Emily Tschetter on Writing, Editing and the Future of Journalism

By Kathleen Shannon

Emily Tschetter in the Montana Kaimin newsroom.

Emily Tschetter came to UM from Billings and is a sophomore in the writing and editing track. She is most interested in covering politics and government and is majoring in political science in addition to journalism. She writes for the Montana Kaimin and is looking forward to an internship with the Daily Montanan this summer.

Emily answered some questions from graduate student Kathleen Shannon about her time at the J-School and he future. The transcript of their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you decide to pick the writing and editing track at the J-School?

A: I mean, I’m not an editor yet. I hope to be soon. It’s the writing track, but like, with the goal of possibly becoming an editor at some point. But I feel like the decision to just do journalism in general was way bigger for me. I mean, when I was a little kid, I was a latchkey kid, meaning that I would get home before my parents would. So I would be home alone in my house and I would just watch these Discovery Channel shows. And every single career that would come up, I’m like: ‘I want to do that.’ So every month, I changed [my idea]. I want to be a tornado chaser, marine biologist, like, every different career. Then I saw the Trayvon Martin killing happen in 2012. And I watched the broadcast journalists cover it for the entire time that the George Zimmerman trial happened. And I just thought that it was so inspiring that they could take an issue that’s really difficult to swallow and really difficult to comprehend, and put it into something that can be digestible by the public and something that kind of just [compacts] it into shorter information. And I’m like: ‘I really want to do that,’ not necessarily in the broadcast form. But that was the moment where I started paying attention to everything going on, and I never really stopped. So then I got here, I decided to be a journalism major. And I took all of the main classes, I kind of always felt like I was going to be going into writing. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school. I loved one of my English teachers, my sophomore and senior year English teachers. They were a huge inspiration to me, and helped me build up a lot of my writing skills. So it was a natural fit for me.

Q: Can you talk about a project either that you’ve completed, that you’re proud of or something you’re working on that you’re excited about?

A: I wrote a cover [story for the Montana Kaimin] last semester about the recreational marijuana legalization. And I was really proud of that project. We talked to one main person that had been using marijuana and also selling it out of his house. And we were able to use that to frame this larger issue that I think a lot of college students cared about. And that was a really exciting project to work on and I was really proud of that. Another exciting thing, I got an internship with the Daily Montanan in the summer to be a government and politics reporter. So I’m really excited to start doing that this summer.

Q: What’s the best part of the writing track? What’s a challenging part?

A: I feel like what the best part and the hardest part are kind of the same thing, which is the ability to build up a narrative from a lot of different moving parts. I’m focusing on news writing, so that’s a really big deal. In news writing, you’re just always going to have to be juggling a lot of different voices and a lot of different events and putting them into one cohesive story. It’s really rewarding, but also really difficult.

Q: What kinds of topics are you really excited about?

A: I’ve always wanted to be reporting on government and politics. I’m a journalism/political science double major. I’m taking covering elections next fall. I’m really excited to be focusing on internal state politics races because I feel like Montana is one of the most interesting places politically in the whole country. So I wrote a piece last semester for the Poynter project that we did, [looking at] who controls the politics of guns in Montana. I loved doing that piece and I want to do a lot of pieces like that, that can be kind of nebulous in their examination of what the political climate looks like, but also have a lot of real world-implications. And there aren’t a lot of national news outlets looking at them.

Q: I know you’re a couple years from graduation yet, but what’s the dream job for after that?

A: My plan after I graduate is just to put my portfolio and my resume out there and see what paper takes me. I don’t really care where I go. I would love to someday be able to report internationally, [but] not necessarily like war correspondence. I took the war correspondence class last semester and that did not seem appealing to me. I would love to do some form of international reporting or working at one of the bigger national outlets where you have the opportunity to travel and go to places that you never would have picked out on a map for yourself. And I would love to work at a larger outlet that would allow me to do projects like that.

Q: What advice would you give to new students who are mapping out their time at the J-School?

A: Work at the Kaimin. It’s 100%, the biggest thing that has set me apart from other journalism students. I’m only 19. And I got a pretty competitive internship and it would not have happened without the Kaimin. I think that it’s really hard, but it’s the single best way to build up your portfolio and get real on the ground experience while you’re taking your classes.

Q: In a student-led newsroom, what skills do you feel like you’re honing there that maybe are a little different or more specific than what you’re getting in your classes?

