Watch: Award-Winning Journalist and Pollner Professor Leah Sottile on “Stories of the Wild, the Innocent and the Downright Disregarded”

The University Center Theater was standing-room only by the time writer, reporter, podcaster and this fall’s T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor Leah Sottile took the stage Monday to deliver the annual Pollner lecture for the School of Journalism.

It’s no surprise why. Sottile is a thoughtful reporter, dynamic storyteller and a savvy business woman with valuable insight to share with the J-School students she’s teaching and mentoring this fall and with the greater Montana journalism community. Her most well-known podcast, “Bundyville,” made in collaboration with Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting, is now reaching 3 million listeners.

As Associate Professor Jule Banville told the Missoulian recently:

“… She digs and understands how to get information. And she’s amazing at translating really complicated events and movements to all of us. She’s also fair and accurate and has a great voice. It’s a big deal in podcasting, and we’re super thrilled to have her teaching here.”

If you missed Sottile’s lecture on Monday, never fear. You can watch the whole thing here:

Award-winning Editor to Deliver Annual Pollner Lecture

Melissa Mccoy profile picMelissa McCoy, a former deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, will deliver the University of Montana School of Journalism’s annual T. Anthony Pollner Lecture on Monday, Oct. 3. Her topic: “What the Media Communicate About Mental Illness.”

The lecture, which is free to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the University Center Theater. McCoy said she is interested in why violence is often a theme in news coverage “when people coping with a mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators.”

She believes the media are making some progress in how such stories are covered but need to do better.

“What the news media tell us about mental illness is getting a bit deeper,” McCoy said, “but most stories are still reactive. By that I mean we chase the news when there’s violence, but we generate relatively few stories about how mental illness affects tens of millions of ordinary Americans every year.”

McCoy spent 17 years at the LA Times, advancing from metro copy editor to a deputy managing editor supervising 250 journalists. In addition to overseeing the paper’s award-winning copy desks, graphics department and researchers, she frequently was the final editor for major projects, a number of which won Pulitzer Prizes. During her newspaper and magazine career, McCoy also worked as a reporter, copy chief, news editor and assignment editor.

Since leaving the LA Times in 2009, McCoy has been a media consultant, writer and editor. She was a visiting faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, where she had previously served as an ethics fellow. At UM she teaches a seminar that focuses on reporting and writing about sensitive topics that include rape, murder, suicide and mental illness.

McCoy is the school’s 17th Pollner Professor, a professorship created in 2001 in memory of T. Anthony Pollner, a UM journalism alumnus and a dedicated staff member at the Montana Kaimin who died two years after graduating. The Pollner endowment allows the school to bring a distinguished journalist to campus each semester to teach a course and to mentor students at the Kaimin.

Founded in 1914, the School of Journalism is now in its second century of preparing students to think critically, act ethically and communicate effectively. To learn more about the School of Journalism, visit

Dogged Reporter, Peregrine Frissell Wins Hearst Award For Athletic Investigation

Montana Kaimin web editor and reporter, Peregrine Frissell, had never written a sports story before when he started investigating UM’s controversial compliance efforts with NCAA regulations this past October. After being published in the Kaimin on November 4th, 2015, his story, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct,” won 7th in the Hearst Awards competition for Sports Reporting.

photo of Peregrine Frissell holding a small monkey.
Frissell takes a moment to pose for a photo while reporting abroad in Nepal. Photo by Peregrine Frissell.

“Peregrine did a great job of looking at athletics on the UM campus beyond just the scoreboard,” said Nadia White, faculty advisor to the Kaimin. “His story looked at NCAA rules and regulations and examined what those mean for student athletes.”

Frissell’s research involved digging into those regulations and interviewing UM athletic officials and the NCAA representatives to whom they report any infringements. Violations included anything from coaches recruiting high school athletes too aggressively to convictions of current athletes who commit off-the-field incidents. Frissell said talking to public representatives of those departments was challenging because they wanted to keep control of the information they told him during interviews.

Kevin Van Valkenburg, the fall 2015 Pollner professor and advisor to the Kaimin, said, that a lot of journalists would have dropped the story when they heard officials use the term ‘minor infractions’. “Don’t let the administration convince you it’s no big deal. Ask the right questions,” he said. “UM mis-reported and mis-understood the facts, but Peregrine understood the bigger picture here, and he pursued that to explain it in context.”

“I needed every minute I got,” Frissell said, since he only had two weeks to get the story to print. “I’m really thankful to get recognized.”

Yet Frissell has plenty of reporting experience, both in Montana and abroad. He’s been a Global Leadership Initiative fellow at UM and completed studies in the UK and Thailand, as well as working as a reporting intern for the Nepali Times. “I arrived a month after the earthquake and spent much of my time outside of Katmandu, covering earthquake recovery,” he said. “The earthquake was tragic, but I enjoyed my experience there.”

Back on the UM campus, Frissell has worked with the Montana Journalism Review (MJR) as both an editor and a reporter, and he’s now pursing political stories on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana as part of the class Native News.

“Peregrine is a dogged reporter. He’s critical and curious, and his instincts are spot on,” Nicky Ouellet said. As a graduate student, she’s overseen his work at MJR and now for Native News. “He’s the type of reporter an editor hopes for—capable of following a tip to create a deeply reported and contextualized story. I’ve enjoyed working with him and can’t wait to see what he pops out in the future.”

Scheduled to complete his journalism degree in May, Frissell said he wants to report in the US for a couple of years and then go back abroad. “I’m still waiting to hear back about potential jobs and internships,” he said.

However, Van Valkenburg has high hopes for Frissell’s future. “He reads a lot and is interested in things of public interest and importance,” he said. “Peregrine will make a great investigative reporter.”

Catch the latest news updates with Peregrine Frissell via Twitter.

By Jana Wiegand