Montana School of Journalism Students Win Top National Awards

By Jazzlyn Johnson

University of Montana School of Journalism students have won top awards in two national journalism award competitions.

Matt Neuman. Photo by Zach Meyer.

Three students placed in the top 10 of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Hearst Journalism Awards Program and two students placed in the top five of the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts competition. Both programs give scholarships to award winners.

Montana Kaimin editor-in-chief Matt Neuman, from Glens Falls, New York, won third place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program in enterprise reporting for his story “In the Red: How UM dining’s upscale restaurant poured nearly $1 million down the drain.”

“While sometimes it is hard to write stories about my own university, I think it’s important to shine a light on issues so they can be fixed,” Neuman said. “I appreciate all of the university officials who let me use this place as a testing ground for real-world reporting.”

Rikki Devlin on assignment last spring while working on her award-winning piece, “The Person not the Crime: The Person not the Crime.” Instagram photo by fellow student LJ Dawson. Click in to see the full post.

UM School of Journalism 2018 graduate Rikki Devlin, of Sacramento, California, took fifth place in the multimedia category of the Hearst awards for her multimedia work last spring for the Native News project. See her piece, “The Person not the Crime: One woman’s journey to healing” here: “Beyond Bars: Flathead Public Defenders Provide Lasting Solutions to Incarceration.

Meanwhile, journalism student Eli Imadali from Chandler, Arizona won sixth place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program for his radio stories for the college radio station KBGA. Although Imadali is primarily a photojournalist, he said audio is another layer to add to effectively tell immersive stories. One of the stories he submitted was about Imagine Nation Brewing’s beer celebrating Missoula’s refugees and the other was about keeping kosher in Missoula.

Imadali gravitated to the “Kosher in Missoula” story after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead.

Eli Imadali. Courtesy Photo.

“Looking back at it, this story and one other story were my ways of dealing with it — getting back in touch with some of my Jewish roots that I haven’t thought about in a while,” Imadali said.

The Hearst Journalism Awards are open to undergraduate students at accredited journalism programs. Neuman and Imadali competed with students from 104 universities.

Halisia Hubbard, a senior journalism and fine arts double major from Big Fork, Montana won third place in the Broadcast Education Association competition for radio feature reporting for her piece, “How Willard Became Willard,” part of a semester-long podcast project that covered Missoula’s alternative high school. She said it was encouraging when she heard she won the award because she had been working very hard to find her journalistic voice.

Halisia Hubbard. Portrait from the Montana Journalism Abroad Korea project.

“I owe a huge thanks to Jule Banville who has been my biggest cheerleader in the J-School and has stuck her neck out for me many, many times,” Hubbard said.

In addition to her Hearst win, Rikki Devlin also won third place in the BEA competition for radio hard news reporting for her story, “Missing Native Women.” Devlin said Ivy McDonald, an activist for the movement to stop the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis, was her inspiration for the story, as well as UM School of Journalism’s capstone class Native News.

“Native News gave me a platform to meet the people involved and the proper experience to tell this story and tell it respectfully,” Devlin said.

Devlin is now working at IDEO, a global design company in San Francisco.

The BEA’s Festival of Media Arts competition brings in more than 1,000 entries each year from more than 300 schools, according to the organization.

Jazzlyn “Jazzie” Johnson is a third-year journalism student at UM. Originally from Ohio, she moved to Missoula for UM’s School of Journalism. Johnson hopes to either continue education after her spring 2020 graduation or write for a publication covering racial justice and environmental justice.

Montana Journalism Graduate Students and Alumni Send Ripples With Podcasts, Photography and Documentaries

Ripples. 

Rising around the University of Montana are a series of low mountains etched with subtle benches that catch the snow and create shadowy rings around the sprawling valley. These are the beaches of glacial lake Missoula, a colossal catchment that formed 10,000 years ago behind massive ice dams. The lake filled, then collapsed with such energy that it shaped the landscape from western Montana, through the Columbia River Gorge to the sea.

Each year, we refill our program with graduate students who arrive from across the country to study Natural Resource and Environmental Science journalism in the heart of where it happens. The mountains and valleys of Western Montana are our laboratories and the people who live here are guides in the stories they share.

The Feb. 15 deadline for priority application consideration just closed and those applicants should expect to hear their admissions status by early March. But we take pride in developing a cohort of students who both push and support each other, and so we continue taking applications until April 15 for students wishing to start Fall 2019. (The difference between the pools is the priority distribution of financial aid and teaching assistantships.) (Click here for more information on how to apply.)

Current students and recent alumni of the journalism graduate program have been busy in the last year building their potential and letting their impact ripple through journalism both close to home and to distant shores.

With the help of the Greater Montana Foundation, videographers have been tackling issues that bring science, the environment and public health together in important ways. Film maker Henry Worobec ’18’s Confluir, an exploration of threats and opportunities along the Rio Marañón, Amazon’s main stem, has been making the rounds at film festivals.

Trailer- CONFLUIR, a Study of Rio Marañón from Henry Worobec on Vimeo.