A: The actual classes are great. Our whole motto here is learning by doing. And they definitely try to emphasize that in the classes, but that can only go so far when you’re in the structured classroom environment. When you’re working somewhere that’s so similar to a real newsroom, you really get to learn the skills of the newsroom dynamic, the teamwork. You’re on your own to be producing this product every week and you don’t really have a ton of faculty oversight in that. And the fact that we’re able to come together and put out a paper every week is something that’s unique to our publication and it’s something that you can’t really do within the structured classroom environment.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I guess, something that I always heard coming into school that made me kind of worried to go into the journalism program is that journalism is a dying industry. And I’ve always thought that’s really dumb. I think that, yes, there is some adjustment to the new world that we live in, the new online age that we’re in, that the journalism industry as a whole has been kind of slow to get on. But everyone who graduates from this college is going to be on the forefront of making that transition. We’ve lived online our entire lives. I’ve not known a life without the internet. I was born just a couple months after 9/11. So we live in a very tumultuous time where there are so many different issues that need reporting on. We are at the University of Montana, and the students that are going to be graduating from here are going to be the ones that are at the forefront of that change to be able to transition into the online space and be able to utilize it in the best way that it can possibly be used. And young journalists [and a lot of the major publications] are already doing that. I think that going to J-School here is probably one of the best ways to merge some of those practical skills that we’ve just learned from being young and growing up in this generation with the actual skills of the industry.

Correction: A previous version of this post misspelled Tschetter’s name. We apologize for the error.

Peyton Butler Explores the Airwaves

By Kathleen Shannon

Peyton Butler in the KBGA college radio station.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Peyton Butler has almost completed the audio track at the J-School. She’ll graduate after completing her Wilderness Studies minor in the field this fall. She was sold on audio after interning for Montana Public Radio, which is housed at UM. She’s also the media director at the university radio station, KBGA, and an intern with a podcast called Stories for Action.

Peyton sat down with graduate student Kathleen Shannon to talk about her diverse experiences in audio. The transcript of their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What got you interested in audio? Why and when did you decide to pick that track?

A: So to be honest, I came to UM not to study journalism. I started my first semester here studying forestry. I switched because in high school, I was the editor of our school newspaper’s audio branch. So I did all the podcasting stuff for my high school’s media network. And I’ve always just kind of liked podcasts. I loved listening to podcasts all through middle school and high school. And I kind of hadn’t thought of it as a career path until my first semester at UM, [when] I got an internship with Montana Public Radio (MTPR). And I wasn’t a journalism major at that point. After I got that internship, I was like: ‘okay, then I guess this is something I’m very passionate about. I could make this into a career if I wanted.’ And so I changed my major to journalism and started on the audio track from there.

Q: Can you talk more about your internship MTPR and how that like helped clarify your path? What kinds of stories did you work on there?

A: I had that internship for technically two school years. I got to do a lot of the evening newscasts and so I got to pull lots of different stories from the from the [Associated Press] wire and record those and then those got aired on MTPR in the evenings. And I got to do some short spot stories as well. The beat that I got to follow a lot was public land and natural resources because my other minor that I’m studying is climate change studies. Environmental reporting is something else I’m really passionate about besides audio. So I did some environmental stories for them, as well. It was a lot of just learning how a newsroom works. During my second school year with MTPR, it was all remote [and] I was working from home. So there wasn’t as much of like the newsroom aspect, I guess. But definitely during my first year, I learned a lot about how a newsroom works and this is how you talk with other reporters there and how you work professional audio equipment and whatnot. So I think it was a big learning experience for me to learn how the news making process goes.

Q: Can you talk a project you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?

A: So this kind of has to do with J-School, but it’s technically for my minor. I’m a podcast editor for this group called Stories for Action. And they’re a production company that works on documentaries and storytelling surrounding climate change in Montana. And so I’ve been helping their lead production person Lara Tomov. I’m doing an internship with her editing her podcast. So I’ve been listening to all the interviews she did last summer and going through and editing those into more [of] a succinct podcast form. And that’s been super interesting because it’s right up my alley. And it follows my interests almost to a T. And I’ve been learning a lot, too, about how to report in the field and how to deal with wind and rain and stuff when you’re trying to report. So that’s something that I’ve been really proud of that I’m working on right now.

Q: That’s exciting. What is your dream job after graduation?

