UM J-School celebrates homecoming

University of Montana School of Journalism students heard advice from different generations of alums during homecoming.

         The J-School hosted an alumni roundtable discussion to kick of the homecoming celebration. The roundtable featured a panel of J-School graduates currently working in journalism-related fields. Panelists are listed below.
Kevin Van Valkenburg
Reporter for the Baltimore Sun, ESPN The Magazine,, and current Pollner Professor for the J-School
Holly Michels
City News Editor for the Billings Gazette and Lee Enterprises
Jayme Fraser Ford
Government reporter Lee Newspapers in Montana
Tom Ciprari
KTMF Cowles Montana Media, Station Manager
Lido Vizzutti
Documentary, Editorial and Commercial Photographer
Kristine Paulsen
Photographer specializing in wedding, portrait & editorial photojournalism
Nils Rosdahl
Retired Professor, North Idaho College
J-School alums discussing their experience with the audience.
From left to right: Lido Vizzutti, Kevin Van Valkenburg, Nils Rosdahl, Tom Ciprari, Jayme Fraser Ford, Holly Michels, Kristine Paulsen
         The panelists shared their experience with students, professors and other J-School alumni. Kevin Van Valkenburg advised students to reach out and grab their dream jobs. “Employers are not going to make that leap for you.” He said it was important for students to market themselves and share their work if they want to get the job.
         Holly Michels added students need to be prepared for what they are actually going to be covering once they’ve graduated. She said students need to understand they’re not going to be doing long, in-depth reporting right out of the gate. “They might write something about a giant pumpkin,” she said.
         Lido Vizzutti and Kristine Paulsen chimed in, adding it’s difficult to get recognized, but social media is a good marketing platform. Both Vizzutti and Paulsen do freelance work; a field where, they agreed, self-promotion is important.
         “I sometimes really love being my own boss,” Paulsen said, “I sometimes really hate being my own boss. If something goes wrong, there’s no one to blame but myself.”
         The panelists took questions from the audience and many people were interested to see how social media has changed the journalism industry. Nils Rosdahl said he retired from teaching just as social media was beginning to make an impact, but noticed the basic principles of journalism still apply. He said even with sites like Facebook and Twitter, there is still a need for people who know how to collect reliable information, write copy and edit copy before a post goes live. UM J-School Dean Larry Abramson said students should apply their journalism ethics to their social media presence.
         Jayme Fraser Ford said Facebook can be used as a tool to draw more attention to a story. She gave a past example of an article she wrote that did not draw a large audience on the Huston Chronicle’s site, but when she shared it with a Facebook group, she found herself flooded with questions and responses from the members. “Think about where people are living their lives and share it there,” she said. “Get to that niche area.”
         Social media can be a great way to find sources, according to Van Valkenburg. Michels agreed. She said social media brings potential interviewees to the surface. She wrote about an accident in her community and when she needed to contact the victim’s family, they were posting on Facebook on the link to the article. Their posts made it easier for her to contact them and write a more in-depth story.
         Abramson asked the panel about another side of the news industry where the effects of social media are not as prevalent; management. 
         Van Valkenburg said one thing that can make or break a news organization is its manager or editor. Tom Ciprari said no one wants to go into management, but for him, it was an obvious progression after being in the field. “How long can you be that person who grabs their camera and runs to the scene?” he asked.
         Ciprari said the industry is constantly changing, and eventually, he felt it was his responsibility to take on a position where he could pass down what he’d learned to other reporters. “As you progress, you will become responsible for those coming next,” he said. Becoming station manager felt like a natural step. This way, he said he can show the next wave of journalists what to do and what not to do. “It’s just another form of teaching,” he said.
Old friends and colleagues reunite at the J-School Homecoming Reception.
Old friends and colleagues reunite at the J-School Homecoming Reception.
       After the roundtable, alumni, students, and J-School supporters gathered for a reception in the A.B. Guthrie Library to exchange experiences and catch up with professors and colleagues. To see more pictures from the event, visit our Facebook page and view the Homecoming 2015 album.
Photos and story by Alyssa Rabil

Photojournalism students learn the reality of freelancing

Journalism school students and others received a crash course in how to run a photography business, when Judy Herrmann, past president of the trade association American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), spoke to a large crowd Wednesday evening.

