By Kathleen Shannon
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.