Pollner Professor Cheryl Carpenter: Journalism, and Democracy, Need Anonymous Sources

Photo by Jamie Drysdale.

Cheryl Carpenter, the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor this semester at the School of Journalism, told a crowded University Center Theater Monday that journalists should use every tool at their disposal, including anonymous sources.

“The more experience I have as an editor and a journalist and a leader of a newsroom, the less likely I am to rely only on rules. I’ve been around supervisors who did manage with rules and in fact, I’ve had employees who wanted rules,” she said. “It’s easier. It’s easier to say to a newsroom: no more anonymous sources.

“And, I would just tell you that I think that that is a simple answer that comes at an astronomical cost of asking someone to suspend their good judgement. You want journalists, you want your good employees, to use their intuition, their experience, their good questions and their gut to figure out fake from real.”

Carpenter, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the national news organization McClatchy, talked about her prominent role in the coverage of the Panama Papers and how careful and diligent journalists should be when dealing with leaks and anonymous sources.

“We owe readers this: That when we accept anonymous sources we need to make sure that we are not being used or duped or fooled,” she said.

In her lecture, titled “Confidential Sources: Can Journalism Live Without Them?,” Carpenter also talked about the role of anonymous sources in the Trump era, and the serious responsibility journalists undertake when using them.

“So, while you will hear that reporters and editors cannot be trusted, that what we’re doing is fake, that we’re bad people, let’s all hope and pray that that makes us all more resolved about our mission and in serving readers responsibly,” Carpenter said. “I ask you all this evening: consider the greater good that comes from this messy process called journalism. Know that we serve you better when we use every tool to get to what happened. You should never wish for a more timid press in this country but one that feels responsible to you, and to the distinct and democratic ideals in this great experiment called the United States.”

You can watch her lecture here:

T. Anthony Pollner Lecture_10/16/17_Part1 from Montana Journalism on Vimeo.

T. Anthony Pollner Lecture 10/16/17_Part 2 from Montana Journalism on Vimeo.

And, here are some more photos by Jaime Drysdale from the event:

The School of Journalism created the Pollner professorship in 2001 in memory of T. Anthony Pollner, a UM journalism alumnus who died two years after graduating. The Pollner endowment allows the school to bring a distinguished journalist to campus for a full semester to teach a course and to mentor students at the Montana Kaimin.

Back to J-School

We welcomed new students to the University of Montana School of Journalism this week with “J-Con” — a special convocation just for journalism students. There was much meeting, greeting, learning and laughing. And, there was pizza. Because, there’s always* pizza in the news business, right? *There’s often pizza. 


New students got to know the J-School, and it’s history, this week. Photo by Jamie Drysdale.

See the full photo album here. Photos by student Jamie Drysdale.

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.