D.C. editor and former CBS, CNN correspondent named 2017-18 Pollner Professors

portrait photos of Deborah Potter and Cheryl Carpenter.
Deborah Potter (left) and Cheryl Carpenter (right)

The Washington, D.C., bureau chief for McClatchy newspapers and a former CBS and CNN national news correspondent will be the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professors at the University of Montana School of Journalism for the 2017-18 academic year.

Cheryl Carpenter, who will teach at UM in fall semester, became bureau chief for McClatchy in 2015 after serving for 10 years as the managing editor of the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. McClatchy owns newspapers in every sector of the country, including the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Sacramento Bee, Tacoma News-Tribune and Idaho Statesman.

Deborah Potter, the spring 2018 Pollner professor, covered the White House, State Department and Capitol Hill for CBS News from 1981-91 and reported on national politics and the environment for CNN from 1991-94. She is the president and executive director of NewsLab, a research and training organization for journalists that she helped found in 1998.

The professorship is named after T. Anthony Pollner, a UM journalism graduate who died in 2001. An endowment supported by his family and friends allows the school to bring leading journalists to UM for a semester to teach a course and mentor the staff of the Montana Kaimin, the student newspaper. More than two dozen distinguished journalists, including several Pulitzer Prize winners, have spent a semester teaching at the journalism school since the program’s inception.

Carpenter has overseen many investigations, most recently McClatchy’s partnership with news organizations worldwide in examining the Panama Papers, documents that showed thousands of offshore investors were engaged in fraud, tax evasion and avoidance of international sanctions. She will teach a course on the ethical and practical issues reporters face, particularly when dealing with leaked documents. Carpenter holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in organizational development from Queens University in Charlotte, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2005, studying ethics and leadership.

Potter has extensive journalism experience in both radio and television, from the local to the national level. In addition to working as a correspondent for both CBS and CNN, she was a contributor and host for several PBS programs. At NewsLab she leads workshops for journalists in the United States and around the world, focusing on reporting and writing the news, social media, online and visual storytelling, and journalism ethics. She has been a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina and the University of Arkansas, and she was on the faculty at the Poynter Institute and American University. She will teach a course on journalism and the public trust. Potter holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

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 http://jour.umt.edu/.

New Pollner Professor, Sally Stapleton, Teaches “The Value of the Moment”

As a third-generation journalist, Sally Stapleton grew up in the newsroom that her father owned in Kennett, Missouri. But her passion for journalism soon mixed with her desire for adventure, and she started working for The Tampa Tribune when she was 24 years old. Since then, her work has taken her to South America and Africa, and now to the University of Montana School of Journalism as the spring 2016 T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor.

photo of Sally Stapletion
Follow Stapleton on twitter: @sestapleton

Stapleton’s theme for her seminar, open to both undergraduate and graduate students, is “The Value of the Moment.” Coming from a full-time job as the managing editor for online and photography at The Day, she’s excited to have this opportunity to immerse herself in teaching. Over the course of the semester students will produce a portfolio of visual narrative stories worthy of publication. Stapleton uses one-on-one meetings with the students to figure out their unique skills and discuss their story ideas. “It’s about figuring out what makes you want to get up at four in the morning,” she said.

The power of photojournalism first hit Stapleton in 1984 when she saw pictures of the Ethiopian famine. Ten years later, she led a team of AP photographers in covering the Rwandan Genocide, an effort for which several members of her team won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995.

“I loved being on the ground and experiencing history right in front of my eyes,” she said.

Stapleton says she also loves stories told by people who stick with a story after it’s left the front page of the news. The biggest challenge for young photojournalists comes from successfully pitching their stories to an editor so that their work can be seen.

“There’s talent everywhere,” Stapleton said. She sees the J-school as part of this unlimited talent pool and also notes, “The facilities are great, the instructors are welcoming, and the minute I crossed the state line I knew this was going to be great.”

“I have good travel karma too,” she added with a laugh.

Whether or not the students have this kind of karma too won’t make or break their journalism careers. Stapleton says the options and opportunities are endless. The key to being a great journalist comes from being honest, trustworthy and keeping one’s work transparent.

Learn more about Stapleton’s recent work in Rwanda at http://www.greatlakesmedia.org

by Jana Wiegand