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.

Fires and Smoke

It’s been a few Augusts since I was able to breathe deeply outside — though the air is clear in Idaho Falls, back in Missoula the Lolo Creek Complex has shut down part of Highway 12 and smothered the city in smoke. In central Idaho, the Beaver Creek Fire has also gained national attention for its size (bigger than the city of Portland) and unpredictability. Which all means it’s a very exciting time to be a journalist. Even sitting at the copy desk, I scan county twitter feeds, police scanners and with this untouchable thrill. Because I know I should be out there. My job isn’t done until you can’t wash that campfire smell from me.

The real point of this post was to share my story (essay really) from the 2013 Fresh Facts, a funny piece on activism in Missoula. Online it’s only available as an e-edition, so head on up to page 28 or, in the case you live in Missoula, pick one up off a stand near you.

I’m going to design out the second story I wrote into a graphic, so look for that soon.

Be well and do good work. I’ll see you out there

Mountains Beyond Mountains

… of which I’m feeling pretty on top for a newly minted quarter-century-year-old. Aside from seeing Alabama Shakes at Grand Targhee and Belle & Sebastian in SLC (photos below), I’ve received another birthday present of sorts: I’ve been made the online editor for Montana Headwall as well as its Facebook curator. (Notice the Facebook link, which I highly recommend you click and ‘like.’) The quarterly outdoors magazine publishes user-contributed trip and gear reports, which I’ll be in charge of making attractive and accessible. Not to mention I’ll be adding my own adventures to the mix, like last week’s discovery of the crazy amount of fish at Lake Hebgen near West Yellowstone. I’m excited, what can I say.

It’s been busy (overtime busy) at the Post Register as we transition to a new CMS and InDesign at the copy desk. It’s been nice teaching instead of being taught (Quark) for the past two weeks, as I know shortcuts and secrets that have aided the migration. I’ll be taking over the A section a few days this week as the assistant copy chief acquaints herself with the whole ordeal. Again, very exciting.

Fun stuff coming up at the Indy, but no spoilers just yet. Instead here is some work I’ve done recently and photos of the bands I had promised:

This ran on B1 (Sports) as the main art during an issue between Chukars games recently.
This ran on B1 (Sports) as the main art during an issue between Chukars games recently.

In hindsight I wish I had done some sort of reverse type, but font choice, not color, dominated my thought pattern. Might as well stick with one theme and show off my first sports page (again, playing with fonts):

Slow news day in sportsland to run a Pirate as the centerpiece, but the All Star break will do that.
Slow news day in sportsland to run a Pirate as the centerpiece, but the All Star break will do that.

And here is Stuart Murdoch of Scottish indie-pop kings Belle & Sebastian, followed by Brittany Howard and Co. of the super-soulful Alabama Shakes:

Thousands turned out for Salt Lake's first Twilight concert of the summer season, including my Kaimin mates interning at the Tribune this summer.
Thousands turned out for Salt Lake’s first Twilight concert of the summer season, including my Kaimin mates interning at the Tribune this summer.
The Targhee Music Festival, while not large as far as festivals go, drew a lively crowd on the last day of its run this year.
The Targhee Music Festival, while not large as far as festivals go, drew a lively crowd on the last day of its run this year.

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.

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~

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.

Money Matters in Montana Elections

Erik C. Anderson and I decided to follow the money for our election follow-up stories. In addition to new complaints about Excel (great with data, terrible with design) we learned that the future of campaign spending is as murky as its present.

Outside Money Plays Major Role in Top Montana Campaigns

The story on Montana Public Media, which was designed for web-only viewing, links to the non-profit groups in the “shadow money” sector as well as some of their ads and related filings.

A big thanks to the folks at and providing valuable data and working tirelessly to maintain some transparency in campaigns.

Two gubernatorial candidates walk into a bar…

Just kidding. These guys would never get beers together.
Rick Hill (R)Steve Bullock (D)
Republican Rick Hill, left, and Democrat Steve Bullock at a debate in Helena, Mont. Photos by Patrick Record. Read my governor’s race profile here.

The most difficult part of this story, and any political reporting, is the forced suspension of cynicism. Yes, the campaign manager is a third party on our call, and yes, half of the usable quotes I gleaned showed up in both of the debates I’ve watched, but that’s how it goes. Shake some hands, kiss some babies, keep smiling.

Still, I wonder if some stronger sentiments and childhood stories could’ve come out of our interaction. It would probably require a few beers together.