Good Work Wednesday: April 26, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Protest Erupts at Montana Capitol as Transgender Lawmaker is Barred from Speaking

Montana is fortunate to have a robust press corps in the state Capitol. While other Capitol press corps shrink, Montana’s has grown exponentially in the last decade.

The benefits of having reporters, photographers and videographers with boots on the ground in Helena was on full display this week when law enforcement officers in helmets and carrying batons pushed protesters out of the House of Representatives after the Republican Speaker of the House refused to allow a transgender lawmaker to speak on a bill for the third day in a row. Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, was barred from speaking on the House floor after she told lawmakers last week that they would see “blood on your hands” if they voted for a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The story became national news and journalists from all over the country have arrived in Helena to cover the fallout. But, it was Montana journalists, many of them J-School alumni, who are there to report, in real time, on what is happening.

In particular, Lee Newspapers’ Thom Bridge, ’13, Holly Michels, ’06, and Tom Kuglin, ’14, provided moment-by-moment coverage, including video and photography that gave readers a full picture of the protest and the arrests.

Montana Public Radio’s Shaylee Ragar, ’19, not only covered the moment for state audiences, but also explained the lead-up and the context to a national audience on NPR.

Nicole Girten, Blair Miller and Keila Szpaller, ’03, covered the day for the Daily Montanan.

On the TV side, Maritsa Georgiou, ’07, has been covering the events for Scripps News and Jonathan Ambarian, ’13, has covered every move for the Montana Television Network.

Mara Silvers was on the scene for the Montana Free Press and then wrote a follow-up by interviewing Gov. Greg Gianforte’s son David on how he’s lobbied against the LGBTQ+ legislation his father has supported this session.

Current graduate student and KFF/UM Legislative News Service fellow Keely Larson, meanwhile, wrote a profile of Zephyr the week before, just as tensions started to build, offering an intimate portrait of how Montana’s two transgender lawmakers are treated at the Capitol.

2. From ‘safe harbor’ to stranded (Mara Silvers / Montana Free Press)

Silvers reports on the Montana Professional Assistance Program, which once helped Montana health professionals recover from substance abuse and retain their healthcare licenses. Silvers includes a healthy combination of sources to communicate their stories with the Montana Free Press audience.

“Montana ended its relationship with a longstanding nonprofit that ran a recovery and monitoring program for health professionals, turning to a global company to fill the void,” writes Silvers. “Health care providers say the new program is hurting more than helping.”

Sharon Hancock, a nurse in Billings, has been in Montana’s recovery and monitoring program for more than four years. “We know that a person with the disease of addiction flourishes better in a supportive, inclusive environment,” she says. 

Photo by  Janie Osborne for MTFP / Shared with permission

3. Bill to Increase Funding for Individualized Education Programs Moves to Governor’s Desk (Denali Sagner / Flathead Beacon)

The Montana Legislative season isn’t over yet! Sagner keeps readers up-to-date on House Bill 257, which “will allow school districts to access greater funding for experiential learning programs.” What exactly does this mean? Sagner’s source Rep. Courtenay Sprunger clarifies: “It really is anything that would help the student pursue their interests.”

4. Big Sky, Montana: A New West Mountain Town Primed For Its Own ‘Big Burn’? (Joseph T. O’Connor / Mountain Journal)

O’Connor’s in-depth feature on the fire risk in Big Sky, MT is well worth the read. This article is part three of Mountain Journal’s series on wildfires, and O’Connor narrows in on Big Sky—a case study town that alludes to the much larger issue of wildfire danger in the West.

5. New solar array energizes Missoula (Bret Anne Serbin / Missoulian)

The sun has finally made an appearance in Missoula skies as we nudge into springtime—perfect timing for Missoula’s “massive new solar array” that was ceremoniously unveiled this week. Serbin reports on the reasoning behind the renewable energy addition.

6. Depressed? Anxious? Air pollution may be a factor (Jim Robbins / Kaiser Health News)

Another indirect impact of increasing population and climate change is emerging. “A growing body of research is finding links between air quality and mental health, as therapists report seeing patients with symptoms linked to pollution,” writes Montanan journalist Jim Robbins.

Top Environment and Science News Stories

1. California’s ‘super bloom’ is underway. Here’s why it’s so epic. (Story by Allyson Chiu, Graphics by Naema Ahmed / Washington Post)

Beautiful photos, videos and other visual elements accompany Chiu’s story about the ‘super bloom’ in California, made possibe by the extremely wet winter season. Although impressive, “this year’s showy display probably pales in comparison to the amount of flowers that might have bloomed before invasive plant species were introduced,” writes Chiu.

2. Indigenous leaders: Planetary health and Indigenous health are interdependent (Jenna Kunze / Global Indigenous Affairs Desk)

Kunze’s lede gets straight to the point: “Indigenous peoples around the globe agree that their health and the health of the planet are interdependent and in jeopardy. On day two of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, this fact — that Indigenous people make up 5% of the world’s population but are responsible for 80% of its biodiversity — was repeated again and again by global Indigenous leaders.”

The rest of Kunze’s story shares what groups of Indigenous communities around the globe said at the forum.

Top Student/Alumni Story

1. ‘She’s a survivor’: The story behind Missoula’s Iris the Osprey (Jack Marshall / Montana Kaimin)

J-School student and Kaimin contributor Jack Marshall profiles a curious character—an osprey named Iris who lives near the Clark Fork River in Missoula. Marshall reports on Iris as though she were human, and Iris’ impressive life story makes for a great Kaimin feature. An in-flight photo of Iris by fellow Kaimin contributor Andy Mepham accompanies the piece.

Photo by Andy Mepham / Shared with permission

Montana Journalism Students Sweep Regional SPJ Awards

Twelve winners and 17 finalists. We’d say that’s a sweep of the regional Society of Professional Journalists’ Awards for students of the University of Montana School of Journalism.

And, they didn’t just sweep one or two categories. They were tops in everything from general news reporting, to sports photography, to feature videography to podcasts to in-depth radio reporting.

Below, see a list of all our winners and finalists and click in to see the outstanding work that won these accolades.

Henry Pree’s segment of Indigenous Business on Montana PBS about Native Fish Keepers won a regional SPJ award for Television Feature Reporting


Breaking News Reporting (Large)

Finalist: Open-air preacher returns to campus, attracts crowd of students in opposition — by Andy Tallman, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

General News Reporting (Large)

Finalist: Brown water in Corbin raises concerns for lead safety — by Christine Compton, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

General News Reporting (Small)

Winner: Election fallout and politics of Northern Ireland — by Staff, Montana Journalism Abroad, University of Montana

Sports Writing (Large)

Winner: The Ford factor — by Jack Marshall, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Finalist: Voices of 37 — by Tye Brown, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Corbin Gwaltney Award for Best All-Around Student Newspaper (Large)

Winner: Montana Kaimin — by Staff, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Best Independent Online Student Publication

Winner: Native News — by Montana Native News Team, Native News, University of Montana


General News Photography

Winner: Galbreath protest — by Antonio Ibarra, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Cole Wells, a member of the Galbreath family, reacts as he and other family members watch dash and body-cam footage of the night Galbreath died presented by county officials during a coroner’s inquest on April 29 from the altercation Aug. 12, 2021, between Brendon Galbreath, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, and Missoula Police Officer Garrett Brown. It took the Galbreath family almost a year to see footage from last summer’s incident which ended in an officer-involved shooting. Photo by Antonio Ibarra/Montana Kaimin.

Finalist: 9/11 Memorial — by Lukas Prinos, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Feature Photography

Finalist: Hazel’s honey — by Ridley Hudson, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, University of Montana

Andrew Bauer, owner of Hazel’s Honey, prepares the smoker to collect queen bees on July 25, 2022 in Livingston. Ridley Hudson/Chronicle

Finalist: Asleep on the cradleboard — by Antonio Ibarra, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Photo Essay/Slideshow

Finalist: Pow Wow debuts after COVID-19 — by Antonio Ibarra, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Sports Photography

Winner: Rebound possession — by Antonio Ibarra, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana
Finalist: Soccer collision — by Chris Lodman, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Feature Videography

Winner: Interwoven — by Austin Amestoy, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

Finalist: Oxigenio — by Griffin Ziegert, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana


Radio News Reporting

Winner: Food Rx — by Izaak Opatz, KBGA, University of Montana

Finalist: Fentanyl testing strip controversy — by Griffen Smith, KBGA, University of Montana

Finalist: Adderall shortage — by Max W. Bartley, KBGA, University of Montana

Radio Feature

Winner: How checking the felony box hurts potential renters — by Elinor Smith, PRX, Montana Public Radio, University of Montana

