The Key to a Career Freelancing, Including for the New York Times? ‘Take Rejection With Stride and Be Professional But Not Precious,’ Says Nate Schweber, ’01

By Noelle Huser

From crime to politics to subway delays, Nate Schweber covers New York City news as a freelance metro journalist for the New York Times.  But with strong ties to Montana, Schweber enjoys returning to Big Sky Country to write stories about the West whenever he can.

After graduating with a degree in journalism, Schweber got his foot in the door with an internship at Rolling Stone in 2001, going on to write for the Village Voice from there.

He bounced around a bit, writing for various small publications in the New York City region before becoming a freelancer for the New York Times in 2005. He has freelanced for other publications since, but the Times is his mainstay.

For the metro section he covers daily happenings in the city, particularly political – and crime – related events. He recently covered the pipe bombs that were being sent to journalists and high-ranking Democrats. After the first package was sent to George Soros, an investor and philanthropist, Schweber spent a day posted outside the Soros’ house in New York following up on police reports, while simultaneously checking in on threats and suspicious behavior reports at New York City synagogues after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

Although Schweber has stayed with the Times, he has also figured out how to pay the bills freelancing, always brainstorming stories and developing a thick skin.

Schweber said, to “take rejection with stride and be professional but not precious,” is an important part of his work. He has to stay flexible if a story he pitches changes according to what an editor desires.

Cultivating relationships and networking are the ”the gold coins of freelancing” — coins he uses to pay his way back to Montana when he can, staying in touch with publications that want stories about the West and constantly pulling from his knowledge of his home state to pitch stories.  

“With freelancing, the trick is to cultivate relationships with editors,” he said “if you have a handful you work for regularly you can make ends meet.”

Schweber still taps his Journalism School professors for guidance when he needs it, noting a recent time he reached out to Dennis Swibold with a journalism ethics question.

While he was at UM he worked for the Montana Kaimin and he says writing three to four stories a day got him in the habit of always thinking of story ideas, making phone calls and writing a lot.

“It wasn’t just learning journalism, it was doing journalism. That was so helpful when I got into the real world,” he said.

This story, which is part of a Thanksgiving week series called “Thank a J-School Grad,” was produced by the Fall 2018 Social Media and Engagement class at the Journalism School.


Breanna McCabe: ‘It’s An Incredible Feeling When Someone Trusts You With Their Story.’

By Tessa Nadeau and Jamie McNally

Breanna McCabe has helped inspire the next generation of journalism students even as she returns to her alma mater to tackle a graduate degree and produce a documentary project that’s taking her into remote locations in Montana and Canada.

Originally from Missoula, McCabe chose to stay close to home for school, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Journalism School in 2009. She landed a job at University Relations at UM where she produces videos and edits publications. This year, she decided to continue her education as a graduate student in the School of Journalism’s Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism program.

She earned the Crown Reporting Fellowship at UM, which sponsors graduate students producing stories about the environment in the “Crown of the Continent” region.

McCabe’s project takes her to the edge of the tree line in Northern Montana and Canada to study the challenges of the whitebark pine trees. She is producing a documentary about how climate change, disease, and pests have devastated the species of gnarled trees that exist on the edge of where trees grow and what people are doing to save them.

To this UM alumna and graduate student, it’s not just another story. 

“I care deeply about nature, and I worry about our planet’s future. I see storytelling as my best shot at making a difference for future generations,” McCabe said.

McCabe says getting to travel places rewarding, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole time.

“Climbing up the side of a mountain with no trail, with a video camera and tripod was trying,” McCabe said. “But now the task of sifting through footage to tell the story that captivated me is perhaps a bigger challenge.”

McCabe is hopeful that this is just the first of many long form stories she gets to tell.

She says that when it comes to being a journalist, she is most grateful for the conversations.

“I feel so fortunate every time someone opens up to me, whether I’m rolling or not. It’s an incredible feeling when someone trusts you with their story,” McCabe said.

McCabe says the foundation her professors provided her with is what she is most thankful for and it is why she is continuing her education in Missoula.

“I knew I was learning from the best, and they always pushed me to do better. So did my classmates. We had a great group of broadcast and production students who felt like family by graduation,” McCabe said.

McCabe is more than a student at the school, though. For many students she is also that professor who first engages with them, teaching the intro news writing class over the past several semesters. Her students say she’s a professor who cares about their progress in the program and inspires them to try harder.

This story, which is part of a Thanksgiving week series called “Thank a J-School Grad,” was produced by the Fall 2018 Social Media and Engagement class at the Journalism School.


Journalism Students Cover Elections Across the State

Election season has been a busy one for journalism students at the University of Montana.

Students have been in the studios of Montana PBS, Montana Public Radio and UM News. They’ve been out reporting on ballot initiatives and hotly contested congressional races. They’ve talked to voters about what’s important to them. They’ve uses social media to connect and inform. Their work has been published, broadcast and aired across the state.

On Nov. 6, teams of reporters and photographers set off to cover races and talk to voters across the state. Some of the results, including the Congressional race in which Greg Gianforte defeated Kathleen Williams and the Senate race, in which Jon Tester beat Matt Rosendale, weren’t finalized until the next morning.

See student coverage of Election Day here: