Q&A with Parker Seibold, ’17: Breaking Into Breaking News

Parker Seibold spent 2020 covering COVID-19, California’s fires, reopening of schools and other daily news for the Monterey County Weekly. Seibold graduated from the J-School in the Spring of 2017 and found an internship at the Missoula Independent the summer after school and later worked for the Missoulian. In a recent Q&A with graduate student Sierra Cistone, Seibold explained that her journey into being a hard news reporter was not something she had planned while still at the J-School.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Did you plan to be a breaking news reporter when you were in the J-School?

I did not. Breaking news always kind of stressed me out and I felt like I would never be good at it. I wanted to work on feature stories and anything I could spend a lot of time on. Now, I love breaking news and I think some of my strongest work comes from news assignments. 

What have you learned about covering breaking news through your work at the Monterey County Weekly?

I’ve learned a lot about how to be prepared to cover breaking news, especially wildfires. But I primarily cover more basic news because we are a weekly. I try to have all of my equipment easily accessible pretty much all the time. I also have a better grasp on how to do quick research about something so I can have a basic understanding of what is happening and know who I should be talking to when I get to an assignment. Knowing how to get that information makes a big difference in how efficiently I can cover breaking news. 

The Dolan Fire in Monterey County, CA. Photo courtesy of Parker Seibold.

What made you first interested in photojournalism?

I’ve always been interested in photojournalism. I think I was interested in it before I even really understood what it was. I always loved looking at, and felt I connected with, photos in magazines like National Geographic. I first said I wanted to be a photojournalist when I was in the fourth grade and got my first camera around the age or 12 or 13. From there my understanding of and love for visual storytelling grew. 

Covering schools reopening after COVID-19 lockdowns in Monterey, CA. Photo courtesy of Parker Seibold.

How did the J-School prepare you for the work you do now?

Exactly how their motto says they would. I learned by doing. The J-School and the professors there have high expectations of students and want you to go out and do journalism for a reason. They’re preparing you for the real world which is competitive and fast-paced. 

Covering COVID-19 in hospitals in Monterey County, CA. Photo courtesy of Parker Seibold.

Tailyr Irvine, ’18: Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Personal Stories

Tailyr Irvine is a 2018 J-School alumnus who is currently working as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her work has recently been featured in New York Times and National Geographic and you can view her piece, “Reservation Mathematics: Navigating Love in Native America,” on the Smithsonian’s website and in American Indian Magazine.

After graduation, Irvine spent a year in Florida interning at the Tampa Bay Times before making the transition to freelance work. We spoke with Tailyr about what life is like as a freelancer and how the J-School helped to prepare her for life after college.

How does freelancing differ from working in a newsroom?

Freelancing is much more isolated. There is no newsroom and no cubicles to pop into if you need a quick second opinion. Going from a really fun team to working alone was difficult. You have to self-edit and work with reporters you don’t get to meet and editors that are across the country. It is also so much more work, you have to do a lot of planning ahead but also be available all the time. It’s an interesting balancing act. I struggle to carve out time for myself because I feel like I am always on and reachable. But I think it’s worth it because I get to do stories I really want to work on and there is a freelance network that is very helpful in regards to the isolation.

Photo Credits: Freddy Monares

What do you hope to convey to your viewers and readers?

I think through my work I just hope to show the audience pieces of life that they may not see. I think what I hope is my work takes the audience and … connects them with different humans that they might not connect with before and they can see ways that they are different but also see ways that they are similar to each other. And I think if we can get people to connect on that level, I think that changes the world actually.

What was the biggest take away from your time at the J-School that helped to prepare you for life after school?

You get out how much you put into a project. You are balancing a bunch of work at the J-School and that is pretty similar to how it is in real life. You don’t get time to just work on one thing, you are constantly balancing things. I remember feeling like the workload from each professor was impossible but it was actually reality. Time management is really valuable in this career and if you can’t balance multiple projects at the same time then you might want to rethink journalism.

As a photographer, what would you say to other aspiring photojournalists at the J-School now?

You get of this career what you put into it and I wouldn’t be afraid to follow stories that are personal. I think we have this idea in this industry that we have to be robots and be equally unbiased but I think it is the opposite. We have to recognize our biases and tell stories that are close to us because I just think those are better stories. Those are the stories that I want to read.

on October 19, 2019.
on October 19, 2019.
In Ronan, Montana.

Q&A With Lauren Heiser, ’19: ‘You are Learning Much, Much More Than Just How to Report the News’

Lauren Heiser graduated from the J-School in May 2019 with her BA in Journalism. In 2017, while still in school she started working for KPAX-TV, a local news station covering the Missoula area and Western Montana. She started as a production assistant and has worked her way up to news anchor, associate producer and reporter for Montana This Morning.

She chatted with graduate student Sierra Cistone and an edited transcript of their conversation is below.

Sierra Cistone: What does an average day on the job look like for you?

That’s tough because it depends on what job I’m doing. So, if I’m producing my show, I’ll get up at 1 a.m. and I’ll clock in and I’ll start pulling content from the different reporters and stations from across the state of Montana. … If I am not producing, then I get up a little bit later and I go into the station and I start editing copy.

What experiences at the J-School were notable in preparing you for the work you do now?

Well there was a lot. I can’t express quite how important the early entry level classes are. A lot of people, they look at those classes and they think, ‘I just have to get through these to get to the more entertaining classes.’ But I still refer back to things that Dennis Swibold told me in my Journalism 100 or in my Ethics and Trends or in any of those 100-200 level classes. You refer back to that information so much throughout your career because it stays true no matter what level you’re reporting at.

What tips do you have for seniors graduating with their BA in Journalism now?

I’ll start by saying that if you can start working in journalism before you graduate, whether that’s an internship or a part-time job, no matter what it is, try and do it before you graduate. But if you’re waiting until after you graduate, I would say take whatever job lands at your feet first. It doesn’t matter if you’re running coffee or if you’re making copies. Just take whatever job they offer you because a foot in the door is a foot in the door.

What tips do you have for incoming students?

I’d say just get to know your professors immediately because you’re going to have a lot of the same ones … Especially if you pick something that you’ve decided to specialize in, you’re going to see the same people over and over again so get to know them. That is something that I always wished I would have done more of, is get to know your professors.

What would you say for anyone considering pursuing journalism at UM?

I would say do it. … If you decided to get a degree in journalism at the University of Montana you are learning much, much more than just how to report the news. You are learning communication skills that you will take with you for the rest of your life and that will be useful in whatever field you ultimately end up in. … And I feel like when people go into college they get scared that they are going to get stuck in whatever field they choose because if you’re not 100% certain you want to have lots of options, … but if you did decide that it ultimately was not the right thing it still opens doors for you into other fields.