MJR 2017 publishes “Far From Comfort” edition

MJR staff members pose with the newest edition of the magazine.
MJR staff members pose with the newest edition of the magazine.

The new edition of Montana Journalism Review tracks Western journalists as national and global events push them past their comfort zones.

From local coverage of refugee resettlement to an experiment in right-wing news immersion, the 2017 issue of MJR scrutinizes how news professionals are responding to growing distrust in the media and ongoing changes in the industry.

Titled “Far From Comfort,” the magazine examines advocacy journalism, emerging business models and gender gaps in sports coverage and news management.

“With the proliferation of fake news and echo chambers, we worked hard to find stories that advance the conversation and show the state of the media in the western United States,” Managing Editor Claire Chandler said.

Work on the 46th edition began last spring, when Editor-in-Chief Henriette Lowisch and Executive Editor Keith Graham, both journalism professors, selected the student staff that puts together the annual magazine founded by J-School Dean Nathaniel Blumberg in 1958.

Over the following seven months, student editors, writers, photographers and designers learned how to problem-solve and work together as they brainstormed story ideas and headlines, recruited contributors, sold ads and got the 68-page book ready for print.

While Art Director Delaney Kutsal envisioned the magazine’s design elements, from color scheme to formatting, senior editors Diana Six, Katy Spence, Dakota Wharry and Bayley Butler handpicked stories and took them through three rounds of editing. Contributors to MJR 2017 include former Missoulian Editor Sherry Devlin and Wyofile reporter Dustin Bleizeffer as well as J-School alums Evan Frost, Tess Haas, Carli Krueger and Hunter Pauli. Current faculty, graduate and undergraduate students also wrote and photographed stories, including staff writer Maddie Vincent and staff photographer Olivia Vanni.

In October, final drafts were sent off to Copy Chief Taylor Crews, who organized her team for the stringent fact-checking and copy-editing process. Designers got their hands on copy in early November and faced a quick two-week turnaround.

In addition to the print magazine released on Dec. 16, 2016, MJR published its stories on its website at mjr.jour.umt.edu, under the leadership of Web Editor Matt Roberts. It also produced Framing a Movement: The Media at Standing Rock, a web documentary orchestrated by Senior Editor Kathleen Stone and funded with the help of the J-School’s Blumberg Fund for Investigative Journalism and UM President Royce Engstrom.

Montana Journalism Review is the product of a journalism capstone course offered each fall. The magazine is financed through ad sales and support from the School of Journalism. The print edition is sent out to 750 subscribers across Montana, the nation and the world.

MTJA Kicks Off New Trip With A Look Inside Fukushima

Logo for UM to Fukushima
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In May 2017, a group of Montana Journalism Abroad (MTJA) students will travel to Japan and report on the issues that continue to affect people displaced by a trio of disasters that struck the northeast part of the country in 2011. On March 11 of that year, a severe earthquake triggered a tsunami that decimated coastal towns, and damage from the wave led to the meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The nuclear fallout forced citizens to drop everything and leave their homes behind. After five years of clean-up efforts, the government has started to encourage people to return to their homes, but many people remain fearful of lingering radiation.

During their trip, the students will tour the affected areas, interview citizens and government officials, and then produce a multimedia package that tells the stories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These stories of displacement will resonate with Montanans who are no stranger to natural and industrial disasters, such as wildfires and leaking mine waste. As the group prepares for the trip, they are raising public awareness of the ongoing challenges of Fukushima residents.

With the screening of the documentary “Alone in Fukushima,” students invite the Missoula community to take a closer look at life inside the red zone. Just seven miles away from the nuclear power plant, Naoto Matsumura is the only person left in town. He risks the radiation to look after the domesticated animals that families left behind. Japanese filmmaker Mayu Nakamura follows Matsumura on his quest to care for the creatures and save them from starvation. poster for Alone in Fukushima film. The film will be shown Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Payne Native American Center, room 11.

This Thursday, November 17, join the students of MTJA as they screen “Alone in Fukushima” at 6:30 p.m. in room 210 of the J-School. After the film, the director will skype in from Japan for a Q&A session. Admittance is free, but any donations are welcome and will help reduce travel costs.
Check out the trailer for Mayu Nakamura’s documentary “Alone in Fukushima” on YouTube.

By Jana Wiegand

Missoula to Berlin: The Field Experience

Missoula to Berlin members and Dean Larry Abramson listen to tour guide Alischia Kusche in Berlin. Photo by Sachi Sinhara.
Missoula to Berlin members listen to tour guide Alischia Kusche in Berlin. Photo by Sachi Sinhara.

Today in Berlin, a new piece of journalism was born. Maybe that doesn’t qualify as news, but if you had the chance to be there at the birth, you might share my appreciation. 18 UM J School students put together a web site bursting with articles, photographs, graphs, charts and social media. Their focus is a major story on the world stage: the refugee crisis facing Germany, and specifically Berlin.  The miracle is that many of them had never written for publication under deadline before, and no one had every done so in a foreign country. The quality of this work, and the experiences that led to it, is solid proof of what our school believes: the best way to train journalists is to put them in the field.

The UM J School backs trips overseas because they provide a concentrated version of the classic journalism encounter: stepping into a strange world, pulling back the veil and then making sense of it for an audience. Confronting that challenge in a foreign country raises the challenge to the tenth power, making the learning process is that much more intense. Here in Berlin, students have had to talk their way into asylum homes, youth shelters, burial facilities, bike cooperatives and many other nooks and crannies of the refugee world. They’ve struggled with setback after setback: interviews that were cancelled, crabby bureaucrats who refused to return their calls, and the endless challenge of working in foreign languages. They figured out how to move ahead, and save their stories. I can’t think of a better learning experience.

Last Saturday night was our deadline for filing our final stories, and our students experienced the Sturm and Drang of crunch time. Students kept the train on the track, contacting each other about final corrections, and editing copy over and over. At some points, the faculty went to bed, and the students took over. They took ownership of the enterprise, pushing each other to polish the final product. Once again, that’s a learning experience that’s hard to create in the classroom.

As we wrap up our work here, we’re sitting down with students to get their assessment of their three weeks in Berlin, and the months of preparation that got them here. Almost without fail, they remark on how different it is to work in the field versus doing classroom assignments. They all see how they could have been smarter and more successful if they had asked a few more questions, taken photos from different angles, or tried just a little harder. Those are the real lessons they will take into the newsroom, or to whatever field calls to them. You can see their work here. Thanks to everyone who helped our students get here, and watch this space for more news.

Larry Abramson