Missoula to Berlin Update: May 26, 2016

photo shows MT journalism students walking down a sidewalk.
The group explores their new neighborhood along the Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg ,Berlin.

They came by plane and by train and by foot, a dozen and a half of them, carrying bundles and suitcases and keepsakes, looking tired but relieved to have arrived in Berlin. No, these are not refugees, they are UM Journalism students, 18 of them, here on a study-abroad trip for the next three weeks. The disorientation many of them feel will be helpful as they begin to meet and study the challenges facing thousands upon thousands of refugees who made their way to Germany. The refugees’ goal is to escape war and find peace. The students’ task, a bit simpler, is to produce a series of articles about how the refugees adjust to their new situation.

The students are staying in a neighborhood called Kreuzberg, which has long been a crossroads for immigrants to this country. For decades, it was home to the Turks who came here during a big labor shortage in the 1960’s and 70’s, and helped Germany recover from war and become Europe’s strongest economy. Once Kreuzberg was a ghetto, but it has turned into a multicultural experiment, a mixing bowl where no one stands out as an outsider. As students are learning, many new refugees are finding their way back to this neighborhood. Kreuzberg has resisted the commercialization that has seized much of Berlin since the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Since the refugee crisis spiked last year, things have calmed down quite a bit, and the number of new arrivals has dropped dramatically. But as one pro-refugee activist told students today, refugees face months or years of adjustment as they come to grips with their new lives in Germany, and learn whether or not they can stay and prosper. Our students will begin to chronicle that adjustment, with articles appearing in this space and elsewhere in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

By Larry Abramson

Reporting On Reservations: Native News Sends Students Into The Field

Landscape photo with a sign in the foreground that reads "Welcome to Blackfeet Indian Country."
J-school students divide into teams and travel to visit different reservations across the state. Photo by Courtney Gerard.

After weeks of planning and preparation, UM journalism students in the class Native News are spending spring break reporting on their stories. The students work in teams of two that pair photojournalists with print reporters to create a complete multimedia story.

With the upcoming presidential election in November, Native News professors Jeremy Lurgio and Jason Begay decided this year’s project should focus on politics. “The President has a lot of influence over Indian country,” Begay said.

Yet Begay said the theme is not just about seeing how people on reservations vote. He posed the question, “What do they consider when thinking about politics?”

“Voting on reservations tends to be less bipartisan, especially when it comes to internal politics,” Lurgio said.

However, the reporting teams have chosen stories that dig into the specific political issues that impact their designated reservations, instead of covering the national influence. The students reporting on the Crow Reservation recently followed tribal leader Darrin Old Coyote to the 2016 Montana Energy Convention in Billings to hear him speak about how coal affected jobs on his reservation.

On Fort Belknap, Sophie Tsairis and Lenny Peppers are investigating access to voting and the satellite voting offices on the reservation. Tsairis has been posting reporting updates from Fort Belknap on Instagram.

On the Blackfeet Reservation, Courtney Gerard and Peter Friesen are digging into constitution reform. However, their trip also aligns with the arrival of 88 bison from Elk Island in Canada returning to the reservation, as part of a cultural and ecological relocation effort. To see live updates from the Blackfeet, follow Gerard’s posts on Instagram.

When the students return from the reservations, the pairs will start synthesizing their individual stories into a collaborative, multimedia piece. The final projects from each team will appear on the Native News website in May and circulate the state in the annual print edition.

Native News photographer Sophie Tsairis lays in the middle of a deserted highway to snap a photo of the landscape.
Native News photographer Sophie Tsairis tries to find the best angle to capture a spectacular landscape to illustrate her story. Photo by Lenny Peppers .

To catch the latest updates from the Native News reporting teams, follow their accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

By Jana Wiegand

UM J-school Prof. Lee Banville Writes Encyclopedia About Media and Politics

Back in July 2014, Associate Professor Lee Banville mapped out all of the best coffee shops in Missoula after signing the contract for his next book. His romantic vision as a writer disappeared when he realized that his 10,000 word-per-week quota could only be met from the basement of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University.

“Sometimes, as a treat, I’d sit on the third floor,” Banville said. “There are windows there, and I could look outside.”

Now, 788 pages later, Banville’s work is in the hands of Praeger Press, who will release the two-volume encyclopedia in October 2016. Titled Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: An Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies, the book tackles topics like the role of money in elections, how social media has increased the personalization of the Internet and the roles of female reporters on the campaign trail.


Banville witnessed the digital revolution first hand, between the 1996 National Convention in San Diego, covered with “traditional media by the nth-degree,” and the 2008 elections, when he was at Grant Park in Chicago and saw President Obama give his victory speech.

“By the end of that, information was treated differently,” Banville said. “I wanted to dig into all of these things I was affected by and was seeing, but hadn’t spent much time thinking about.”

While he said technology and society have shaped politics and the media, Banville continued, “It’s part of a larger story that’s not changing as fast as we think.”

Banville started working in the newsroom when he was 22 and living in Washington, D.C. He spent 14 years with PBS NewsHour as an online editor, but realized he missed working with people who were still “pretty green to journalism” and could adapt more quickly to evolving technologies. The constant bustle of Washington, D.C. also made Banville wistful for the mountains, so when a teaching position opened up at the University of Montana in 2008, he seized the opportunity, joining the School of Journalism the following year. Banville said the move definitely paid off.

“I still get a twinge during election season,” Banville said. “But it’s nice not to have to wait up for the final results anymore.”

However, he still finds himself awake at midnight, watching the polls and eating frosted animal cookies during the primaries. This election season Banville will be serving as an on-air political analyst for ABC FOX Montana to keep audiences informed about the issues at stake and their historical context.

“There’s a spectacle to politics, like nerd sports. It’s fun to report on,” Banville said. “There’s competition, winners and losers, bizarre personalities and civic good.”

Stay up to date with Lee Banville on Twitter: @banville

UM School of Journalism Assistant Professors Jule Banville and Jason Begay, as well as alumni Michael Wright, helped contribute to Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: an Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies.

Lee Banville is also the author of Debating Our Destiny: Presidential Debate Moments that Shaped History.

By Jana Wiegand