A: I’ve got a couple of dream jobs. There’s a couple different things I would love to do. I’d love to work for either NPR or an NPR affiliate station, doing Morning Edition or [All Things Considered], or just being a general reporter there start to out. I’d love to be an environmental reporter, specifically an audio reporter. Or a reporter who’s able to follow the climate change beat because I think that’s something that’ll keep evolving and changing as the years go on. I would also love to work being a writer for an outdoor recreation magazine. That’s something else I’m really passionate about. And outdoor education is something I love. And so being able to work for, like, Outside magazine or something would be super cool. Or being a writer for Protect Our Winters, which is another group that I really love and support.

Q: In terms of your time doing audio at the University of Montana, what’s been a highlight? And what’s been something more challenging?

A: The best part would probably be my internship I was able to have with MTPR. That was basically doing my dream job my freshman year of college. And I was like 18. So I think that’s been the highlight. I think the hardest part has been I’ve had some difficulties doing some reporting in the past year. And just, like, stories falling through. And working really hard to try to get in contact with people because I want to do this one specific story and just having it not work out. I think that’s been really tough dealing with the fact that there is this super cool story that I really want to write about. And the people who would be involved just aren’t as passionate or aren’t willing to talk with you. So kind of grappling with that feeling of not necessarily disappointment, but just feeling lost, in the moment, and then trying to figure out what my next steps are after that and kind of starting from scratch again.

Q: Is there something you would say you’ve learned from that part of the process?

A: Persistence is key. I mean, not to the point where you’re, like, completely bugging another person. I think setting boundaries with other people is super important, especially as a journalist. But if something doesn’t work out, just keep trying another avenue. Try another angle and see if that’ll help you out.

Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in audio at the J-School?

A: Experience everything else that you can, too. I think being a professional journalist, you need to have some other background thing and make sure you don’t tie yourself down to just one expertise. Make sure you take some other classes in other fields just because in the professional world, I feel like a lot of news organizations are looking for people who can do a little bit of everything, especially as newsrooms are getting smaller and smaller. I would also say if you’re passionate about audio, and you feel like you want to stick with it, try experiencing some of the other opportunities that campus has to offer. I work at KBGA, the campus radio station, and [that’s] a great place to learn about audio production and the music side of audio and sound management and how to edit sound and whatnot.

Q: Can you talk a little bit more about what you do for KBGA?

A: I’m the media director at KBGA, and I’ve been the media director for a year now. I do a lot of the audio production side of things. So I edit all of the podcasts that they do and upload podcasts that other people in the community submit to KBGA, and I’ll put those on our website. I do a lot of photography for them. I do almost all of our poster design when we need [that]. I also conduct most of our interviews with other artists in the community. We have this monthly music project called Play it Forward. And I take a lot of pictures for that event. And I also produce and edit a podcast interview with our music artists and nonprofits in the area.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I would say it can be hard. It’s a lot of work. And having really good time management skills is what’s helped me out a lot. I also think just getting to know your professors is a really good way to get things done and to get knowledge that you might not even necessarily get from class. I’ll ask [Professor] Jule Banville questions about things I’m doing at KBGA and she’ll be like: ‘oh, you should try this.’ So just getting to know your professors and kind of building that relationship with them. And they can help you out a lot.

Mariah Karis on the Business of Journalism

By Kathleen Shannon

Mariah Karis organizes fresh merch for the Montana Kaimin, with a cover image she designed in the background.

Mariah Karis is a senior, flexing her journalism skills in the business world through communications and public relations. She’s the business manager at the Montana Kaimin student newspaper and she’s getting an Entertainment Management certificate at UM. She’s also interning with Lady Gaga’s nonprofit, the Born This Way Foundation.

Mariah sat down with graduate student Kathleen Shannon to talk about blending her interests and talents. The transcript of their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: So you’re in the public relations track?

A: Yeah, so track for me is a little tricky. I have been doing journalism mixed with business. And now I am interning for a nonprofit. So I basically have been using my journalism skills and my business skills to move forward in PR and communications. I’m not a business major or minor. But I have worked in the business school for the last couple of years as the social media manager and office assistant for the Entertainment Management program. And then I’m getting the Entertainment Management certificate. It’s very cool. You basically learn the business side of the entertainment world. So I’m kind of not the typical journalism student in a lot of ways. But I really wanted the skills and I really love writing, and I love video, and I love photography. And so I wanted to have those skills and be able to use them and kind of manipulate them as I need to. And I it’s been really helpful to say, you know, ‘Yes, I can write a grant. But I also can tell you about these social media ideas. And, you know, how about we try this? It’s a little more artsy, but this is probably how we should say it because it’s a little more captivating in a written way. And so it’s kind of been a Rubik’s cube of skills, which has been kind of cool.

