“Some people hunt pheasant and elk, and he’s hunting stories in the state Capitol.”

Last March, on what would have been the 81st birthday of University of Montana School of Journalism alumnus Jerry L. Madden, his family brainstormed steps they could take to improve journalism in his honor.
 
“Because that was his love,” says Jerry’s son, Mario Madden.
 
Jerry graduated from UM in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in teaching and in journalism. The Livingston native went on to report for The Billings Gazette, The Helena Independent Record and The Great Falls Tribune. His articles, including one chronicling the death of a Montana State Prison inmate from heat exhaustion while Jerry L. Maddenin solitary confinement, earned Jerry a reputation as a hard-driving investigative journalist, one respected by colleagues and feared by elected officials.
 
“He had sort of Colombo-like approach,” Mario recalls. “Even as a kid, I couldn’t get anything past him … I knew he would get to the bottom of it.”
 
Such tenacity prompted John Kuglin, who worked with Jerry at the Great Falls Tribune, to call the former investigative reporter “a giant in Montana journalism.” “He’d go out and it would be like hunting,” Kuglin told the Helena IR in 2010. “Some people hunt pheasant and elk, and he’s hunting stories in the state Capitol.”
 
Jerry left journalism in 1971, going to work for Alaska’s Office of the Governor. Mario says during a three-decade career in state government, Jerry held onto the fine-tuned moral compass that served him so well while in journalism.
 
Humbleness kept Jerry from boasting about his journalistic accomplishments, Mario says. Consequently, it was only after Jerry died that Mario came to appreciate the relevance of his father’s earlier career—a legacy of truth seeking to further the public good.
 
“Journalism to him was a way of fighting the fight,” Mario says.
 
Mario says despite Jerry’s departure from journalism, his father remained committed to the fight. Before his death, Jerry expressed anger and frustration about the modern state of journalism. “(He) just felt that nobody had time to develop stories anymore,” Mario says.  
 
To honor Jerry, Mario and his mother, Mary Lou Madden, have created the Jerry L. Madden Memorial Scholarship for Journalistic Ethics. The $2,000 scholarship will be awarded annually to the non-graduating student with the highest grade in Media Law. The student will also be required to demonstrate a deep understanding of the First Amendment’s role in journalism and of journalistic ethics.
 
University of Montana School of Journalism Dean Larry Abramson says the scholarship will bolster vital lessons. “It is critical that we instill a strong sense of ethical responsibility in our students,” Abramson says. “This scholarship is a big boost in that effort.”
 
Posted Aug. 18, 2015