Alumni Spotlight Jack Ginsburg: ‘Journalism Is A Very Universal Degree’

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. (If you are a graduate who would like to share your experience or know of someone we should spotlight, email Courtney Cowgill.)

This installment spotlights Jack Ginsburg, 2017, who got a job right after graduation working at KAJ-TV in Kalispell and now works at KPAX-TV.

Question: Can you describe an average day on the job and your current responsibilities?

Answer: An average day I wake up at 10 a.m. and go into work anywhere between 12-1 p.m. (awesome hours for sleep and work). Most days when I get into work I open up my email and sort through press releases that have been sent to me, or the news email. I choose the top stories and start to pursue them, calling contacts or possible interviewees that would be good for the story. Sometimes I don’t get calls back since I am the night side reporter and a lot of people only have until 4 or 5 to do the interview and already have something scheduled. In that case I always try to have a back up. I have a notebook with stories that can pretty much be done any day, like homelessness in the Flathead Valley or something on the jail systems in the valley, which is big right now, especially in Polson and Kalispell. I work at a bureau so I do everything myself. I shoot, interview and edit all of my news stories, then send them down to the broadcast studio in Missoula where they run the 5:30 and 10:00 news. Most of my stories go on the 10 o’clock news. I don’t really have any set responsibilities since the producers know that anything can happen and sometimes you have bad days and only get one, kind of lame story. On a good day I try to shoot a package and two or three vosots. 

What journalistic experiences at the J-School were notable in preparing you for your transition into a real-world journalism environment?

There are a lot of experiences at the J-School that gave me great preparation for the ‘real world.’ Probably the most notable is the fact that UM News is pretty damn close to being exactly how a news station runs. Instead of doing the stories in a week, I do them in one day. Ethics and Trends class also helped a lot with everyday things you experience on the job like how to handle difficult situations or how to properly report in an unbiased manner. I think the most helpful is that the J-school is like your parent teaching you to ride a bike. Your first year they are right there holding the seat, then out of nowhere they just let go, and if you paid attention to what they were saying the first year, you realize, ‘Hey, I can actually do this thing on my own.’ The professors are always there to help but they also give you responsibility and expect you to handle it, which is key in being successful in this field.

Can you explain the process of your job search senior year?

My senior year I was doing UM News and then one student told me I should intern at KPAX-TV, the local CBS affiliate in Missoula. I shot the news director an email and they looked at a few of my clips and gave me the internship. Two weeks into the internship, I ended up getting really lucky, as KPAX was looking for a weekend reporter. I decided to apply for it and got the job a week later (I highly recommend weekend reporting if the opportunity is available, most of the harder hitting news happens on the weekdays and the weekend is a great, smooth transition into the field.). I worked as the weekend reporter for the whole Spring semester and worked hard. After I graduated they offered me the full-time job in Kalispell and I took it. So, I got pretty lucky and didn’t even have to look for a job.

How do you feel about journalism now that you’re out of school and immersed in the industry? How does reality compare to your hopes and expectations?

I could write an entire essay on how I feel about journalism, but you don’t want or need to hear that. I love everything about it. It definitely has it’s ups and downs but there is so much inspiration in this field on a daily basis. That being said, a lot of times you have bad days … it’s just something you have to accept in this field. That’s probably one of my favorite things about TV. When you finish the day, unless you are working on a longer, investigative piece, you are done. That’s it. You leave the office and anything good or bad that happened is now behind you and you get to start over fresh tomorrow.

I think when you decide to major in journalism you see all the great parts of it, on the national level, but don’t see or hear much about the local or smaller markets. That is both good and bad. You need to spend a lot of time in this field to get where you want to and that can be a struggle for a lot of people but you also find there are incredible stories even in the smallest places.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

There are so many things I love about my job. I would have to say the best part is that I get to meet new people every single day. And on top of that I have started to form a bond with the community. You get to know people, you expand your network and contacts and people really start to trust you. I’ve already been offered three other jobs in random fields I never would have thought of. Journalism is a very universal degree, it allows you to do so much more than you think. I also love that I spend 90 percent of most of my days outside the office running around and keeping busy, it makes the day fly by.