Q: I don’t know much about that certificate. Can you list some of the other classes that area part of it?

A: Yes. So the entertainment management certificate basically has like a core section of intro to entertainment management, intro to event planning. But other classes are venue management. So what you need to know if you’re going to be renting a venue or interacting with venue staff. You can do different electives, like in the media arts school, if you want to learn more of the graphic design elements. And I’ve taken classes in graphic design and sound art and film. Basically, you take the core classes, and then you take electives that interest you in the areas that interest you. So I know they are starting to get more involved with like the eSports on campus, as well. It’s really one of the few programs that I think pushes interdisciplinary action, which is cool.

Q: What’s the dream job when you graduate?

A: Oh, that’s a question. I think, for me, the dream job is evolving because I don’t know what it looks like yet. I have done a lot of different roles that I didn’t expect to be doing. So right now I’m a partnership intern for Born This Way Foundation, which is Lady Gaga’s nonprofit, which is really, really cool. She popped onto a Zoom call a couple weeks ago, and I was just like: ‘that’s like Lady Gaga.’ And she’s like: ‘I’m so proud of everything you’re doing’. I was just like, dazed. So, yeah, that part’s nuts.

Q: What does her nonprofit do?

A: So Born This Way Foundation basically creates opportunities to connect youth with mental health resources through content and through different projects with different nonprofits around the country that also kind of tote the mental health [and] wellness ideals. The foundation works with them in different partnering efforts to create outlets and opportunities. So they just launched the Be There certificate, which basically teaches people how to recognize when their friends are struggling with mental health and what they can do in a really nice human-to-human way without putting too much responsibility on a friend. And it’s been very interesting to see how many ideas they have about making mental health less taboo and really accessing young people to let them know that. And so they’ve done different things where they like hop on Lady Gaga’s tour and have booths at her shows to reach out to young people. Lady Gaga and her mom set up this nonprofit. And so her mom now runs it mostly. And they’re all about promoting kindness and mental health and they’re just very genuine people, which is really interesting, because they’re interacting with Lady Gaga. It’s been really amazing. I’ve been learning partnerships and what that looks like, and nonprofits working with not only nonprofits, but universities and big corporations. I’ve been learning how to write grants. And those are all things [for which] my journalism skills come in handy, but I never learned in journalism school. So it’s like, I learned certain skills, and now I’m learning how to kind of morph them into different business sections of the world.

Q: Can you talk about the classes that you’ve taken at the J-School that have been the most valuable for your public relations work?

A: I think Social Media and Audience was really, really good to learn the ins and outs of social media. I also took the social media class in the communications department on campus. And that was really good for like practical, hands-on experience, and how to create campaigns. I think any type of writing class is really good. I think news stories and newsletters or press releases have a lot more in common than people think. And knowing how to get across like the nitty gritty details, as well as putting pieces of interest and emotion when it’s applicable. I think any of the writing courses have been really helpful.

I’m also in Marketing your Work right now. And we’re starting to talk about elements of marketing and taxes and freelancing and the ins and outs of things. And it’s been really interesting to hear J-Schoolers say, ‘we know nothing about this, we would love to know more about this.’ I think there’s a really great opportunity for the J-School to put a little more emphasis on the business side of things, as well, not only to understand why advertisements are important–that’s also how we get the money. So I’m also the business manager of the Kaimin and so I do all the advertising. It’s been very interesting to learn, what has to happen so that journalism can happen, basically. It’s been a lot of learning this year of like, all of the back-end things. Like you always see an amazing foundation doing a concert or something. And it’s like: ‘okay, well, what happened for that to happen?’ Or ‘what happened for this story to happen?’ Usually, it’s advertising or PR communications.

Q: I’ve talked to other students about the big sweeping changes journalism has seen in the last couple decades. It occurs to me that advertising is also seeing that shift with influencers. Sometimes I’m on Instagram watching an advertisement that I don’t realize is an advertisement for a minute, which is the craziest psychological experience. Can you talk about like the changes on that end?

