Winning, Etc.

First off, big ups to Native News 2013 for bringing home the gold at the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence awards. I was thrilled to see some reporters and photographers — including Sam Wilson, who was my partner on our now-award-winning story — make some waves as well.  Oh, and the Kaimin had a good showing too, unsurprisingly.

Next up, let’s sit down and have a chat about marijuana, young man. As my reporting will show, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to sell.

But don’t think I’m getting lazy. I took a ride in a Tesla, (do not let your driver put it in sport and floor it if you liked your lunch); hopped on a controversial septic company story; and didn’t let the landslide bring me down.

Also, in case I don’t update every every week, click on Read, see it up there? OK, after clicking on Read you’ll see a new link to my current archives. Bookmark away, friends and strangers.

I’ll leave you with the view of the Columbia from my porch:

Oh Columbia

Sharing Secrets

That may seem a bit misleading in the year of Edward Snowden et al. But I quite literally would like to share with you Secrets — the 2013 winter edition of Montana Journalism Review. My story (and graphic) can be found on Page 59 (61 if going by Issuu’s navigation). I looked into a topic I’ve long been drawn to, anonymous campaign spending, and how it might play out for the 2014 race to replace Sen. Max Baucus (which just got a bit more interesting).

Of course, may I also recommend heading straight to to sign up to receive a free copy in the post.

For those in western Montana, the new issue of Headwall has cometh, so pick up your favorite outdoors quarterly for free wherever fine things are found, or stop by the site. And definitely follow @MontanaHeadwall. Let me know how my tweets are doing.

Cheers, happy New Year.

Staying Sharp

As my fellow “ink-stained wretch” (his words) uncle Steve reminded me, I need to write. OK, everyone has reminded me of such. And I am writing, though much of it is just essays-in-progress and a blog post here and there at Medium. But I saw an opportunity to get my byline in the Post Register instead of just scanning others’ for spelling errors. Because we have a paywall and our soon-to-be-redesigned website is admitted by all to be pretty ugly, I’ve posted the PDF of the page it fell on. Strange spot for a local story but look ma, boxed and everything:


Back in Montana, virtually, I’ve exhausted the current issue’s articles for social shoutouts, and can’t seem to get readers to submit their stories (yet), so I showed them how it’s done with a lesson in getting into a kayak.

Also in Montana, physically, I’ve submitted a “Looking Ahead” story for Montana Journalism Review. The theme of this year’s issue is secrets, so all I can say about the story is xxxxxxxxx.

As I’ve been doing a lot of sports designing lately, I don’t have awesome A1s to share. Though the headline “Lumberjacks stump Montana” will long be a favorite, as will this high school football cheerleader:

B01 100513 Sat SpoSo much swag. Until next time~

In Case You Missed It

I realize I have yet to post the result of a semester studying and reporting on the personal economy of the Fort Peck Reservation. Well don’t let me put any more words between it and you:

Necessary Alternatives

I would post some of Sam Wilson’s great photos, but go watch the video first and find the photos speckled throughout the best long read I’ve written. Don’t skimp on the other stories, especially Taylor Anderson’s Fort Belknap story with multimedia by Hunter D’Antuono (whom I’m trusting with my wedding photography). I’m happy to have come up with the title of the package that went out in print and online: Vast Expenses. Headline writing is good fun.

Meanwhile, in Idaho Falls: heat. The heat wave that is baking the southwest is definitely reaching its fiery fingers into the northern West. It’ll be in the 90s all week — what better time to be looking for a sea kayak on Craigslist. Also, here’s today’s West cover package:

White space is to design as silence is to orchestration.
White space is to design as silence is to orchestration.

I’ll be in Missoula on my first three-day weekend before working July 4 and after, just in time to catch this band I was lucky enough to review, Ivan & Alyosha. They sound like the subtle sadness of a gray Seattle day in a light folk rock way. Perfect.

Rainy Thursday

As I joked on Facebook, my review of the new Fall Out Boy album is the pinnacle of my journalism education, about to come to a close on Saturday. Kidding, of course, though I think it turned out better than my review of Seattle singer Sera Cahoone’s by-the-book Americana. The latter makes me really miss my time on the Olympic Peninsula, as it exemplifies the kind of driving music that goes perfectly with a rainy day on the northernmost stretch of the 101.

