J-School Alumni Tips: Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton

To help students better envision their future at the J-School, we have reached out to J-School alumni who have gone on to use their UM Journalism experience as a foundation for their careers.

The 2019 Montana Broadcaster of the Year, Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton attended UM from 2003 – 2007 and shares a few tips:

Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton, reporting for NBC Montana

Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton

UM Journalism School, 2003 – 2007

Areas of focus: communications, political science, radio and television broadcasting, print writing

What are you doing now and how did your journalism education prepare you? 

I’m the evening anchor for NBC Montana. Journalism classes at UM were tough, but they really prepared me for life on the outside. I look back at what I thought was a heavy workload and laugh some days. In the TV news business, “normal days” are followed by days of 17 hour shifts with no food breaks standing in inclement weather or chasing a fugitive behind the cops. One of my biggest takeaways came, again, from Denise Dowling. She put a big emphasis on getting the work done without excuses. It’s no different in the newsroom. Our shows go on every night at 5, 6 and 10, regardless of what might have happened to your footage or how bad your cold is. This isn’t just great career guidance, it’s great life guidance.  

How did a J-School education affect your career path? 

I can’t say enough about the University of Montana School of Journalism. In addition to the hands-on work at school, I landed a job at the local NBC affiliate my junior year. That was only because Denise Dowling sent out a note encouraging my class to apply. That turned into my internship, which turned into my first full-time reporting job. I was in the right place at the right time for several promotions and was anchoring within my first year of working full-time. I have friends who went to journalism schools across the country, including Northwestern and Mizzou, who never even got a job in journalism. I really believe our small, but incredible and immersive program set me up for a lifetime of success in this field. 

Beyond your journalism education, what were some of your favorite experiences in the community of Missoula? 

Missoula is such a special place. It really is a community that cares and makes space for everyone. I love walking down University Ave. on a fall day, going to the Clark Fork River Market in the summer, hiking the M, floating the Clark Fork River, skiing in the winter. You won’t run out of breathtaking experiences here.  

What tips do you have for incoming students at UM? 

Stay active! Make sure you have balance in your life. It’s important to get the work done, but also take time to foster friendships. I can’t believe how many times I’ve used my college connections to network. Take a class that has nothing to do with your major, but just interests you. 

Maritsa and Professor Denise Dowling at the 2019 Montana Broadcaster of the Year Award ceremony

What do you wish you knew when you first started at UM? 

Biga Pizza is worth the extra money. Also, your life path will change because of your time here. Make the best of it!

What advice to you have for students considering pursuing a degree at the J-School? 

Expect to work hard and long hours, but with people you’ll be connected to the rest of your life. If you want to work in journalism, I can’t recommend this school highly enough. I have been so blessed because of my time at UM and so many alums before me have helped in countless ways.  

 

Since leaving the J-School, what do you miss the most? 

I miss seeing the people every day on campus. I still care more about Denise Dowling’s opinion than my own mother’s… and that says a lot. My professors turned into friends. I’m so thankful for my relationships with all of them, and I’m still in touch with them on a fairly regular basis. If I’m ever on campus, I always stop by. 

Any personal reflections you think J-School students might benefit from knowing about the J-School?

Your classmates will become your family.  

You will be part of a web of successful talent that spans decades and experience levels, which is invaluable in this industry.  

 

 

The Key to a Career Freelancing, Including for the New York Times? ‘Take Rejection With Stride and Be Professional But Not Precious,’ Says Nate Schweber, ’01

By Noelle Huser

From crime to politics to subway delays, Nate Schweber covers New York City news as a freelance metro journalist for the New York Times.  But with strong ties to Montana, Schweber enjoys returning to Big Sky Country to write stories about the West whenever he can.

After graduating with a degree in journalism, Schweber got his foot in the door with an internship at Rolling Stone in 2001, going on to write for the Village Voice from there.

He bounced around a bit, writing for various small publications in the New York City region before becoming a freelancer for the New York Times in 2005. He has freelanced for other publications since, but the Times is his mainstay.

For the metro section he covers daily happenings in the city, particularly political – and crime – related events. He recently covered the pipe bombs that were being sent to journalists and high-ranking Democrats. After the first package was sent to George Soros, an investor and philanthropist, Schweber spent a day posted outside the Soros’ house in New York following up on police reports, while simultaneously checking in on threats and suspicious behavior reports at New York City synagogues after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

Although Schweber has stayed with the Times, he has also figured out how to pay the bills freelancing, always brainstorming stories and developing a thick skin.

Schweber said, to “take rejection with stride and be professional but not precious,” is an important part of his work. He has to stay flexible if a story he pitches changes according to what an editor desires.

Cultivating relationships and networking are the ”the gold coins of freelancing” — coins he uses to pay his way back to Montana when he can, staying in touch with publications that want stories about the West and constantly pulling from his knowledge of his home state to pitch stories.  

“With freelancing, the trick is to cultivate relationships with editors,” he said “if you have a handful you work for regularly you can make ends meet.”

Schweber still taps his Journalism School professors for guidance when he needs it, noting a recent time he reached out to Dennis Swibold with a journalism ethics question.

While he was at UM he worked for the Montana Kaimin and he says writing three to four stories a day got him in the habit of always thinking of story ideas, making phone calls and writing a lot.

“It wasn’t just learning journalism, it was doing journalism. That was so helpful when I got into the real world,” he said.

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.

 

Breanna McCabe: ‘It’s An Incredible Feeling When Someone Trusts You With Their Story.’

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.