Close up of Judy Herrmann speaking to students and faculty
Judy Herrmann spoke to budding photojournalists and told them how to make it in the business. Photo by Katy Spence.

Although with a show of hands the vast majority of the audience identified themselves as aspiring photojournalists, that didn’t stop Herrmann from starting her talk with a dose of industry reality. “As much as all of you that raised your hand for photojournalism are thinking ‘I’m getting a staff job,’ you’re probably not,” she said.

Given the changing nature of the business, with staff jobs disappearing but opportunities for self employment increasing, Herrmann said it’s likely most people in the audience will at some point start their own photography business. She then proceeded to give a highly practical, nuts and bolts seminar on how to do so.

She began at the first step and covered most aspects of running a freelance businesses. Throughout her talk, Herrmann emphasized the benefits of speaking with and hiring professionals for business advice, from accountants to lawyers. “Photographers are not lawyers,” she said, “as much as some of them would like to think they are.”

Judy Herrmann speaks to students and faculty in large lecture hall.
Photo by Katy Spence.

Herrmann, who has won numerous awards for her own business, Herrmann + Starke, brought years of experience to the topic. She is aware of the hidden pitfalls that await freelancers starting out; bad contracts, unforeseen disasters like equipment theft (for which she recommends a careful choice in insurance), and losing control and copyright of your own work.

Erik Petersen, an adjunct photojournalism professor and long time freelancer, weighed in on her advice. “The material she covered,” he said, “is essential to anyone wanting to run a successful freelance photography business.”

At the core of her message was the importance of being a professional. By conveying professionalism at the beginning of a client relationship a freelancer ensures they’ll receive professionalism, and a fair deal, in return, Herrmann said.

By Andrew Graham

To our supporters and fellow J-Schoolers…

The year is off to a fantastic start here at the UM J-School. The smoke from the summer fires has cleared, and we’re enjoying blue skies and cool fall weather. Our students and faculty are hard at work already.Postcard which reads: Alumni Showcase, Friday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. in DAH 210. J-School Reception , Sept. 25 at 3 p.m. in the A.B. Guthrie Library. We hope to see you there!

Our student produced show, “Business: Made in Montana,” will air Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. on MontanaPBS. The Kaimin, our school newspaper, is moving more content online, while the printed edition has become a full-color weekly publication. The Montana Journalism Review is off to a strong start with a new staff, and a wealth of new stories to produce.

This year’s Pollner professor is Kevin Van Valkenburg. He is a distinguished reporter and known for his work with the Baltimore Sun, and ESPN the Magazine. He will present a talk titled “The Art of Storytelling Will Always Be What Matters, Not the Medium.” The annual lecture will take place Oct. 19th at 7:00 p.m. and, as always, the event is free and open to the public.

As we move forward into the new school year, we invite you to celebrate with us. The festivities begin this homecoming weekend.

Join us for our alumni showcase and J-School reception. The showcase is Friday, September 25 at 2 p.m. in Don Anderson Hall, room 210. As usual, we are inviting some of our recent grads to tell us stories of their experiences in the nation’s newsrooms. This is a great chance to see how our students are adapting to the changes in our ever-evolving industry. As we move into the digital age, our students must learn new skills and we must modify our idea of traditional media. We teach our students to maintain the same level of integrity and ethical conduct as we have taught our alums for the past 100 years.

We hope to see you after the showcase. Join us for a reception in the A.B. Guthrie Library (3 – 4 p.m.). We look forward to sharing a libation, catching up on your news, and talking football.

--UM J-School Dean Larry Abramson