Jamie Drysdale ’18 will premiere heart-wrenching film Lethal Control at the 2019 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon on March 2. The film examines the use of cyanide poison as a coyote control in Idaho and Wyoming.

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Radio reporter Nicky Ouellet ’16 and a team of audio reporters won a silver medal at the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards for SubSurface, a podcast about the threat invasive mussels pose to Montana’s lakes and fisheries. This top international science journalism award recognizes outstanding work done to promote a public understanding of scientific work. Follow her on Instagram @o.nicky.

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Nora Saks ’16, a member of the SubSurface team, is about to let loose a podcast of her own. Sincegraduation, Saks has worked for Montana Public Radio covering environmental issues in Butte, Montana. As she reported the daily efforts to improve conditions at one of the country’s largest Superfund sites, she has been gathering tape for a podcast of her own. Listen for Richest Hill at MTPR.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow Nora on Instagram @nrvsaks.

Writer Will Grant ‘10 continues chasing adventure with both harrowing and hilarious results. A Colorado cowboy and master of the long narrative, Will raced in the world’s hardest horse race in 2013 and wrote a feature story about the experience for Outside Magazine. Now he appears in All the Wild Horses, a new documentary about the race: “Every time you work with horses, especially wild horses like this, you can get hurt very badly,” he says, stating what becomes obvious in the trailer. Since 2013, he has ridden the Pony Express trail, sailed the eastern seaboard in autumn and participated in Team USA Kok Boru, that horseback contest played with a dead goat. Follow him on Instagram @willgrantofthewest

Writer Heather Fraley ‘18 took to the field this fall to profile a UM program that shows new hunters the ropes and helps ensure their first outing is successful – whether they bring game home or not.

Current students may not be done calling Missoula home quite yet, but they’re creating ripples of their own.

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 12.06.22 PMWriter Samantha Weber and videographer Mikensi Romersa traveled to South Korea over the summer as part of UM’s International Reporting class. They produced stories for Atlantic Magazine’s CityLab, including this piece on the disoriented life of North Korean defectors.

Back on the ranch, Weber has focused her reporting on a number of stories about self-directed solutions on the Blackfeet Reservation. One, about eco-tourism, reflects the work she did with mentor Graham Lee Brewer as a Crown Reporting Project winner. That piece is slated to appear in High Country News.

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Photo by Samatha Weber.

Photographer Louise Johns has been scooping up freelance work while finishing her first-year coursework. Although her projects focus on ranch life, bison restoration and wide open spaces, when The New York Times came calling last week, she changed gears to take a portrait for a story on changing feelings about pregnancy.

Looking ahead, instructor Jeff Gailus will lead the Montana Journalism Abroad this summer on a deep dive into our own backyard. Gailus, an accomplished writer and native of Calgary, will lead a reporting trip focused on energy development and the environment in Western Canada.

 

The Key to a Career Freelancing, Including for the New York Times? ‘Take Rejection With Stride and Be Professional But Not Precious,’ Says Nate Schweber, ’01

By Noelle Huser

From crime to politics to subway delays, Nate Schweber covers New York City news as a freelance metro journalist for the New York Times.  But with strong ties to Montana, Schweber enjoys returning to Big Sky Country to write stories about the West whenever he can.

After graduating with a degree in journalism, Schweber got his foot in the door with an internship at Rolling Stone in 2001, going on to write for the Village Voice from there.

He bounced around a bit, writing for various small publications in the New York City region before becoming a freelancer for the New York Times in 2005. He has freelanced for other publications since, but the Times is his mainstay.

For the metro section he covers daily happenings in the city, particularly political – and crime – related events. He recently covered the pipe bombs that were being sent to journalists and high-ranking Democrats. After the first package was sent to George Soros, an investor and philanthropist, Schweber spent a day posted outside the Soros’ house in New York following up on police reports, while simultaneously checking in on threats and suspicious behavior reports at New York City synagogues after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

Although Schweber has stayed with the Times, he has also figured out how to pay the bills freelancing, always brainstorming stories and developing a thick skin.

Schweber said, to “take rejection with stride and be professional but not precious,” is an important part of his work. He has to stay flexible if a story he pitches changes according to what an editor desires.

Cultivating relationships and networking are the ”the gold coins of freelancing” — coins he uses to pay his way back to Montana when he can, staying in touch with publications that want stories about the West and constantly pulling from his knowledge of his home state to pitch stories.  

“With freelancing, the trick is to cultivate relationships with editors,” he said “if you have a handful you work for regularly you can make ends meet.”

Schweber still taps his Journalism School professors for guidance when he needs it, noting a recent time he reached out to Dennis Swibold with a journalism ethics question.

While he was at UM he worked for the Montana Kaimin and he says writing three to four stories a day got him in the habit of always thinking of story ideas, making phone calls and writing a lot.

“It wasn’t just learning journalism, it was doing journalism. That was so helpful when I got into the real world,” he said.

This story, which is part of a Thanksgiving week series called “Thank a J-School Grad,” was produced by the Fall 2018 Social Media and Engagement class at the Journalism School.