Meet the Professors: Lee Banville

We are constantly hearing from students that one of the J-School’s biggest strengths is the dedicated, talented, fearless, experienced, fun, doors-are-always-open faculty.

The Social Media and Engagement class set out to tell that story via Instagram. Over the coming weeks, we will highlight these stories, which illustrate the personalities, philosophies and experience of our top-notch faculty. This week, we give you Associate Professor Lee Banville.

Lee joined the University of Montana faculty in 2009 after 13 years at PBS NewsHour, where he was editor-in-chief of the Online NewsHour.

With a background in web and digital reporting and social media, Lee teaches courses that include digital and web reporting, audience engagement.

Because he teaches the introductory media history and literacy course (J100), he’s often the first professor students have when they enter the J-School. We’re all lucky for that because Lee makes learning just about anything fun and interesting.

And yes, that includes Media Law, which he also teaches, focusing on access and open meeting laws. Lee also co-teaches election reporting every two years.

Meet the Professors: Joe Eaton

We are constantly hearing from students that one of the J-School’s biggest strengths is the dedicated, talented, fearless, experienced, fun, doors-are-always-open faculty.

The Social Media and Engagement class set out to tell that story via Instagram. Over the coming weeks, we will highlight these stories, which illustrate the personalities, philosophies and experience of our top-notch faculty. This week, we give you Assistant Professor Joe Eaton.

Joe joined the school’s faculty in the fall of 2013 and teaches courses in public affairs reporting, investigative reporting and editing.

This last fall, Joe’s investigations class partnered with the Missoulian to produce a chilling and important series of reports that explored how pregnant women who use drugs are treated in Montana. Over three months, the team interviewed more than a dozen women, numerous experts, and leaders at Montana hospitals, treatment centers and state government.

This spring, he will lead a group of students to South Korea to work on a project that will run in partnership with Atlantic Media’s CityLab. When he’s not teaching, editing and mentoring, Joe is writing beautiful and impactful pieces for magazines and websites including National Geographic, CityLab, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and Wired.

One of his latest pieces, a harrowing story of a teenage drug dealer in Idaho, appeared in the Pacific Standard in November.

Before joining the faculty, he worked as an investigative reporter at the Washington, D.C.- based Center for Public Integrity. He has also been a reporter at the Roanoke Times in Virginia and Washington City Paper.

Joe Eaton’s journalistic career was sparked after he was inspired to tell stories while teaching in South Korea. He worked as an investigative reporter in Washington D.C. prior to joining the @umontana journalism program in 2013. Eaton’s most valuable lesson is the “Two-notebook theory.” He explains that it is important for budding journalists to keep two notebooks: “feed the beast” and “passion projects.” The feed the beast mentality represents the daily grind of stories that keep food on the table. While the passion projects notebook is designed for “stories that ultimately make careers and keep people happy.” One of Eaton’s passion projects, “The King of Boise,” was recently published by @pacificstand magazine. #meettheprofs

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Spring Pollner Professor Deborah Potter Teaches Students About Journalism and Trust

Spring 2018 Pollner professor Deborah Potter. Photo by Tate Samata.

Deborah Potter is sure of one thing: Public trust in journalism is disintegrating rapidly, and journalists cannot simply sit back and wait for something to change.

“There’s a quote by journalist Carl Bernstein that says something similar to: ‘All we have to do is our best work.’ I disagree,” said Potter, the 2018 spring T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor. “In the world we’re currently living in, it’s not enough to simply put your head down and do good work as a journalist. We have to be deliberate, proactive. We have to do more to share a message that we deserve trust.”

Potter aims to confront this topic in her spring course “Journalism & Public Trust.” Students will explore the “fake news” phenomenon and the news media’s place in a democratic society. They will also investigate newsroom strategies and learn fact-checking techniques.  Potter hopes all of this will help students explore answers to a fundamental question: “How do we maintain trust, and frankly, regain public trust?”

Potter had wanted to be a writer since high school. But as she watched a contentious national presidential election unfold during her first year of college at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Potter was drawn to broadcast and TV journalism.

When she isn’t teaching, odds are you can find her downhill skiing. Here, Potter is at Lookout Pass with professor Denise Dowling after their first week of spring semester.

“Watching stories happen in real-time gave a completely different sense of a story than reading it in print,” Potter said. “I was drawn to the fluidity.”

Potter spent more than a decade as American Journalism Review’s broadcast news columnist, served as CBS’s White House, State Department and Congressional Correspondent for 13 years, and reported on environmental issues and national politics as a network correspondent for CNN. She has led journalism workshops in the U.S. and around the world, co-authored a journalism textbook, and founded NewsLab, a non-profit journalism resource center in 1998.

Potter sees her professorship at UM as an opportunity to  continue what she refers to as “the second major chunk” of her journalism career, in which she focuses on providing journalism-related education. Previously, Potter was a distinguished visiting professor in journalism ethics at the University of Arkansas, and curated radio and TV seminars as a faculty associate at the Poynter Institute.

The Pollner Professorship was established to honor the memory of Anthony Pollner, a 1999 graduate of the School of Journalism. After Anthony died in an accident in May 2001, his friends and family created an endowment that makes this professorship possible. 

Tate Samata is finishing her fifth and final year at the UM School of Journalism, and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology minor. Tate’s journalistic focus is primarily photo and multimedia, but she is also passionate about writing, copy editing and social media.