Graduates of the University of Montana School of Journalism go on to do great things, in journalism and beyond. They direct newsrooms, report on international issues, photograph history, inform the public on air, start their own businesses, influence public policy, publish books and become leaders in their communities. Here, we spotlight some of our alumni who showcase just how powerful, and versatile, a journalism degree from UM can be.
This installment spotlights Kellyn Brown, 2002, who founded and runs the award-winning Flathead Beacon.
Question: Where do you work, how long have you been there and what is your job title?
Answer: Editor and chief at the Flathead Beacon since its inception in 2007.
From the Beacon: “The Montana Newspaper Association has named the Flathead Beacon the state’s best large weekly six times since 2009 and the best website four times while also frequently recognizing the publication’s advertising and design excellence. The Columbia Journalism Review highlighted the newspaper and its tradition of excellence in a 2016 feature titled, “Why a Weekly Tabloid Owned by Maury Povich Might Have ‘The Best Newsroom in Montana.’” In 2014, Outside Magazine named the Flathead Beacon one of the “Best Places to Work” in the U.S.”
Was this the type of work you thought you’d be doing when you went to school?
I followed a traditional trajectory: statehouse reporter, cops and courts reporter, city editor, then editor in chief.
Can you describe an average day on the job?
Mostly managing production and sales and coordinating the various departments to get our products out the door in a timely fashion.
What experiences at the J-School were notable in preparing you for your work?
Kaimin. No question. I learned the most by working my beat and pounding the pavement for the school newspaper. I already had a photography degree before I earned a degree in print journalism. That helped on the visual end.
What are the skills you learned in J-School that you use on a daily basis? In your work? In your life?
Editing and working fast under deadline. Being at once skeptical and a critical thinker.
What do you think makes the J-School special? Do you have an fond memories of your time at the J-School?
The best part about the school are the incredible students who attend it. When I was there it was always a competition to write the next best story. My advisors were also very helpful and steered me to quality internships and my first job out of college.
What do you wish you would have learned at the J-School?
For me, more general coding. I can run the back end of websites, but I wish I understood the platforms a little better coming out of school.
What advice would you give a student just starting out in journalism school? Or, what advice would you give to someone considering journalism school?
The degree still has a lot of value. However, once you write a great story, you need to learn how to deliver it to an ever-changing audience. You have to adapt.
Where do you see yourself career-wise in the future?
Perhaps involved in media. Perhaps not. Working in a newsroom is like bootcamp for life. Everything else looks a little easier after working under the pressure of endless and vigorous deadlines for so many years.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Journalism matters now more than ever in my lifetime.
If you are a graduate who would like to share your experience or know of someone we should spotlight, email Visiting Professor Courtney Cowgill.