Driving west on U.S. 101 on the Olympic Peninsula, April 2012.
Driving west on U.S. 101 on the Olympic Peninsula, April 2012.

As promised yesterday, here’s a link to Jessica Mayrer’s adapted-at-the-last-minute cover story on Barry Beach. A great example of how weeklies can do breaking news better than dailies: There’s just more context, a better relationship with sources and a better idea of both sides.

On to Saturday, Graduation Day: With any luck, commencement speaker Jim Messina will be present at his true alma mater, the UM J-School, and I can provide you with video or photos of the event. Either way, it’s exciting to don the robes and shed the title of college student. Well, until grad school, but we’ll see about that.

A Week on the Fort Peck Reservation, or, There and Back Again

Technically, this makes me an international journalist. For my Native News honors project/capstone class, I traveled with photo/videographer Sam Wilson (click the link for photos of the trip) to Wolf Point, Mont., in the far northeast corner of the state, the largest city (pop. ~3,500) on the Fort Peck Reservation. We were finally on the ground for a story we had spent months developing: the direct economy. When the few goods and services that exist in the ultra-rural region are too expensive for the economically depressed population to afford, and the nearest Walmart is 100 miles away in Williston, N.D., an alternative economy must exist to make ends meet. We were told numerous times that people “are in survival mode” and thus do whatever it takes to get by. So we found people exemplary of this idea, which wasn’t at all difficult, especially considering the strong population on this Facebook group.

Sam Wilson shoots B-roll on a hill north of Brockton, Mont., 35 miles east of Wolf Point.
Sam Wilson shoots B-roll on a hill north of Brockton, Mont., 35 miles east of Wolf Point.


We traveled a 120-mile round trip in a woman’s truck as she hauled her 1,800 lb. quarter horse to be traded for reclaimed lumber and $1,500. We were told by many at the Fort Peck Community College that life is paycheck-to-paycheck, and scrounging for necessites is a daily reality. We found empty shelves at Albertsons in Wolf Point and $6 gallons of milk in Poplar. We visited with the tribal chairman, Floyd Azure, as he showed us around his garage and explained the economic situation and rising rents due to the Bakken Formation. We found people that traded food stamps for gas money. We watched a trio of brothers in their fifties install a transmission in their sister’s Ford Windstar. We waited with a 19-year-old mother in her apartment for a high chair to be delivered (via the Facebook group) for her 2-month-old. We watched a dozen children, 8-14, play basketball under dim lights as a man bought meth in a house across the street.

Looking south on Highway 2, the main corridor crossing the Fort Peck Reservation
Looking south on Highway 2, the main corridor crossing the Fort Peck Reservation east to west.

For tweets about all the teams’ trips across the state, scroll through #NativeNewsMT and follow @NativeNewsMT.

For the final product of my trip, your patience will be rewarded when the site goes live around May 18 (graduation day) and the full-color insert runs in the Missoulian and Billings Gazette some Saturday not far away…

In the meantime, read my latest Keep Missoula Weird column and scan the Kaimin’s exclusive and breaking package of budget cuts stories that I contributed to. Not to mention the editorial I penned calling on greater administrative transparency, action from the legislature and higher in-state tuition to fix the funding gaps. I entered that beauty into a contest with the hopes of winning $1,000; I’ll have to wait until the Dean Stone Awards Banquet to know my (or, the editorial ‘our’) fate. Until then~

Editing, Travelling and Opining

I never thought my last semester of J-School would be this busy! Wait, no, this is right on par. Sorry I’ve been away for so long, there have been a few developments:

I’ve been hired on as the (interim) copy editor for the Missoula Independent, a weekly Tuesday shift of slinging AP style and slaying comma splices. Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty thrilling. Or, at least it thrills me. I’ll be there until I start up in Idaho Falls this summer.

