UM Journalism Unveils Women’s Wall to Honor Pioneering Women in Journalism

By Josie Harris

Alumni and friends gathered at the University of Montana School of Journalism on Friday, September 23 to celebrate the unveiling of  new, large-scale, vibrant piece of art hanging in Don Anderson Hall designed to honor women pioneers in Montana’s journalism history. The piece features seven trail-blazing women and artifacts related to their work.

The idea for the women’s wall was conceived shortly after Jane Jeffers Rybus ’46 passed away in October 2018. As a Griz, she was known around campus as “Jeff” and during World War II became UM’s first woman student body president.

Her death moved Tom and Pam Rybus, her son and daughter-in-law and supporters of the Montana Media Lab, to approach then interim Dean and later Director of the J-School Denise Dowling and then Development Director Gita Saedi Kiely to explore how Jeff and her legacy could be honored.

Together, they developed the idea to create a piece of art celebrating Montana women who made ground-breaking achievements in journalism and media.

In addition to Rybus, Dowling and Kiely thought to pay tribute to other women journalists in Montana’s history. After a year-long search including hours of research, faculty input and discussion, they selected six more women to be featured on the wall including Dorothy Rochon Powers, Judith Blakely Morgan, Bonnie Red Elk, Dorothy Johnson, Gretchen Billings, and Aline Mosby.

To make their vision a reality, they commissioned artist and alumna Amber Bushnell McBath ’11, an innovative media artist, to curate the glowing homage to the seven honorees.

Viewers gathered on Friday to admire the completed work for the first time. Found on the first floor of the School of Journalism—suitably located near the Montana Media Lab, which is devoted to innovation, experimentation and emerging media—the women’s wall greets students along the popular gathering and studying spot that stretches across the J-School’s south entrance.

At the dedication event, Dowling invited family members of the honorees to speak.

Erin Billings ’95, who was herself a dogged and acclaimed political journalist and now works in strategic communications,  spoke passionately of her grandmother, Gretchen Billings, who wrote and edited for the People’s Voice, a progressive Helena-based paper. In the 1940s-60s, Gretchen didn’t just cover controversial topics, she ran into them.

“She broke the glass ceiling for women in political journalism,” Billings said..

Kristofer Boyd, Bonnie Red Elk’s nephew, who worked alongside Red Elk at her self-started paper, the Fort Peck Journal, expressed great appreciation for her influence and devotion to holding tribal government officials to account, and for standing out in an industry often dominated by men.

“I’m glad things are changing, I really am,” Boyd said.

Following the dedication, Lee Banville, the new director of the School of Journalism, held a panel discussion with three young women in journalism: Maritsa Georgiou ’07, Katheryn Houghton ’15 and Madison Dapcevich ’17. They each shared insights into their very different careers.

Georgiou, a national correspondent for Newsy and award-winning broadcast journalist, spoke of her dedication to getting across the whole story.

“Even if it takes seven minutes to tell,” she said, “I want everyone else to know everything I learned, too.”

Covering all things healthcare as the Montana correspondent for the nonprofit Kaiser Health News, Houghton challenged the assertion that healthcare is an uninteresting, dry topic. “When you talk about access to healthcare, you’re talking about people’s most personal moments,” Houghton said.

As a science reporter and fact-checker at Lead Stories and former science communication fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust aboard the E/V Nautilus, Dapcevich hardly struggles to make her beat interesting. Instead, Madison said her challenge as a science fact-checker stems from the complicated process of science. She can’t always deliver the answers people want when they want them.

The women’s wall and the dedication represents a great collaborative effort to honor the inspirational women who “blazed a trail for our young female and male students,” Dowling said.

Follow the J-School here and on Instagram @umjschool in the coming days and weeks as we profile each of the outstanding women honored in this dedication.

2022 Summer Journalism and Media Camp

Twenty-five high school students from across the state (and country!) gathered in Missoula this week on the University of Montana Campus to explore journalism and media at the 2022 summer camp sponsored by the University of Montana School of Journalism and Humanities Montana.

Students covered a local baseball game and Out to Lunch in downtown Missoula and produced a mix of photojournalism, audio stories, written articles and even a TikTok video.

