Good Work Wednesday: Nov. 15, 2022

by Jocelyn Harris

Editor’s Note: In an effort to celebrate and highlight some of the best journalism happening in Montana, in environmental and science journalism as well as the good work being produced by our UM J-School alumni, each week, the School of Journalism is compiling these stories in this new feature: Good Work Wednesday. Look for it every week and if you have suggestions of journalism works we should highlight, email Good Work Wednesday curator and grad student Jocelyn Harris at

Top Montana News Stories:

1. Homelessness among older people is on the rise, driven by inflation and the housing crunch (by Aaron Bolton / Kaiser Health News in Montana Free Press)

Bolton tells the story of increasing homelessness among people over 60 through an intimate look at the trouble facing one pair of seniors in Columbia Falls. When their rent was nearly doubled, the couple lost their home and their relationship.

2. Native turnout low, Republicans see gains in majority-Native counties (by Nora Mabie / Missoulian)

“Red Medicine get-out-the-vote organizers Joyce Tatsey Spoonhunter, left, and Joleen DeRoche, right, register Heart Butte resident Carl Cree Medicine sitting in his white pickup parked on the driveway outside his home on the Blackfeet Nation on Sept. 20. Red Medicine is a group that focuses on empowering Native communities in local, state and federal politics.” Photo by Antonio Ibarra, ’22, and used with permission. 

Mabie, an indigenous communities reporter, dives into the reasons behind low Native turnout in Montana’s midterm elections. She spoke with Ta’jin Perez, Western Native Voice Deputy Director, who said, “People didn’t know there was an election happening. It’s an indictment of how poorly counties are getting the word out.”

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Journalists On Social Media: Q&A with MTPR’s Joshua Burnham

By Elinor Smith

Joshua Burnham has been working at Montana Public Radio for seven years. He’s the digital editor, and throughout his career, he’s noted many changes in social media and its environment. He’s adapted MTPR’s social media plan throughout his career to make up for the changes. Burnham has won the “Best Digital Presence” twice by the Associated Press Television and Radio Association in 2018 and 2019 for Western states in the Radio II category. Burnham was also awarded Radio Website of the Year from the Montana Broadcasters Association in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Journalism student and the producer of the student newspaper’s weekly podcast “The Kaimin Cast” Elinor Smith talked with Burnham about his work and below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Over the course of your career, you’ve been with MTPR for quite a bit. How have you seen platforms like Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram kind of evolve since the time you started?

A: So, Facebook has changed probably more than anything. There’s been an exodus of younger people from it since I started. And it’s just a very old platform. And the way they’re doing it now is they want to do everything they can to keep you on Facebook. So it used to be you could get link clicks back to your stories, or to your podcasts, or whatever. And it’s just not a good use for that anymore. And so you have to start thinking about doing stuff natively on Facebook. And that means like, when we have briefs or something like that, I’ll just post them directly to Facebook rather than linking out. So, things like that. Facebook advertising could still be good. I don’t know that it’s worth boosting individual posts. But if you’re advertising for your organization or a podcast in general, Facebook is pretty good for that. Twitter. I don’t know Twitter’s kind of Twitter. I haven’t noticed any big differences since I have been there. I think it’s grown. But it’s still a very niche audience. I always tell the reporters like Twitter is the least important thing. It’s a lot of reporters talking to reporters. It’s very helpful for sourcing things like: ‘I’m doing a story on heat exhaustion. Do you know anybody who can talk to me about things like that?’ So it is good for that. But, I think maybe 3% of the country is on it or something. It’s really small. Instagram is going all toward video, TikTok influence has hit Instagram, and they’re promoting reels. If you want to get reach on Instagram right now, reels are the place. Video stories are still doing well. We do carousel sometimes … Those are still helpful. But yeah, video, you got to get into video. I would say one of the most surprising things. Since I’ve started there is that we know from market research that video is one of the top ways people find podcasts. So, a lot of people actually think a podcast means a video, something on YouTube. And that was a surprise when those numbers came out. And so it means pushing more stuff on to YouTube at this point for us. And that might be because those are just like audiograms. Right? It’s just audio where the waveform and we haven’t had a ton of luck with those. But, NPR has started to do those for some of their podcasts. We’re giving it a try. This is a new thing in the last month, maybe. So, we’ll see how that works out.

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Journalists On Social Media: Q&A with MTN’s Ashley Washburn

Ashley Washburn is a multimedia journalist working as sports reporter and anchor at the Montana Television Network, which is a network of CBS affiliates with local stations in just about every major city in Montana. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University in May 2019. During her time in San Diego she covered her university’s athletic department. Later she interned with ESPN and worked as a morning news producer for NBC 7 San Diego.

UM Journalism student Meghan Fatouros interviewed Washburn about her ideas on best practices on social media. What follows in a transcript of their conversation, edited slightly for clarity and brevity.

Q: How do you decide what is beneficial to post and what is not? How does this pertain to sports journalism?

A: If there is one thing about this industry, it’s that building relationships are more important sometimes than being the first to break a story. This more pertains to sports, but I always weigh the situation and I’m definitely careful with putting information out there about college athletes. I also try not to post anything (breaking news wise) unless I have the information confirmed by two different sources and I feel 100% confident about the information that was given to me. If there is any type of uncertainty, it’s an automatic no because I don’t want to get into a situation where I was wrong or say something incorrect that backlashes and hurts my credibility.

Q: Has there ever been a moment you chose to delete something or backtrack?

A: Going back to my first answer, there isn’t a moment I can think of currently mainly because of that checklist I just stated. Having several sources is always important, and you need to feel 100% confident about what you are putting out there. If there is any sense of doubt, try to find more information or put it on the back burner until you are certain.

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