Indy Masthead

My Native News project — a yearly capstone class that teams writers with a photo/videographer for a week on one of Montana’s reservations — is well under way. I’ll be on the Fort Peck Reservation over spring break with Samuel Wilson to produce a 3,000-word piece on… actually, it’s a surprise. But you can find it online and in print in the Missoulian and Billings Gazette in June. We’ll have a running Twitter feed and photostream when we get up there, hopefully that will quell some of your curiosity. Just two weeks till showtime.

I’m still writing music too! Here are some of this week’s album reviews: Lo-fi locals Needlecraft have a new lineup and vinyl out and Minneapolis punks Off With Their Heads get a little too clean for their own good.

Finally, there was some fallout from my most recent Keep Missoula Weird column. Which is exactly what a good, opinion-filled column needs to do. Not to mention I wouldn’t trust an arts editor that didn’t have strong opinions about music. I would Storify the Twitter backlash from jam band fans that proved my point, but it’s not exactly Rated E for Everyone.

Oh, and my Twins commentary — we’re a seven-inning team thus far. We’ve blown it in the eighth more times than I care to remember. But at least our records get wiped clean again when we start the real season against the Tigers (gulp) April 1. Until then~

Dow Jones News Fund

Not another pipe dream this year but another line on the resume, effective May 22 when my training starts in Austin, Tex. Then what better way to round out my education in editorial journalism than three months tackling copy and design in Idaho Falls?

After telling and re-telling my relatives countless times over holiday break, I’m going to let the ineffable Print Chair Dennis Swibold take over this time. Here’s the press release from the UM School of Journalism.

Oh, the places I’ll go…

Weeks by the Wayside

When the last Kaimin issue of 2012 went to bed last week, I couldn’t. I stayed up going over all the great stories and missed opportunities. Of course good papers, stories and graphics don’t grow like weeds. We have to tend to every aspect like a seedling in the spring. But what luck, we’ll be back again the last week of January with some new leadership, fresh faces and renewed focus. Plus, social media is now in my job description. We’ll hold a few winter break meetings about strategy but I’m pretty sure it will have something to do with HootSuite. Stay tuned.

In the xmas spirit, I crafted a clever column tying holiday music to attitudes and celebrations in Missoula.

Keep Missoula Weird: The most wonderful time of the year

Now for something completely different. While we’re taught a comprehensive curriculum at UM, it doesn’t mean all broadcasters can write or all writers can shine on audio tracks. It does mean that I should try when I get the chance, of course. For our last elections assignment, I teamed up with Patrick Record once more to explore the environmental vote. Whether it makes it online to Montana Public Media or stays hidden on YouTube doesn’t matter. Interviewing for camera quotes and presenting a wide array of views in a short time is a challenge worth undertaking. We called it “The Green Vote.”

Expect a story (and photo!) in the Missoula Independent Thursday on this amazing woman.

Election Fatigue Fades

There I sat, alongside my trusty photographer Patrick Record and a slew of TV reporters, awaiting election results in Helena’s Red Lion Colonial Hotel where the state’s top Republicans mingled and awaited the devouring of their pre-made “Victory” cake.

Aside from Mr. Obama’s re-election, the results never came. Out of regional state races, perhaps only Washington counted ballots slower.

So there was plenty of time for mingling, sending scene updates and quotes from now-Attorney General-elect Tim Fox and Sandy Welch, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose fate is nearing a recount.

Interviewing Tim Fox before polls close at the Red Lion Colonial hotel in Helena. ©Patrick Record
Interviewing Republican Attorney General candidate Tim Fox before polls close Nov. 6 at the Red Lion Colonial hotel in Helena. ©Patrick Record

Expecting obvious signs from early returns, the tension ran high until we decided, six hours after we arrived, that it was time to get some sleep and stop staring at tiny numbers on a screen. Election HQ back at Don Anderson Hall decided to return to work at 6 a.m. and our early reaction reporting had been sufficient.

Here’s some of my contributed reporting at the top of this story:

Montana Public Media | Attorney General Hopefuls Await Slow Returns.

Still, showing up in my tie and bumping elbows with state officials made me proud of the line of work I’m in and excited to do it for decades to come.

Now to take advantage of that Constitutionally mandated resting time for political reporters.