You can listen to the audio coverage here and here.

And, you can see the full written coverage here.

A full gallery of the photos is here.

And, below, watch the TikTok video from Wilson Freer and Hattie Batchelder.

Powerful Paddleheads: Missoula Cruises Into Second Half

By Samuel Kayll, 2022 UM Journalism and Media Summer Camp

Missoula Paddlehead batter, Jayson Newman, left, talks to student reporter Samuel Kayll for an interview after a win against the Ogden Raptors at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field on July 19, 2022. Photo by Zoe Sellers

If there was any disappointment in the Missoula Paddleheads’ sound 8 to 5 victory over the visiting Ogden Raptors on Tuesday, it was only because Paddleheads first baseman Jayson Newman wasn’t the Beer Batter for the night. 

The promotion, which reduces beer prices whenever the selected player for the night gets a hit, is a staple at Paddleheads games. Sadly, Newman, who went 2-4 at the plate in Tuesday’s game, was not the Beer Batter, and fans were left empty-handed. 

“It’s one of the things that the fans love. They bring a lot of energy,” Newman said with a smile after the Paddleheads’ victory. “If I’m the Beer Batter for a game, let’s do it.”

Tuesday’s game saw the Paddleheads continue their winning ways from the first half of the season. The program already locked up a Pioneer League playoff spot after winning 35 games and the first-half pennant, awarded to the best team over the first 49 games.

This puts the team on pace for more wins than last year – and that team won the championship. Better than last year? That’s a bold statement. But it just might be the case, and the victory over Ogden improved the squad’s standing. 

The win saw eight Paddleheads batters record a hit, led by Newman’s two hits and two RBIs. Missoula hitting coach Jeff Lyle had nothing but praise for Newman after the game. The first baseman added to his totals of 21 home runs and 71 RBIs, both tops in the entire Pioneer League.

“He’s the real deal,” Lyle said of Newman, whose sixth-inning two-run homer put Missoula up for good. “He’s the best hitter in the league, and I don’t think it’s even close – his power, his ability to put the bat on the ball consistently, and drive in runs when he has to.”

Newman was far from the only star for Missoula. Lead-off hitter Brandon Riley’s first-inning home run put Missoula up 1-0 early. Nick Gatewood followed up Newman’s sixth-inning blast with a homer of his own, capping off a two-inning stretch in the sixth and seventh when Missoula scored six combined runs to blow the game open. 

McClain O’Connor tied Newman for the game leader in RBIs with a seventh-inning, two-run triple. 

“It shows how long our lineup is,” Lyle said. “That’s one of our goals, to have everyone contribute every night, and something that we pride ourselves in is having a deep lineup of guys one through nine being able to hit.” 

Newman agreed, praising the entire lineup’s depth and ability. 

“One through nine, we’re excited every time we get up to the plate, you never know who’s gonna do the job. So we just pass it along and get the job done,” Newman said

If this game was any indication, the Pioneer League should be wary. The Paddleheads are talented, deep and confident, but the squad also recognizes that its job isn’t done yet. Newman said he is well aware of the possibility of a second-half slump, but he won’t back down from the challenge. 

“It’s obviously a great thing to get into the playoffs in the first half. It can also be very scary to take a break, get off the gas pedal, but we do a great job showing up to the field, and we expect to win,” Newman said. 

Ogden put up a fight against the first-half champs, even taking a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. The lead would only stand for a single inning due to the torrent in the sixth and seventh, but Lyle (a former Ogden coach) recognized the threat the Raptors pose as Southern champions. 

“They’re well coached, they’re very well disciplined, and they play the game the right way,” Lyle said of his former squad. “If I had to put any wagers on it, I would assume that we would see them in the finals.”

For now, Newman said the key is to simply continue what they do best. 

“We stay with what we know we can do, and that’s up-and-down hitting, throwing strikes, playing good defense–that’s all we can control. So that’s what we all focus on and we keep it going,” Newman said.

If Tuesday’s game, the first of six at home against the Raptors, was any indication, the team isn’t satisfied with just one championship. It’s itching for another chance. Now, if only Newman could be the Beer Batter for every game.