Alumni Spotlight: Kellyn Brown, Editor in Chief, Flathead Beacon

Graduates of the University of Montana School of Journalism go on to do great things, in journalism and beyond. They direct newsrooms, report on international issues, photograph history, inform the public on air, start their own businesses, influence public policy, publish books and become leaders in their communities. Here, we spotlight some of our alumni who showcase just how powerful, and versatile, a journalism degree from UM can be. 

This installment spotlights Kellyn Brown, 2002, who founded and runs the award-winning Flathead Beacon.


Question: Where do you work, how long have you been there and what is your job title?

Answer: Editor and chief at the Flathead Beacon since its inception in 2007.

Flathead Beacon: Our Story from Flathead Beacon Productions on Vimeo.

From the Beacon: “The Montana Newspaper Association has named the Flathead Beacon the state’s best large weekly six times since 2009 and the best website four times while also frequently recognizing the publication’s advertising and design excellence. The Columbia Journalism Review highlighted the newspaper and its tradition of excellence in a 2016 feature titled, “Why a Weekly Tabloid Owned by Maury Povich Might Have ‘The Best Newsroom in Montana.’” In 2014, Outside Magazine named the Flathead Beacon one of the “Best Places to Work” in the U.S.”

Was this the type of work you thought you’d be doing when you went to school?

I followed a traditional trajectory: statehouse reporter, cops and courts reporter, city editor, then editor in chief.

Can you describe an average day on the job?

Mostly managing production and sales and coordinating the various departments to get our products out the door in a timely fashion.

What experiences at the J-School were notable in preparing you for your work?

Kaimin. No question. I learned the most by working my beat and pounding the pavement for the school newspaper. I already had a photography degree before I earned a degree in print journalism. That helped on the visual end.

What are the skills you learned in J-School that you use on a daily basis? In your work? In your life?

Editing and working fast under deadline. Being at once skeptical and a critical thinker.

What do you think makes the J-School special? Do you have an fond memories of your time at the J-School?

The best part about the school are the incredible students who attend it. When I was there it was always a competition to write the next best story. My advisors were also very helpful and steered me to quality internships and my first job out of college.

What do you wish you would have learned at the J-School?

For me, more general coding. I can run the back end of websites, but I wish I understood the platforms a little better coming out of school.

What advice would you give a student just starting out in journalism school? Or, what advice would you give to someone considering journalism school?

The degree still has a lot of value. However, once you write a great story, you need to learn how to deliver it to an ever-changing audience. You have to adapt.

Where do you see yourself career-wise in the future?

Perhaps involved in media. Perhaps not. Working in a newsroom is like bootcamp for life. Everything else looks a little easier after working under the pressure of endless and vigorous deadlines for so many years.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Journalism matters now more than ever in my lifetime.

If you are a graduate who would like to share your experience or know of someone we should spotlight, email Visiting Professor Courtney Cowgill.


Meet the Professors: Kevin Tompkins

We are constantly hearing from students that one of the J-School’s biggest strengths is the dedicated, talented, fearless, experienced, fun, doors-are-always-open faculty.

The students in our Social Media and Engagement class set out to tell that story via Instagram. Over the coming weeks, we will highlight these stories, which illustrate the personalities, philosophies and experience of our top-notch faculty. This week, we give you the newest member of the faculty, Visiting Assistant Professor Kevin Tompkins.

Kevin teaches intermediate videography and intermediate directing. Kevin says, “I think the one thing I’ve noticed in my first semester-and-a-half that I’ve been here is that I want the students to be confident and feel comfortable doing what they’re doing, because I think that’s going to make you better in whatever you do.”



Other profiles in the #meettheprofs series: 

Jule Banville

Denise Dowling







New Semester Brings New Pollner Professor and New Course on Public Trust and ‘Fake News’

Spring semester brings a new face to the halls of the J-School and a new course on a timely topic: journalism and the public trust.

Deborah Potter will be this semester’s T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor and her course  will explore why trust in the news media is essential in a democratic society, why trust has declined so precipitously, and what can be done to restore it.

A veteran journalist and newsroom trainer, Deborah has been a television network correspondent for CBS News, CNN and PBS. She also founded and ran the online journalism resource NewsLab for 20 years. Deborah has led workshops for journalists in the United States and around the world, from South Africa to Nepal. In 2014, Deborah was a distinguished visiting professor in journalism ethics at the University of Arkansas. She’s co-author of “Advancing the Story,” a digital and broadcast journalism textbook, now in its third edition.

Students in Potter’s course will examine the “fake news” phenomenon, learn techniques for fact-checking, and investigate what strategies newsrooms are using to retain or earn back the trust of their audience. Seminar participants will interview working journalists and produce a comprehensive report for online publication.

“Journalism & Public Trust,” or JRNL 494, runs Mondays and Wednesdays 11:00-12:20 in DAH 210. Students interested in enrolling in the course must be admitted to the school’s professional program and have the consent of Professor Dennis Swibold,

The Pollner Professorship was established to honor the memory of Anthony Pollner, a 1999 graduate of the School of Journalism. After Anthony died in an accident in May 2001, his friends and family created an endowment that makes this professorship possible. In 2014, friends and family expanded the endowment to allow a distinguished professorship in both fall and spring semesters. Read more about Anthony and the professorship here.