Finalist: Green burials — by Hailey Smalley, KUFM Montana Public Radio, University of Montana

Finalist: Cattle broker — by Izaak Opatz, KBGA, University of Montana

Radio In-Depth Reporting

Winner: Wilderness therapy — by Hailey Smalley, KBGA, University of Montana

Finalist: Finding home — by Staff, PRX, Montana Public Radio, University of Montana

Finalist: Superfund research — by Rachel Neal, KBGA College Radio, University of Montana

Podcast (Conversational)

Finalist: The Kaimin Cast — by Elinor Smith, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana


Television Feature Reporting

Winner: Native fish keepers — by Henry Pree, Montana PBS, University of Montana

Television In-Depth Reporting

Winner: Unseen Engines — by Unseen Engines Production Team, Montana PBS, University of Montana

Finalist: Ham — by Grace Wolcott, Kal Bailey, Montana PBS, University of Montana

Good Work Wednesday: April 19, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Bug Bytes: Wooly Bear Weather (Glenn Marangelo / Montana Public Radio

In fewer than 2.5 minutes, Marangelo and his cohost introduce a new and interesting creepy crawly for the ‘Bug Bytes’ series, created by MTPR and the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium. Their latest clip features the Woolly Bear, a fuzzy caterpillar that is said to predict the weather. Well, kind of. Here’s what the subtitle hints about the creature:

“The weather-predicting myth of the Woolly Bear has been passed down since colonial times. The folklore holds that when you see a caterpillar in autumn, the thicker the reddish-brown stripe, the milder the winter ahead. If its coloration is dominated by the thicker black bands, then we’re in for a doozy of a winter.”

2. Becoming | Portraits of the West (Glacier Conservancy Team)

“Headwaters is a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else,” says the Glacier Conservancy Team about their Headwaters podcast, which recently launched season three. Each episode in the new season explores the history of Montana’s prized Glacier NP in about 40 minutes. If you prefer reading instead of listening, transcripts are available at the link above. (The latest 4th episode is not yet linked on this page. You can find it on Spotify or iTunes, or start from the beginning.)

3. Gianforte asks legislature to ‘strengthen’ bill banning gender-affirming care before signing it (Blair Miller / Daily Montanan)

Miller’s piece provides an update to Senate Bill 99 in Montana Legislature, which would place a “ban on gender-affirming care for minors.” As Miller’s title suggests, the bill made it through the house and senate, but the governor thinks it is not strong enough. Miller clarifies which changes Governor Gianforte proposes and how the bill will impact trans youth in Montana. Some in opposition believe the bill violates their constitutional right to privacy.

4. Missoula agencies reflect on Hellgate active-shooter threat (Zoë Buchli / Missoulian)

Just over two weeks ago, Hellgate High School in Missoula went into lockdown after an active shooter threat appeared on Snapchat. After four hours and three students were detained, the lockdown was lifted and students were released early. Buchli relays details from this event and ties the news into the national context of mass shootings (often in school settings) that plague the U.S.

Top Environment and Science News Stories

1. The Rush for Solar Farms Could Make It Harder for Young Farmers to Access Land (Anne Marshall-Chalmers / Civil Eats)

Two types of farmers are at odds as renewable energy demand increases and available land decreases. Marshall-Chalmers phrases the question well: “Millions of acres of solar panels are needed to reach renewable energy goals. With established farmers being offered big bucks to turn ag into energy, will the next generation of farmers face another hurdle and be priced out?”

2. Where There’s Plastic, There’s Fire. Indiana Blaze Highlights Concerns Over Expanding Plastic Recycling (James Bruggers / Inside Climate News)

Bruggers acknowledges this specific environmental disaster in Indiana is “far from an isolated incident in the world of facilities” like the one that recently went up in flames. Bruggers reports on why the fire in Indiana began, why it has happened before and why it can happen again if improper plastic recycling continues.

Top Student/Alumni Story

1. A river runs through it — but how should it be managed? (Joshua Murdock / Missoulian)

Story titles are sometimes hard to get right, but this one (an ode to Norman Maclean’s book and the 1992 movie ‘A River Runs Through It,’ ) is clever. J-School alumni Joshua Murdock (’16) seeks to answer the question in the second part of his title, specifically how the BLM will manage a newly public stretch of land along the Blackfoot River. Murdock is covers the outdoors and natural resources beat for the Missoulian.