A: Yeah, I think it’s been really interesting to have conversations with journalism students in particular, about advertisements and about the paywall that pops up on different sites and to pay wall or not to pay wall. [To talk about these] ideas of, ‘Does it bug you more to have advertisements on the side or to subscribe to something and pay for it?’ And most people are like: ‘we want access to it.’ I can’t subscribe to every single thing. It’s not feasible. I’s a very interesting thing that I think should maybe be talked about more because it has such power. So for like the Kaimin, if we saw more ads, we have more money to spend on, like, the audio department or to get merch or, you know, to do all these things. And I think there’s a piece of that that people don’t always think about and it’s not a great piece. Sometimes it really sucks because you have to, like, take out a story or something. But finding that balance between business and journalism is really important.

Q: Yeah, it’s vital. Can you talk about what your day to day duties are at the Kaimin as the business manager?

A: As the business manager, I work with a lot of different people on campus and locally that basically want to either advertise an event or advertise their business. I’m also a designer at the Kaimin, which is comes in handy because [I’m] also designing a lot of ads. So we figure out what kind of ad they want, what kind of pricing, what size. And then I work with the design team to make sure that happens. I do payroll for everybody. I deal with any hiccups in delivery. I also work with our distribution student advisor, basically. When I’m saying this out loud, it kind of sounds really boring. But it’s basically like all the gears that keep things moving.

Q: So I’m hearing you say that the glamorous part of journalism is not necessarily the business side. So what keeps you interested in that side?

A: So this is a side tangent. I work a lot with the Blackstone Launchpad. And I started my own small business last summer. So I basically sell new, used, vintage and upcycled items. And I’m trying to launch this media component that basically teaches people, young people specifically, how to have really cool spaces without spending a ton of money because money isn’t really available to young people. They’re like: ‘is it just posters on my wall? Like, is that what I have to do?’ And the answer is ‘no, you just have to get kind of creative.’ So I’ve been working with them quite a bit. And I did the John Ruffatto Business Startup pitch contest. The business school puts it on, and I didn’t learn until the end that I basically was competing against the MFA students as an undergrad, as a non-business major undergrad, which is super cool. But I was also like, very intimidated. I was one of two women. And so I won the Athena Award for Best Female Participation, which was cool. And I’m going to San Francisco next week, because I did a pitch contest and was a semifinalist for a National Blackstone Launchpad pitch contest. So basically, this is a roundabout way of saying I learned business through the eyes of a journalism student, which I think was really interesting. Because there’s so much business jargon, and I think it’s really hard to understand these really simple concepts sometimes. And I that was always my biggest pet peeve. It was just like: ‘what are you actually trying to say? What is the nut graf of this business session?’ It always seems so convoluted and really tricky. I think what interests me about business is when you strip it down, it’s not super complicated. But it’s almost like the power of different businesses resides in the people that understand this set of terminology. And so I feel like if I could be a person that is the bridge between the creative and the business, and I can like see both sides, I think there’s some really cool power in that. Because you can hear the creative vision, but also hear like: ‘okay, but we need to do X, Y, and Z to make sure we can still financially afford it.’ I think, as a leader, it’s a really cool and important place to be in where you can see both sides.

Q: Are you like allowed to talk about the pitch that you’re doing next week?

A: So the pitch is a one-minute pitch, basically, what is the business? Who is your target audience? What are you trying to do? How will you make money? Almost like the who, what, when, where? Almost like a nut graf of a story. What’s happening? Why should I care? But for a business. So learning the art of the pitch has been really interesting because I didn’t really understand how you’re supposed to do all of that in one minute. It’s almost like taking, you know, journalism skills, public speaking skills, and then knowing some business jargon, and putting them in a blender. It’s like: ‘okay, now present it.’ And so it’s been very interesting to know that I can do that. I don’t think I ever thought I was a business person, which is why I never did a business degree. I was just like, that’s too complicated. I will never be able to succeed at that. And so proving myself wrong has been very cool.

Q: What’s the best part about your personal experience exploring business in journalism?

A: I think the best part circles back to the tie of the emotional, artistic and business. Because what I’m learning is that a lot of people hear business jargon all the time. People get like mass emails all the time. And what really cuts through the noise is when you can get personal or when you can write from a place that is more entertaining or engaging. So it’s almost like business jargon can only go so far. You need that human piece. If I would have majored in business, I don’t think I would be where I am. I think not doing business every single day made me more interested in business. And I love writing, and I’m excited to write and maybe freelance. But I think the business is so interesting to me because there’s so much money and power with business. And I think if the right people could move into those leadership roles and actually put money into things that are sustainable, that are, you know, women- founded… Basically if people in power could move money into places where it’s benefiting the world in positive ways, I think things could change in a really good way.