My least favorite part is probably the stress you can feel when you don’t have a plan for the week or the day. Always do as much pre-reporting as possible.

How does the work load compare to college?

Honestly, I think I had more work in college. I have a lot of things to balance everyday at work, but most of them I am interested in and in college you are constantly doing homework for classes you couldn’t care less about. I also like that I do everything in one day rather than a week, like in UM News, I don’t have that time to procrastinate anymore.

What advice would you give to someone considering a journalism degree?

DO IT… Already, I have found how valuable this degree is. Sometimes I look at jobs on LinkedIn just for fun and it is incredible how many companies want journalists for jobs I didn’t think pertained to the major. Journalism and especially the school at UM gives us so many valuable tools to do so much more than just report or write.

Did you feel that your education prepared you for your job? In hindsight, is there anything you would’ve liked to focus on more than you did?

Hell yes it did. I wish I was there this semester honestly. I see that social media is becoming more prevalent at the J-school and I’m really interested in that. I also wish I did a college related podcast or focused more on radio while I had those tools available, that UM provides.

Where do you see yourself career-wise in the future?

I honestly do not know. If I stick with TV I want to see how far I can get. That means shooting for the stars. Why wouldn’t I set my standards high? I tell myself everyday to work hard and I know it will pay off, I have already seen it start to. I don’t want to sound to cocky but you should tell yourself that you can do great things in this field and have confidence, have a lot of it, but keep it to yourself (which I kind of didn’t just do, but you get it).

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There are so many great opportunities at the J-School and in the field of journalism right now. It is changing all the time and I really think our journalism school does a great job embracing it. But if you want to be a successful journalist, it’s ultimately up to you. Keep your nose to the grindstone and work your butt off, you’ll be happy you did. Also find time to unwind and separate yourself from your work life on your days off. Give yourself the rest and recovery your body and mind needs. Follow every lead. You never know when it could be a bigger story than it seems.

 

Tate Samata is finishing her fifth and final year at the UM School of Journalism, and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology minor. Tate’s journalistic focus is primarily photo and multimedia, but she is also passionate about writing, copy editing and social media. 

Spring Pollner Professor Deborah Potter Teaches Students About Journalism and Trust

Spring 2018 Pollner professor Deborah Potter. Photo by Tate Samata.

Deborah Potter is sure of one thing: Public trust in journalism is disintegrating rapidly, and journalists cannot simply sit back and wait for something to change.

“There’s a quote by journalist Carl Bernstein that says something similar to: ‘All we have to do is our best work.’ I disagree,” said Potter, the 2018 spring T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor. “In the world we’re currently living in, it’s not enough to simply put your head down and do good work as a journalist. We have to be deliberate, proactive. We have to do more to share a message that we deserve trust.”

Potter aims to confront this topic in her spring course “Journalism & Public Trust.” Students will explore the “fake news” phenomenon and the news media’s place in a democratic society. They will also investigate newsroom strategies and learn fact-checking techniques.  Potter hopes all of this will help students explore answers to a fundamental question: “How do we maintain trust, and frankly, regain public trust?”

Potter had wanted to be a writer since high school. But as she watched a contentious national presidential election unfold during her first year of college at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Potter was drawn to broadcast and TV journalism.

When she isn’t teaching, odds are you can find her downhill skiing. Here, Potter is at Lookout Pass with professor Denise Dowling after their first week of spring semester.

“Watching stories happen in real-time gave a completely different sense of a story than reading it in print,” Potter said. “I was drawn to the fluidity.”

Potter spent more than a decade as American Journalism Review’s broadcast news columnist, served as CBS’s White House, State Department and Congressional Correspondent for 13 years, and reported on environmental issues and national politics as a network correspondent for CNN. She has led journalism workshops in the U.S. and around the world, co-authored a journalism textbook, and founded NewsLab, a non-profit journalism resource center in 1998.

