Introducing the 2019 Crown Reporting Fellows, Mentors

Photo of Jim Robbins and Kevin Trevellyan.
Jim Robbins and Kevin Trevellyan

Two award winning reporters and authors have been named the Crown Reporting Project mentors for 2019.

Jim Robbins, a prolific author and long-time reporter for The New York Times, will work with Crown reporting fellow Kevin Trevellyan. Robbins is based in Helena, Montana, and travels throughout the West for his reporting.

Trevellyan pitched a story about emerging agricultural practices to win a 2019 Crown Reporting Fellowship.

Ben Goldfarb is an independent journalist living in Spokane, Washington. His 2018 book “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter” won the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, among other accolades.

Goldfarb will be working with Crown reporting fellow Maxine Speier. Speier pitched a story about under-examined trends affecting communities at risk of wildfire to win a 2019 Crown Reporting Fellowship.

Ben Goldfarb and Maxine Speier.

The Crown Reporting Project was established in 2014 to promote quality storytelling about climate, communities and conservation in the Crown of the Continent region.

The project pairs emerging journalists with seasoned pros to pursue stories that focus on the vast landscapes and small communities between the Bitterroot Valley in Montana,  and British Columbia.

The highly competitive mentoring program was made possible by a generous gift in memory of conservation pioneer Ted Smith.

University of Montana Journalism Students Embark on Reporting Trip to Canada

This month, eight University of Montana journalism students will journey through western Canada to report on energy and environmental issues, including a proposed oil pipeline expansion project that could drastically affect not only our northern neighbor’s energy economy, but that of the United States as well.

After spending the spring semester researching the issues and organizing the logistics, these intrepid student journalists will spend three weeks producing stories across a variety of media. They will focus on energy policy, First Nations perspectives, wildlife conservation and other topics related to oil sands development and the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was recently purchased by the Canadian government in order to fast-track its construction—despite growing opposition from the British Columbia government and many First Nations.

“This is an extraordinarily interesting time for a team of journalists to explore Alberta and B.C.,” said UM adjunct journalism instructor Jeff Gailus, an experienced environmental journalist from Alberta who will lead the group to the oil sands and then along the route of the Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver. “There’s a pitched battle going on between the Alberta, British Columbia, and federal governments that will have a significant impact on Canada’s economy, and perhaps even whether, or at least for how long, Canada can continue to provide the U.S. with so much of it’s imported oil.”

Albertans just elected a new conservative government that has declared “war” on anyone who opposes or criticizes Alberta’s oil-based economy, and has threatened to cut off the supply of oil and gas to B.C. if it doesn’t green light the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is slated to transport oil sands crude to terminals in southwest B.C. and northwest Washington state. This is diametrically opposed by the B.C. government and dozens of First Nations, which have said the pipeline project will never proceed. Meanwhile, the federal government owns the pipeline and is also trying to figure out how to honor its Paris Accord commitments to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by two percent annually.

“There’s a lot of conflict surrounding this proposed pipeline expansion, and several important factors will determine if, or whether, the project goes forward or not,” said group member Kevin Trevellyan, an environmental journalism graduate student. “That’s part of what makes this trip so appealing.”

The trip is the latest edition of the Montana Journalism Abroad course, which allows students to sharpen on-the-ground reporting skills in foreign locales, where complex, meaningful stories are just waiting to be discovered.

The existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which begins in Alberta, is one of several pipelines that send 2.2 million barrels of oil to the U.S. each year—good for 40 percent of the country’s imports. If approved, the $6.8-billion expansion would increase the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil to 890,000 barrels per day.

But the controversial oil sands that feed the pipeline have been criticized as dirty, carbon-intensive, and cost-inefficient, especially in the age of growing concern about the social and economic impacts of climate change. Additional development could further threaten the health of Canadian communities and wildlife surrounding oil sands operations, which is why many First Nations members are fighting the expansion, which would cross their traditional lands.

Other First Nations want to invest in the project as a means to spur economic benefits.

Oil is central to Alberta’s identity. Proponents, including new Premier Jason Kenney, believe expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is vital to producing additional jobs and economic benefit.

All of which is to say the project presents a unique opportunity for students to follow their reporting instincts across a wide range of relevant subjects.

“The issues surrounding the proposal are almost limitless,” Trevellyan said, “and they present a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves and grow as journalists.”

Learn more about this year’s international reporting class and their work at Also follow @northexposure19 on Instagram and Northern Exposure Reporting Project on Twitter to receive day-to-day updates of their progress through Canada.

Though this year’s class needn’t travel far to find their stories, Montana Journalism Abroad has taken students around the world. Former groups have reported on South Korea’s urban centers, investigated the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in India, followed the refugee crisis in Germany, and studied the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.



2019 Graduation and Senior Showcase

Join us as we celebrate our 2019 graduates:

Senior Showcase and Student Documentary Premiere
Friday, May 3, 5 p.m.
University Center Theatre

A showcase for our graduating seniors. See their capstone projects and share their successes. The evening will include the screening premiere of this year’s student documentary, “Trash Talk: Montana Recycling Challenge.”

School of Journalism Graduation
Saturday, May 4, 12 p.m.
Music Recital Hall

We can’t wait to celebrate the class of 2019!

Students: Bring as many guests as you’d like and just show up, fill out a blue card and that’s it! You graduate! (Well, after you’ve done all the tireless work to get here, that is.)