ph.D. and Masters degree students in a series of workshops.

Andrew Wilcox, an associate professor in Geosciences, and Laurie Yung, an associate professor in the College of Forestry lead UM BRIDGES.

The program, Yung said, is part of a new way of thinking about graduate education.

“This new approach seeks to train students to connect science and practice, to communicate with a range of audiences, and to move more seamlessly across traditional disciplinary boundaries,” Yung said.

The award puts the University of Montana at the forefront of a broader national initiative to build more sustainable and secure food, energy, and water systems and to develop innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to graduate education.

UM Journalism Joins New Google News Lab Initiative

Google News Lab text logoThe University of Montana School of Journalism announced Monday that it was joining other top-tier media schools in the launch of a new Google “News Lab University Network” in an effort to better train new and existing journalists in data, search and emerging technologies.

The Network is the latest effort by the School of Journalism to deploy technologies to tell and distribute stories in new ways.

School of Journalism Dean Larry Abramson said the initiative comes in response to student demand, and to changes in the industry. “Our students tell us they want more training in digital tools to make them more competitive when they hit the job market,” Abramson said. “The News Lab partnership will equip the entire school—faculty, students and staff—to stay ahead of changes in the news landscape. The faculty and I are very excited about this opportunity,” said Abramson, who arrived at UM in 2014 after nearly 30 years with NPR in Washington, DC.

Abramson has moved to accelerate changes in the school, bringing in noted media critic and change agent Jay Rosen and establishing the relationship with the Google News Lab.

The new University Network will provide resources and support to the top universities around the world, in exchange for feedback and input to help guide News Lab curriculum and training materials for journalists, professors, and the future journalists of the world.

“Being a part of the Network from the beginning gives us a great opportunity to have access to the latest tools and techniques being developed by the leading technology firm in the world,” said Lee Banville, who teaches web and digital reporting at the school and ran the Online NewsHour for 14 years before coming to Montana. “This will put our digital news reporting projects on par with far larger programs.”

As part of the network, Montana professors will work with Google to develop lessons and test new products in the classroom as well as offer feedback that will help make sure new tools serve a wide array of journalism outlets, including smaller, more rural newsrooms all across Montana.

In the past the J School has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and pioneered work with the Public Insight Network project.  Google News Lab trainer Scott Leadingham visited the J School in October for a daylong workshop on digital tools. In addition to students and J School faculty, working journalists from across Montana attended the training session.

Google started the News Lab in 2015 “to empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media,” according to the company. Google-trained experts collaborate with educators and newsrooms around the world to explore the frontiers of data analysis, mapping and graphics.

The University of Montana School of Journalism launched in 1914, and has trained generations of journalists in print, broadcast, photography and new media. The school is regularly ranked among the top 10 journalism schools in the United States.