By Tessa Nadeau and Jamie McNally
Breanna McCabe has helped inspire the next generation of journalism students even as she returns to her alma mater to tackle a graduate degree and produce a documentary project that’s taking her into remote locations in Montana and Canada.
Originally from Missoula, McCabe chose to stay close to home for school, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Journalism School in 2009. She landed a job at University Relations at UM where she produces videos and edits publications. This year, she decided to continue her education as a graduate student in the School of Journalism’s Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism program.
She earned the Crown Reporting Fellowship at UM, which sponsors graduate students producing stories about the environment in the “Crown of the Continent” region.
McCabe’s project takes her to the edge of the tree line in Northern Montana and Canada to study the challenges of the whitebark pine trees. She is producing a documentary about how climate change, disease, and pests have devastated the species of gnarled trees that exist on the edge of where trees grow and what people are doing to save them.
To this UM alumna and graduate student, it’s not just another story.
“I care deeply about nature, and I worry about our planet’s future. I see storytelling as my best shot at making a difference for future generations,” McCabe said.
McCabe says getting to travel places rewarding, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole time.
“Climbing up the side of a mountain with no trail, with a video camera and tripod was trying,” McCabe said. “But now the task of sifting through footage to tell the story that captivated me is perhaps a bigger challenge.”
McCabe is hopeful that this is just the first of many long form stories she gets to tell.
She says that when it comes to being a journalist, she is most grateful for the conversations.
“I feel so fortunate every time someone opens up to me, whether I’m rolling or not. It’s an incredible feeling when someone trusts you with their story,” McCabe said.
McCabe says the foundation her professors provided her with is what she is most thankful for and it is why she is continuing her education in Missoula.
“I knew I was learning from the best, and they always pushed me to do better. So did my classmates. We had a great group of broadcast and production students who felt like family by graduation,” McCabe said.
McCabe is more than a student at the school, though. For many students she is also that professor who first engages with them, teaching the intro news writing class over the past several semesters. Her students say she’s a professor who cares about their progress in the program and inspires them to try harder.
This story, which is part of a Thanksgiving week series called “Thank a J-School Grad,” was produced by the Fall 2018 Social Media and Engagement class at the Journalism School.