Potter sees her professorship at UM as an opportunity to  continue what she refers to as “the second major chunk” of her journalism career, in which she focuses on providing journalism-related education. Previously, Potter was a distinguished visiting professor in journalism ethics at the University of Arkansas, and curated radio and TV seminars as a faculty associate at the Poynter Institute.

The Pollner Professorship was established to honor the memory of Anthony Pollner, a 1999 graduate of the School of Journalism. After Anthony died in an accident in May 2001, his friends and family created an endowment that makes this professorship possible. 

Tate Samata is finishing her fifth and final year at the UM School of Journalism, and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology minor. Tate’s journalistic focus is primarily photo and multimedia, but she is also passionate about writing, copy editing and social media. 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Olivia Vanni, Photojournalist, The Victoria Advocate and the Naples Daily News

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 Olivia Vanni, who interned at the The Victoria Advocate in Texas after graduation in 2017 and now works at the Naples Daily News in Florida. (This Q&A was done during her time at the Victoria Advocate.)

See some of her recent work below:

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Question: Can you describe an average day on the job and your current responsibilities?

Answer: I normally have three to five daily assignments ranging from sports games to local profiles to event coverage. I’m also responsible for producing one photo story/photo essay a month for our Your Life section in the Sunday paper. I photograph, write and produce a short video for that.

A recent piece by Olivia Vanni in The Victoria Advocate. Screenshot.

What journalistic experiences at the J-School were notable in preparing you for your transition into a real-world journalism environment?

I think requiring all of the students to complete an internship before graduating is incredibly important. Without having had prior experience in a newsroom I would not have been competitive when applying to other internships or jobs. Also being able to go to Standing Rock and report on a national news story helped a lot. I think the best way for students to be able to transition into a real-world journalism environment is to actually get them out into the real world, which the J-School does.

Can you explain the process of your job search senior year?

I honestly applied to about every internship that I could. I think I sent out over 30 applications and ended up only getting two interviews and one job offer. It was tough getting so many rejections or no response back but all it takes is for one person to say yes and you’ve got a job.

How do you feel about journalism now that you’re out of school and immersed in the industry? How does reality compare to your hopes and expectations?

In college I didn’t quite understand how tough a career it is to pursue and how incredibly competitive it is but I still love it. Some days I feel like a chicken with my head cut off running from assignment to assignment but I get to tell people’s stories every day which is exactly what I want to be doing.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

My favorite part of my job is being able to go out and meet new people everyday. I’m always fascinated by how many different stories are out there and am humbled that people allow me into their lives to tell them.

How does the work load compare to college?

It is so nice to not have to juggle schoolwork on top of assignments. It’s so much easier to take the time to pursue stories you want to tell and not have to worry about a test or getting homework done.

What advice would you give to someone considering a journalism degree?

Make sure it is a career you actually want to pursue. Take some of the beginning courses to figure out if you like it. As a career, it doesn’t pay well and it’s a lot of hard work but it’s all worth it if it’s something that you love to do.

Did you feel that your education prepared you for your job? In hindsight, is there anything you would’ve liked to focus on more than you did?

I think it did. I received a solid base of skills from my education that I was able to build off of once I transitioned into the real world. This applies more to photojournalism but I wish that there had been an entire class in the J-School that focused on how to tell multiple in-depth photo stories/essays from start to finish. That is one skill that I’ve had to develop on my own through my internships that I wish I could have learned in school early on. It’s also where I was lacking most in my portfolio when I graduated.

Where do you see yourself career-wise in the future?

Ideally I’d like to land a staff photographer job at a daily newspaper that is west of the Rockies or in the Pacific Northwest. That’s the career goal for at least the next few years.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Work at your student paper! It made me realize photojournalism at a daily paper is what I wanted to do. Whether you end up loving it or hating it, it can help you figure out what avenue of journalism you want to pursue. Plus, it’s not a bad thing to have on your resume.

Tate Samata is finishing her fifth and final year at the UM School of Journalism, and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology minor. Tate’s journalistic focus is primarily photo and multimedia, but she is also passionate about writing, copy editing and social media.