From Print to Broadcast, Sojin Josephson Tells the Stories that Last

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.

photo shows Sojin giving a report in front of a camera.
Photo by Andy Anderson.

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.”

Josephson published another feature-length story in a Game Day edition of the Kaimin last November, called, “Kicking and breathing: Daniel Sullivan’s body quit football, but Sullivan couldn’t quit the game.” A talented kicker, Daniel Sullivan’s relationship with football changed after he suffered a stroke. While other media outlets had picked up on the story of Sullivan’s road to recovery, Josephson noticed gaps and became determined to get the full story from Sullivan.

“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?”

Check out Sojin Josephson’s latest feature-length project with the Student Documentary Unit’s show, “Aging Out: Autism in Montana,” on MontanaPBS online.

By Jana Wiegand

Nick Ut Reflects On His Career: From Hell To Hollywood

When airplanes flew low over Nick Ut’s home in Los Angeles, California, his house shook and reminded him of the Vietnam War. Born in Long An, Vietnam, Ut started working for the Associated Press (AP) when he was 16 years old, following in the footsteps of his older brother who had recently died while on assignment in 1965. Ut inherited his brother’s cameras and taught himself photography by working in the AP’s darkroom and shooting protests in Saigon.

His editors’ quickly recognized Ut’s skill and sent him into the field to cover the Vietnam War. Ut’s brother’s voice echoed in his head. “I make a picture for you, my brother, to change the war,” Ut said.

Ut-presentation
Nick Ut checks the screen as his photos scroll by in front of a large audience at the University of Montana. Photo by Alyssa Rabil.

Ut spoke at the University of Montana on March 9, as part of the 100-year anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize and to celebrate his 50 years working for the AP. In 1973, just 21 years old, Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography. He called the picture “The Terror of War,” but others referred to it as “The Napalm Girl.” Dean of the School of Journalism, Larry Abramson, walked past that picture dozens of times, printed on flyers, in the weeks leading up to Ut’s visit. “Even on the Xerox copy, I’d stop and see something new every day,” Abramson said.

The picture features children running down a road in Trang Bang, Vietnam after a napalm attack on the village. The “Napalm Girl” was Phan Thj Kim Phuc, who ran away from the village, arms outstretched and completely naked. Ut shot several frames of her and the other children fleeing before he understood how badly Phuc had been burned by the attack.

“I saw skin coming off her body,” Ut said. “And I thought, oh my God, I don’t want her to die.”

Ut set his cameras aside and started dumping water on Phuc to try and help her. However, he knew that Phuc and the other children needed professional help, so he transported them in the AP van to the nearest hospital. Since then, Ut said, “I keep looking to help the children.”

He’s sent food and clothing to families in Vietnam impacted by the use of Agent Orange, and he’s kept track of Phuc since the day of the attack on June 8th, 1972. Phuc began to refer to Ut as “Uncle Nick” over the years, as he continued to photograph her skin’s recovery and support her as a current U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. Thanks to Ut’s photos, the two have also spoken to media around the world about the cruelties of war. Ut said, “We met the Queen of England, me and her.”

Wittpenn_NickUt2
Sally Stapelton alerted faculty to Ut’s upcoming birthday. J-school faculty and students celebrated with him after class. Photo by Brontë Wittpenn.

Pollner Professor, Sally Stapleton, and Ut’s friend from their shared time at the AP, said, “He takes ‘No means nothing’ better than anyone I know.”

Ut said he’s “always with camera” to be prepared for unexpected stories. In contrast to his time covering war stories, Ut said, “I tell you, Hollywood, it’s a lot of fun.” Now based in Los Angeles, Ut’s shot court cases involving Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. He also captured the “Super Blood Moon” of 2015 and unexpected L.A.P.D. street arrests.

For the UM journalism students in the audience, Ut said the key to a great photo evolves from four elements: keep moving, try different angles, keep shooting and capture different emotions.

The next pressing assignment for Ut will be covering Nancy Reagan’s funeral Friday, March 12th.

Stay up-to-date with Ut’s work by following his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

by Jana Wiegand

Student Spotlight: David Detrick, Journalist & Entrepreneur

Ten years ago, if you asked UM Senior David Detrick what he would be doing today, he might have still pictured himself writing, but with his words grounded in music rather than in the news. He played with bands in Los Angeles, California before moving back home to Seattle, Washington. Detrick founded his own band in Seattle called Saving Arcadia, and he wrote all of the lyrics to the Green Day and NOFX style songs.

Detrick got his first taste of journalism at the South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) in Olympia, WA. He had been majoring in Political Science when he started working at the school’s paper The Sounds as a reporter and writer. The more he learned about the political system, the more he realized that wasn’t his dream career. “I don’t want to work for these people,” he said. “I want to expose these people.”

Detrick sports a Griz Lee hat and gets ready for a Griz basketball game on December 22nd, 2015, as part of Griz Vision.
Detrick sports a Griz Lee hat and gets ready for a Griz basketball game on December 22nd, 2015, as part of Griz Vision.

With his newfound passion for journalism, Detrick had his eyes set on the School of Journalism at the University of Montana. His acceptance to the program also came with a Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship, based on his academic success at SPSCC.

The outdoor photography and sports journalism opportunities, ever popular in Montana media, aligned perfectly with Detrick’s interests. On February 11th, 2015, the Montana Kaimin published a feature-length piece that he wrote about a UM alumni football player who got signed to the Seattle Seahawks.

This past year Detrick photographed Griz football games and also filmed Griz and Lady Griz basketball games as part of a program called Griz Vision, which gives students professional experience with broadcasting sports live.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Detrick said. “I like being behind the camera.”

Outside of academics, Detrick started his own business in 2015 called Griz Lee, which he called “a Montana inspired clothing line with an attitude for anyone with a sense of humor to enjoy.” Around campus, most students are familiar with the Griz Lee logo, featuring Bruce Lee’s head on top of the body of a grizzly bear doing Kung Fu. Detrick gets a real sense of pride when he sees Griz Lee stickers slapped onto water bottles or laptops.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’d come up with T-shirt ideas, crazy ideas,” Detrick said, “But I never did anything about them.”

Yet he was determined to follow through this time around. Detrick pitched his product to the University Center Bookstore, and now says Griz Lee items sell out faster than they get re-ordered. Detrick has also spread his business around Missoula, thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as word-of-mouth. Now he’s answering orders from people as far away as Tennessee, which he suspects has to do with the Memphis Grizzlies, a professional basketball team.

In April 2015, Detrick won the Dean’s Award for his outstanding performance in Journalism. As a senior this year, he’s only been taking Journalism classes, and he knows that more doors open as he continues to gain experience—not just for him, but also his nearly four-year-old son.

“The sky’s the limit now,” Detrick said.

By Jana Wiegand