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. Butte’s closet of skeletons bursting at the seams (by Tracy Thornton / The Montana Standard)

Thornton dusts off several spooky stories from Butte’s past and share them in honor of Halloween. The tales are grim, especially the one about an abused baby, but Thornton’s wit helps take the edge off.

2. Carcass club at University of Montana brings zoological museum to life (by Skylar Rispens, ’19 / Missoulian)

Rispens’s story about UM’s “Carcass Club” makes hanging around dead things sound like a good time. The students help prepare specimens for the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, which is home to 22,000 animal specimens including a Desman, the planet’s largest mole species, which can only be found in two other museums around the world. The museum is hosting a public open house this November and Angela Hornsby, the Wright’s curator, is quoted saying, “We can show you cool stuff all day long.”

3. Art Focus to feature wildlife artist Amber Sampson (by Michelle McConnaha / Ravalli Republic)

McConnaha writes about Montana wildlife artist Amber Sampson, whose work will be featured in Art Focus Gallery and Framing on Friday, Nov. 4. Sampson’s realistic paintings capture the personalities of her animal subjects, and she adds some creative flare. McConnaha quotes Sampson as saying, “The splattering process is exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. I hope everyone feels the strong essence of each animal’s spirit projected from the painting.”

4. Reservoir dogs all adopted; but county now has a bigger problem (by Chris Peterson ’12 / Hungry Horse News)

Peterson ‘12, updates readers that the 17 abandoned huskies from the Hungry Horse Reservoir have all been adopted and that the woman who shot and killed the 18th husky pup has been cited for animal cruelty. The bad news is that the Flathead County Animal Shelter is still nearly overflowing with surrendered dogs that could be euthanized if adopters aren’t found soon. Peterson includes shelter director Cliff Bennet attributing the excess surrenders to fewer Flathead County landlords accepting pets.

5. Flathead Valley schools show performance declines in nation’s report card, yet outperform national averages (by Denali Sagner / Flathead Beacon)

In this story about the pandemic’s toll on Flathead County students, Sagner reports that disruptions in learning patterns and mental health issues contributed to declines in student performance. She spoke with Columbia Falls Public Schools Superintendent Dave Wick, who is optimistic about future learning and said, “Kids are resilient, I think we’re going to recover.”

Science and Environmental Stories:

1. The fading art of preserving the dead (by Oliver Whang / The New York Times)

In his piece about human embalming practices, Whang starts by following experienced embalmer Shawn’te Harvell into his lab. It quickly becomes clear that preserving the dead is as much an art as it is a science, albeit a dying one due Americans’ rising interest in green burials. The topic takes a philosophical turn when Whang speaks with Ed Bixby, president of the Green Burial Council, who said, “We need death in order to live happy lives, making space in order for more life to emerge.”

2. The world’s melting glaciers are yielding up their secrets too quickly (by Rick Noack / The Washington Post)

Noack takes his readers on a journey to the valley of a melting Swiss glacier where archaeologists are racing to collect ancient artifacts emerging from the ice. With climate change accelerating glacier melt, researchers are concerned that ice-preserved artifacts and the history they represent will be lost once exposed. One of the archaeologists Noack spoke with, Nicholas Jarman, said, “For every patch we find, there are probably dozens that go unnoticed and quietly melt away — and the cultural heritage embedded in them is out there under the August sun, rotting.”

Student/Alumni Work of the Week:

Documentary: “The Story of Us: The Women Who Shaped Montana” (by producer Kimberly Hogberg ‘08)

A scene from the filming of “The Story of Us: The Women Who Shaped Montana.”Courtesy Photo

Hogberg earned her Master’s in broadcast journalism from UM in 2008 and works as a producer and editor for North by Northwest. Her newest documentary examines the struggles and accomplishments of four women in Montana’s history: Sarah Bickford, Rose Hum Lee, Maggie Smith Hathaway, and Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail. A screening and Q&A will be held in Missoula Wednesday, November 2 at 6 p.m. in the University Center Theater.

The documentary has already screened in Helena and Bozeman. At the Bozeman screening in September, Hogberg said: “There’s so many incredible historical stories that are just untold and we should really try to seek them out, and I think that was really the idea was trying to bring some of these stories to life,” according to reporting from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s Nora Shelly.

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