Student Spotlight: David Detrick, Journalist & Entrepreneur

Ten years ago, if you asked UM Senior David Detrick what he would be doing today, he might have still pictured himself writing, but with his words grounded in music rather than in the news. He played with bands in Los Angeles, California before moving back home to Seattle, Washington. Detrick founded his own band in Seattle called Saving Arcadia, and he wrote all of the lyrics to the Green Day and NOFX style songs.

Detrick got his first taste of journalism at the South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) in Olympia, WA. He had been majoring in Political Science when he started working at the school’s paper The Sounds as a reporter and writer. The more he learned about the political system, the more he realized that wasn’t his dream career. “I don’t want to work for these people,” he said. “I want to expose these people.”

Detrick sports a Griz Lee hat and gets ready for a Griz basketball game on December 22nd, 2015, as part of Griz Vision.
Detrick sports a Griz Lee hat and gets ready for a Griz basketball game on December 22nd, 2015, as part of Griz Vision.

With his newfound passion for journalism, Detrick had his eyes set on the School of Journalism at the University of Montana. His acceptance to the program also came with a Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship, based on his academic success at SPSCC.

The outdoor photography and sports journalism opportunities, ever popular in Montana media, aligned perfectly with Detrick’s interests. On February 11th, 2015, the Montana Kaimin published a feature-length piece that he wrote about a UM alumni football player who got signed to the Seattle Seahawks.

This past year Detrick photographed Griz football games and also filmed Griz and Lady Griz basketball games as part of a program called Griz Vision, which gives students professional experience with broadcasting sports live.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Detrick said. “I like being behind the camera.”

Outside of academics, Detrick started his own business in 2015 called Griz Lee, which he called “a Montana inspired clothing line with an attitude for anyone with a sense of humor to enjoy.” Around campus, most students are familiar with the Griz Lee logo, featuring Bruce Lee’s head on top of the body of a grizzly bear doing Kung Fu. Detrick gets a real sense of pride when he sees Griz Lee stickers slapped onto water bottles or laptops.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’d come up with T-shirt ideas, crazy ideas,” Detrick said, “But I never did anything about them.”

Yet he was determined to follow through this time around. Detrick pitched his product to the University Center Bookstore, and now says Griz Lee items sell out faster than they get re-ordered. Detrick has also spread his business around Missoula, thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as word-of-mouth. Now he’s answering orders from people as far away as Tennessee, which he suspects has to do with the Memphis Grizzlies, a professional basketball team.

In April 2015, Detrick won the Dean’s Award for his outstanding performance in Journalism. As a senior this year, he’s only been taking Journalism classes, and he knows that more doors open as he continues to gain experience—not just for him, but also his nearly four-year-old son.

“The sky’s the limit now,” Detrick said.

By Jana Wiegand

J-School Alum Wins Hearst Journalism Award

February 10th, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program released its top ten winners in the Multimedia One/Features category, ranking Kaci Felstet’s piece “Late Start” 6th in the nation. Felstet produced the multimedia piece last spring as part of the class Native News, co-taught by Assistant Professor Jason Begay and Associate Professor Jeremy Lurgio.

“Late Start” tackles attendance issues at Rocky Boy Elementary School located in the center of the Rocky Boy Reservation in north-central Montana. Originally, Felstet and her reporting partner Courtney Anderson had been researching teacher retention rates, but they realized that the story’s core remained with the students.

Photo shows a darkly shadowed mug of tea sitting on a railing with a bright orange sunset in the distance
Taken during a photo-a-week challenge. By Kaci Felstet.

“Kids weren’t getting the education that they needed,” Felstet said. “And that was something really close to our hearts.”

Begay and Lurgio chose the theme “Relationships” for Native News in spring 2015. They challenged students to find unique, personal bonds that explored “how people on reservations connect with each other,” Begay said.

“It left a lot of room for us to branch out and find our own stories,” Felstet said.

She and Anderson traveled to the Rocky Boy reservation during spring break and spent several days following their characters and gathering classroom footage at the elementary school. Felstet said the kindergarten kids needed some time to get used to the cameras and stop making funny faces at them, but that their patience paid off in the end.

“The hardest thing is that you can’t go back,” Felstet said. “You have to get everything you need in three or four days.”

That was where working as a team came in handy. Despite extensive background research and planning, Felstet and Anderson knew that they need to stay both flexible and focused while in the field, so that they could find the true story even if it was different from the one they had envisioned. Lurgio said, “Kaci was very organized. She knew what she needed and she got enough to be able to adapt.”

Felstet’s first exposure to video came from a summer internship with KRTV in her hometown of Great Falls, Montana, but she considers herself more of a photojournalist these days. She’s currently pursuing a master’s in Economics here at UM, which will not only diversify her education but also open up new doors to her as a journalist, especially regarding business and finance beats, “which not everyone wants to cover,” she laughed.

A self portrait of Felstet clutching a scarf to her face while standing in the snow
Felstet’s self-portrait from her photo-a-week challenge. By Kaci Felstet.

To stay familiar with her camera, Felstet decided to create a photo-a-week challenge for herself to keep her creativity fresh. The recent recognition of “Late Start” serves as another boost from the journalism world.

“Kaci has a great eye for shooting and producing multimedia packages,” Lurgio said. “She works extremely hard, and she was very dedicated to producing a professional caliber story. And that’s just what she did.”

Kaci Felstet and Courtney Anderson’s collaborative piece can be found on the Native News website, which features more stories from reservations in Montana.

By Jana Wiegand

Preview: UM J-School at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

The 13th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF) kicks off in Missoula on Friday, February 19th and runs through Sunday, February 28th. This year’s theme revolves around “impact.” Executive Director of the Big Sky Film Institute, Gita Saedi Kiely, describes this topic as a lens to examine “the impact of the stories we tell, the impact we have on the planet and the impact we can have on society.”

Big Sky Doc Film Fest logoOver 200 independent films will be showcased during the 10-day festival, and the University of Montana serves as more than just a sponsor for the event. Dean of the UM School of Journalism, Larry Abramson, is one of 12 members of the festival jury. “It’s my first time judging the Big Sky,” Abramson said. “I’m going to try to watch as a regular person, and then look at what makes them compelling and their journalistic sensibility.”

The jury will chose the winning films based on four different categories: Best Feature, Best Short, Best Mini, and the Big Sky Award, which specifically deals with films about the American West. Abramson’s thirty years as a reporter and editor at National Public Radio will help him evaluate the sense of balance and fairness in the films, “to make sure they back up what they say,” he said.

Abramson will also be leading a workshop for high school journalism students on Friday, February 26th. He plans to talk to the students about interviewing skills, including the importance of using their questions as a story arc for the interview. “A lot of kids that age are afraid to talk to important people,” Abramson said. He hopes this workshop will give these budding journalists more confidence.

UM will also be hosting a series of workshops in the University Center as part of the festival’s DocShop conference. In keeping with the theme of “impact,” DocShop will focus on FILMS FOR CHANGE and explore the power of documentaries and media activism to serve as catalysts for positive change. All of the workshops will be free to students and faculty at UM, as well those from MSU.

Keep following the blog on the UM School of Journalism’s website for more updates on their involvement at the festival.

To view the complete schedule of events, film trailers and other additional information, visit

the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s website.

By Jana Wiegand