Creative Inspiration for Thanksgiving Break

Pollner Professor Kevin Van Valkenburg sent his students off on Thanksgiving break with a hard deadline for a reported long form story on the first Monday back, but also with a piece of inspirational reading to help them cross the finish line.

Van Valkenburg, a staff writer for ESPN the magazine, has been showing his students the glories and pit falls of long form writing and deep reporting. His class has read several stories by Esquire writer and National Magazine Award-winner Chris Jones. For Thanksgiving break, Van Valkenburg sent his students Jones’ speech on his “Nine Rules for Creative Work.”

It’s application to journalism students struck me as wide enough, and its content compelling enough, to be worth sharing here. As students, it can often feel that classes outside of Journalism, along with the other pressures of University life, can get in the way of finding the time to do the excellent journalism we all aspire to.

Read Chris Jones’ speech:
Read Chris Jones’ speech:

This speech, which Jones gave at the Power of Storytelling international conference in Bucharest this past October, reinvigorated me at this difficult point in the semester, with deadlines and due dates piling up. He speaks on the value of hard work to any creative enterprise, including the craft of journalism.

Hopefully some readers of this blog will also find time to take in Jones’ advice over the next few days. And hopefully Professor Van Valkenburg will forgive me for sharing the secrets of his class with the greater online community.

If you have time for some longer reads, look for his work in Esquire’s archive. In Van Valkenburg’s class we read the incredulously well reported: “The Things That Carried Him”

By Andrew Graham

Journalism student looks forward to networking in NYC

For Sojin Josephson, a 21 year old senior broadcast and print major from Big Timber, population roughly 1,600, New York City has always been something of a fascination. She’s visited before with her mother, she said, and is always fascinated by the city’s energy. December 2nd, she’ll return to New York, this time alone and to attend a two day workshop hosted by the International Radio and Television Society.

Pictured above: Sojin Josephson.
Pictured above: Sojin Josephson.

“I’ve really wanted a good opportunity to go to a place I love,” Josephson said, noting that she’s looking forward to a chance to spend some time alone in a city that interests her.

Called the Multicultural Career Workshop, the two days include seminars in digital media, creative production, advertising, research, sales and marketing. There will be panels of media professionals taking questions, and then a full day career fair where Josephson will have the chance to make contacts with major media companies.

Josephson said she applied on a bit of a whim, after Ray Ekness, Professor & Director of Student Success, suggested that she take a shot at the workshop. As a sports reporter for the student newspaper the Montana Kaimin, and a reporter, anchor and producer with UM News, a weekly news segment staffed by senior broadcast students, Josephson has been taking advantage of the opportunities for hands on production by students at the School of Journalism.

While her multifaceted abilities are an asset in today’s job market for journalists, Josephson said she struggles between the two career tracks as she finds both rewarding. For the spring semester, she hopes to do a broadcast internship around Missoula, and get a taste for how that feels.

For now, she’s looking forward to the chance to make some contacts in New York, hand out her resume and immerse herself once more in the energy of the Big Apple.

You can read a remarkable profile by Josephson that recently ran in the Montana Kaimin here.

By Andrew Graham

Journalism Dean Larry Abramson addresses University budget cuts

           On November 17th, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom named the School of Journalism as one of the programs essential to the University’s “mission and identity” but targeted for budgeting cuts given a campus wide drop in enrollment.
UM J-School Dean Larry Abramson
J-School Dean Larry Abramson
     “The journalism school is a part of this campus and the campus is hurting financially, so we’re going to take a hit,” Journalism Dean Larry Abramson said, in an interview two days later.
     While some departments will be able to escape adjustments, the School of Journalism was one of those that have seen what Engstrom called a substantial enrollment reduction. However, Abramson pointed out that Journalism is the smallest school on campus, which means smaller changes in the numbers of enrolled students manifests itself as a bigger percentage drop. A  13.9 percent drop between 2014 and 2015 means 44 less students in the School of Journalism.
     Abramson said that while it is still unclear what form an adjustment would take, he and the rest of the faculty are marshaling arguments to avoid a harmful budget cut and maintain the School of Journalism’s high rank, at 9th in the nation.
     “As much as we want to be good citizens of the University and help solve this problem, we also want to protect our program,” Abramson said. The biggest challenge, he said, will be to avoid losing a faculty position in order to keep the school as a competitive destination for those who want to pursue careers in digital journalism.
     Capstone journalism classes, such as the Native News Project and the Montana Journalism Review, are student produced publications that run to wide exposure each year. Native News runs as a special edition in several Montana newspapers and the Montana Journalism Review is distributed widely to media professionals across the region, as well as nationally and internationally. Both publications have begun to push more effectively into digital productions to match their print editions. Abramson pointed out that Assistant Professor Jule Banville is pushing increased attention to audio podcasts as well.
     “It’s not just about enrollment numbers, and I think the President and the Provost are open to that,” Abramson said. “Reputation and role in society is important and I think we have a really outsized role in comparison to many of the other departments on campus.”
     Abramson said that while he wished he could say more specifically what may happen, at the moment he remains in the fact finding phase. Being open with students and faculty is important to him, and Abramson said he will share any information he feels the school needs to know.
     Meanwhile, he remains committed to innovating in the journalism school, streamlining programs and pushing the school towards the digital age skills that are defining today’s market. “Our people are placed in newsrooms and startups and in their own entrepreneurial efforts all over the world,” Abramson said.
     He believes that tradition, and a high ranking among the nation’s journalism schools, is well worth protecting. “It’s taken a hundred and one years to build that reputation, and we don’t want to see it eaten away at by more cuts.”
By Andrew Graham