Dowling Wins National Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for Radio Documentary

Denise Dowling, long-time reporter, journalism professor and two-time interim dean of the University of Montana School of Journalism, has won a prestigious national award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her radio documentary, “Alex, Not Amy: Growing Up Transgender in the Rural West.”

Dowling’s piece, which originally aired on Montana Public Radio, was also named a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award winner this week by the Radio Television Digital News Association. That means it is now under consideration for a National Murrow Award as well. Earlier this month, the documentary was also named a finalist for an E.B. Craney Award from the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation in the Radio Non-Commercial Program of the Year category.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards recognize the best in professional journalism in categories covering print, radio, television, newsletters, art/graphics, online and research. This year’s winners will be honored in a ceremony in June in Washington D.C.

Dowling’s documentary follows the story of 10-year-old Alex O’Neill, who knew he was a boy when he was a toddler, as he changes his gender legally and socially. Listeners get to know Alex and his family as they navigate issues like which swim team Alex competes on or which bathroom he uses while he’s at school. The story looks at the policy, history, mental health concerns and trends around transgender youth. But, it’s about much more too — it’s a story about family, identity, community and belonging.

Regional stations also picked up the documentary and one producer, Skip Wood, at Prairie Public Radio in North Dakota called the piece, “Top notch. Heartwarming. Positive. Important.”

Dowling said she first became interested in the challenges of being young and transgender when one of her students shared the roadblocks he met on campus when transitioning.

“When I began reporting, I found it remarkable just how many young people, and their families, were facing similar paths,” she said. “Alex, his parents and siblings were incredibly gracious to allow me into their lives to document his transition. They welcomed me into some of their most private moments as I

followed Alex and his journey over three years. I learned so much from them and saw first-hand how family support makes all the difference in a transgender child’s mental health.”

For Dowling, the story was about documenting Alex’s story, but also sharing valuable information with the public about the issue.

“I also gained knowledge from speaking to researchers, doctors, educators and attorneys about transgender youth. The documentary shares that information in hopes that other families can find help in supporting transgender youth,” she said. “And I hope it opens all our eyes to this hidden population and what we can do to help transgender kids find their way to a successful future.”

The piece was made possible through funding from the School of Journalism and the University of Montana’s Faculty Research Fund, with special thanks to Montana Public Radio.

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.

J-School Senior Wins Prestigious Sports Reporting Award

This month, University of Montana journalism student Henry Chisholm will accept the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation scholarship for excellence in college sports writing.

This national journalism award includes a $3,000 scholarship and a trip to Los Angeles, California on September 22 where Chisholm and the four other award recipients will be honored at Dodger Stadium.

“We get to watch a taping of SportsCenter, sit in a box for a preseason NHL game and a bunch of other cool stuff,” Chisholm said.

The scholarship is in memory of James Patrick Murray. Murray was a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Times from 1960 to 1998 and was inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1978. Murray is also one of only four sportswriters to receive the Pulitzer Prize.

“Just being associated with Jim Murray’s name is huge,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm, now a senior at the J-School, spent last summer entrenched in sports journalism interning for BSN Denver in Colorado.

Henry Chisholm, who this month will accept the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation scholarship for excellence in college sports writing. Here, Henry is reporting for the Montana Kaimin at Grizzly football practice. Photo by Suzanne Downing.

Chisholm mostly covered Broncos football but also wrote an article on the Rockies-Padres brawl at Coors Field. Chisholm’s BSN Denver internship officially ended this fall, but Chisholm still contributes several sports stories to the outlet each week.

For Chisholm, working as a sports writer for the University of Montana’s student newspaper, the Montana Kaimin, gives him direct inside access to all things Grizzly football and a wealth of hands-on experience actually doing sports journalism.

Research is key for Chisholm when it comes to sports reporting. He spends hours watching game tape and reading up on players to stay up on what’s happening on and off the field. Most of his reporting is asking coaches and players about game plans and strategies.

“It’s real football talk with people who know so much about football,” Chisholm said.

“Off-the-record reporting is fun too, even if I know I might never be able to share the information. I’ve learned a ton of secrets,” he said.

For Chisholm, the most important part of journalism is having contacts and building relationships with people behind the scenes with people who trust you and will tell you when something big is going down.

“Especially in sports, where everything you cover is almost comically secretive and leads are tough to dig up on your own,” Chisholm said.

After college, Chisholm hopes to break into magazine writing for a publication like Sports Illustrated or ESPN Magazine.

Henry joins six other UM Journalism students who have been named as Murray Scholars in years past:

  •  Peter Bulger        2005
  •  Bill Oram             2008
  • Tyson Alger         2010
  • Daniel Mediate    2011
  • Dustin Askim       2013
  • Jesse Flickinger  2014