Two UM Journalism School grads played a part in the East Bay Times’ 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting. The East Bay Times, created by the April 2016 consolidation of the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, California), received the award April 10 for its coverage of the “Ghost Ship” fire in Oakland in December. Thirty-six people died in the fire, which prompted investigations into why people were allowed to live in that warehouse-turned-artists’ space and why the Oakland Fire Department was slow to respond to a problem it knew existed before the tragic fire.
Tor Haugan, a 2011 J-school grad and video editor for the Bay Area News Group, was the video team coordinator, overseeing the production of our videos about the warehouse fire, starting the day after the blaze. Tor wrote and produced breaking news videos; co-produced the video package that went with the news group’s Dec. 11 story about the last hours of the Ghost Ship; and produced and wrote follow-up videos, including the exclusive about how the owners had known about the dangerous electrical system. He has been with BANG since 2012.
Sam Richards, who graduated from UM’s J-school in 1983, is usually a city hall-general assignment reporter with the East Bay Times in Walnut Creek but worked an editing shift the Saturday morning after the fire, spending seven hours that day continuously handling feeds from reporters in the field for updating the main fire story on the East Bay Times and Mercury News websites, and doing the lead editing for the online first-day story about how family and friends of fire victims were awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones. He also reported that night, interviewing family members of people missing after the fire, and witnesses to the blaze, contributing to both main print stories the next day. He has been with BANG’s predecessor companies since 1992.
The Hard Way Documentary – the inspirational story about 89-year-old ultra runner Bob Hayes, has been selected as a Finalist for the 2016 Banff Mountain Film Competition. In its 41st year, the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is one of the most prestigious mountain film festivals in the world. Presented by National Geographic and The North Face, it takes place October 29 – November 6, 2016, at Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, Canada.
The Hard Way is the inspirational story of Bob Hayes, an 89-year-old who runs 30 races each year, cuts his firewood by hand and does things the hard way to remain active and alive. The film takes us on a journey that’s about more than running, it teaches us to live life with purpose and momentum. Montana independent filmmakers Erik Petersen, of Clyde Park, and Jeremy Lurgio, of Missoula spent more than a year documenting Hayes’ story about remaining active and vital as he approaches 90.
“He lives an authentic, inspirational life, and we were lucky enough to document that,” Petersen said. “Being selected as a finalist to Banff is just icing on the cake.”
“Bob lives the way many of us hope to in our later years. He has a nice balance of hard work, running and being active in the community,” Lurgio said. “He still contra dances, he goes to the library and continues to learn all the time. It’s just really inspiring.”
Erik and Jeremy are traveling up to Banff for the festival this weekend.
The Hard Way will screen November 5 and 6 in Banff, Alberta.
Other scheduled screenings:
November 5, 2016 – Missoula, Montana – The Missoula Trail Running Film Festival will feature The Hard Way at The Wilma Theater.
If selected for the Banff Official Tour, The Hard Way will play in Missoula at the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Dennison Theater Nov. 13th.
About the Filmmakers: Jeremy Lurgio is a freelance photographer and an associate professor of photojournalism and multimedia at the University of Montana School of Journalism. You can find his work at http://www.jeremylurgio.com
Erik Petersen is a freelance photographer and filmmaker based in Livingston, Montana. You can find his work at www.erikpetersenphoto.com
As a sports reporter at the Montana Kaimin, Sojin Josephson was used to fast turnover between stories. But when ESPN reporter Kevin Van Valkenburg joined the School of Journalism’s faculty as the fall 2015 Pollner professor, Josephson seized the opportunity to tell the stories that shaped some of UM’s star athletes, both in and out of the sports arena.
Josephson’s feature story, “Finding Feller: A family on and off the court,” delved into the life of McCalle Feller, a senior player for Lady Griz. What interested Josephson most about Feller was not her impressive career stats, but the fact that Feller was adopted and had been trying to connect with her birth parents while at college. To understand her family’s history, Josephson interviewed Feller and her adoptive parents together.
“Between the three of them, they were just piecing together their story as it went along, and a lot of their story happened pre-Calle. She didn’t know a lot of that before, so that was pretty cool,” Josephson said. “If I hadn’t sat down with all three of them at the same time, I’m not sure how much of that would’ve come together.”
She paid careful attention to the dialogue and followed up the formal interview with detailed questions to help her recreate the scenes on paper. Josephson also managed to get in touch with Feller’s birth-father over the phone, adding his perspective to the story. After publishing the piece in the Kaimin in February, the story went on to win second place in the Hearst Awards personality/profile category, granting Josephson a $2,000 scholarship and national recognition.
“I have an unholy love for that story. That story seemed to take everything she’s learned from all her profs and from her peers at the Kaimin, and be the embodiment of what a feature’s supposed to do: make you feel something, make you care,” said professor Jule Banville, who helped edit the piece. “There’s a lot in there that no one can teach. It’s pure talent. And I’m pretty psyched the judges at Hearst recognized it.”
“I feel like it’s a two-way street with all these long-from pieces, because if they’re not available to talk about the details or clarify the answers to your questions, you’re kind of limited to the story you can tell,” said Josephson. “The Sullivan story and the Calle story were by far my favorites from the entire year. They’re the stories that I was excited about telling, and I got so invested in the people and the stories themselves.”
This spring, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) recognized the Sullivan story, and Josephson received first place in the sports reporting category. The SPJ Mark of Excellence awards also highlighted two of her broadcast pieces from UM News in the television reporting categories: “One-button video studio” and “Veteran dogs work with campus police.”
Professor Ray Fanning, who co-taught UM News, said, “She does a great job at personalizing the news, and she knows how to find a fun and interesting way to explain stories that could’ve become very complicated.”
Josephson’s genuine care for her characters came across even more as she made the switch from daily news reporting to documentary-making. This spring she worked as a reporter for the Student Documentary Unit, which tackled the topic of autism care in Montana. After spending days filming the documentary’s lead family, Josephson continued to stay in touch with them on a daily basis. She said, “You just fall in love with them and really want to make sure that you do their story justice.”
However, Josephson credits the power of the journalism community at UM for its support, whether they’re reporting from the field or spending late nights editing on campus.
“Honestly, the J-school’s been the best part of my whole entire life. I just never imagined loving it so much,” said Josephson. “The professors are the best people I know, and the critical thinking skills and the communication skills and the writing skills—this school teaches you everything to be successful in life.”
Josephson graduated on Saturday, May 14th with high honors and the Outstanding Senior Award in print journalism. She plans to spend a little bit of time at home in Big Timber, Montana, before moving to New York City. This summer she will attend the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU, giving her a professional boost to pursue her interests in the magazine world.
While the J-school community wishes Josephson luck, she’ll certainly be missed in her absence.
“She’s a great journalist, and she’s also a dreamy student to have in class, and just a thoughtful human being to have in your life,” said Banville. “Can we clone her?”