J-School student balances classes and full-time broadcasting job

When classes end each afternoon for Ariana Lake, age 21, her day as a budding broadcast journalist is only just beginning. Since the beginning of the semester, Ariana has been balancing a full course load at school with a 40 hour a week job as news anchor and producer at the television station KAJ, Channel 18. Leaving campus early-afternoon, Lake races to the studio each day to get her 5 o’clock broadcast ready. She broadcasts at 5:30 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Chief Meteorologist Erin Yost (left) and Ariana Lake (right)  on set before their 5:30 show on selfie sticks at Griz games.
Chief Meteorologist Erin Yost (left) and Ariana Lake (right) on set before their 5:30 show on selfie sticks at Griz games.

KAJ serves the Flathead Valley area, and the stories Lake produces are reported by two correspondents, both her senior in age. They pitch her the day’s stories in the morning, which Lake helps review via either email, text or phone call while she goes about her school day. Although her market is the Flathead, her broadcast is produced at the KPAX studio in Missoula. KPAX and KAJ are sister stations and CBS Affiliates.

Journalism Professor Ray Ekness said it’s rare to have a student anchoring their own show Monday through Friday this early in their career. Despite her youth, Ekness said that on her show “she comes across as very mature, very knowledgeable about everything that’s going on.”

Lake was hired as a part time reporter for KPAX last year. When she saw the anchor and producer job open up in August, she wasn’t going to bother applying, certain she didn’t have enough experience. Then, after receiving some encouragement from a co-worker and her parents, she decided to go for it. She was hired within a few weeks.

For Lake, working at KAJ is a great chance to develop her broadcast skills in a supportive environment. “I’m not doing it completely on my own but it’s my show,” Lake said, “responsibility falls completely on me.”

She says that getting in the 5 o’clock broadcast, which has to be taped by 4 p.m., is a challenge. Some days she reaches the studio at 1:45 p.m., leaving her less than three hours to meet her deadline. Still, it’s a challenge Lake says she welcomes: “If you’re passionate about what you’re doing it’s not that hard,” she said.

After her second broadcast wraps around 10 p.m., Lake finally heads home, where she usually does around two hours of homework.

To see what Ariana Lake’s been producing, you can follow her on twitter: @ariana_lake or check out her broadcasts online at KAJ’s website. 

By Andrew Graham

UM J-School Professor to lead Native American Journalists Association

This fall University of Montana School of Journalism Professor Jason Begay returned with important new extracurriculars on his plate. He’s taken a long history with the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) to the next step by becoming the organization’s President.

NAJA official logo

When Begay was starting out as a journalism student, NAJA provided him scholarships and summer projects producing news during its annual conference. Over the last three years he has served on the board as Vice President and Treasurer, and in July the board voted him in as President.

Founded in 1983, NAJA’s mission is to empower Native American journalists, enrich journalism itself and promote Native American cultures. The organization has two main tasks, according to Begay. One is to promote 1st amendment rights throughout Indian country. It takes effort to establish independent journalism when many Native American papers are owned by Tribal Governments, Begay said.

NAJA’s other goal is to recruit and foster more young Native American journalists. With discouraging reports of less journalism jobs and industry upheaval, Begay said it can be a challenge, but a worthy one, to nudge new Native American students towards journalism school.

Begay graduated from the J-School in 2002, and took on an internship at the New York Times. From there, he moved on to a two year fellowship at the Oregonian, an award winning daily paper in Portland, Oregon. After the fellowship, he returned home to the Navajo Nation, where he worked for six years as a reporter at the Navajo Times.

Although both prior papers had prestigious national reputations, Begay felt out of place at them. “I left the New York Times and the Oregonian because I really couldn’t feel a strong connection with who I was writing about and what it was for,” he said.

Returning home to write about issues on the reservation where he grew up changed that for him. “I remembered why I love journalism,” said Begay.

To provide these same chances for a new generation of Native journalists, Begay faces fresh challenges in his new role as President. NAJA has seen a revenue streams dry up, and Begay said he’ll have to find new ways to raise money. One way to do so, Begay said, is to create projects attractive to donors, like expanding the conference newspaper into a year round project with an online presence.

Fresh from completing an MBA program in the spring, Begay is excited to apply his business training to NAJA’s real world problems. “I really, really think that the board has a great opportunity to make something new,” he said. That’s what Begay believes it will take to move NAJA forward.

By Andrew Graham

From hunting stories to hunting fossils

Montana Hodges just brought a suitcase full of fossils back from Alaska and wears Tyrannosaurus Rex shaped earrings. This month she is the lead author of a paper in a geology journal about approximately 200 million year old coral reefs. Believe it or not it was journalism, a career singularly obsessed with the here and now, that brought her here.

Montana Hodges unpacks coral reef fossils after a recent trip to Alaska.
Montana Hodges unpacks coral reef fossils after a recent trip to Alaska. Photo by Andrew Graham

Now, she’s pursing a degree in the University of Montana’s Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program (I.I.P.). As an undergraduate student at Sacramento State she double majored in journalism and geology. Afterwards Hodges entered the graduate program in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism at the University of Montana. Right from the beginning, she knew she wanted to write about fossils for her Masters Project.

Her story, ‘Dinosaur Wars,’ would run on the cover of the August 19, 2013 issue of High Country News, a prestigious environmental news magazine out of Colorado. It described the conflict between for-profit fossil hunters and academic paleontologists. Hodges explored whether this conflict existed to the detriment of the science.

Hodges was nowhere near finished with fossils after receiving her Masters degree however, and decided to pursue an I.I.P. The article didn’t make her the most popular newcomer to the field. “There’s a lot of people in the paleontology community that don’t accept me,” she said.

She’s now studying mass extinctions; points in the Earth’s history where half or more of all living species have been wiped out. Her focus is on an extinction event which occurred around 2 million years ago, probably as a result of global climate change.

In particular, she is studying the massive die off, and eventual recovery, of coral reefs. Her new paper describes coral reef fossils found in Nevada, which was underwater 2 million years ago. They’re the earliest examples of coral’s recovery after the extinction.

Journalism has helped her with her new work Hodges thinks, particularly in her ability to write clear and succinct scientific papers. Though the writing is more technical, she says the foundation remains the same. Her reporting career has also helped. “I think journalists are trained to do excellent research,” she said.

Hodges hopes her current work with coral will eventually lead to a better understanding of the perils coral reefs face today. According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coral reefs face near extinction as a result of warming temperatures.  There is a story of recovery too, says Hodges, and even though it’s a story predicting far into the future, it’s one she’s particularly well equipped to tell.

By Andrew Graham