Distinguished mentors to guide students in Crown conservation coverage

Graduate students at the University of Montana School of Journalism will benefit from the guidance of distinguished mentors when they tackle stories about climate, communities and conservation in the Crown of the Continent this spring.

Two professional journalists of national renown were selected for the school’s new Crown Reporting Fund program: Christopher Joyce, science correspondent at National Public Radio, and Ted Alvarez, executive editor at Grist and northwest editor for Backpacker Magazine.

Joyce and Alvarez will mentor students Ken Rand and Celia Talbot Tobin as they pursue stories on aquatic invasive species and mining waste in the Rocky Mountain region of Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.

Joyce stressed the need for well-trained journalists to interpret what scientists and others know about the effects of climate change on the natural world, especially in unique regions like the Crown.

“I've spent a lifetime writing about science and science policy,” he said. “I want to pass on some of those skills and experiences to others.” 

Alvarez said he was excited by the opportunity to help a new generation of journalists tell engrossing stories of the human impact on a rapidly morphing environment in big, bold ways. 

“When one sets those tasks against the dynamic landscape and rich characters that in my experience define the Crown of the Continent, I'm just slayed with the potential,” he said. “And I'm very honored to be a part of it." 

Each team will produce one in-depth story, with formats ranging from text features to photo, audio, video and multimedia packages.

While the students will report stories in the field, their mentors will recommend sources, edit drafts and help place the final product in a regional or national publication. Both students and their mentors receive a stipend and travel funds. 

The innovative mentoring model is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Ted Smith, a tireless advocate for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. Smith, a leader of philanthropy and a former smokejumper, died hiking in the Mission Mountains in 2012.

Ted Smith’s family has provided funding to start the program with two teams for the 2015 cycle. Additional donations are being sought to support the Crown Reporting Fund.

Now in its fourth year, the Master’s in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism program trains the next generation of journalists to combine sound understanding of science and policy with storytelling skills that engage broad audiences across diverse media platforms.

- posted on 03/03/15 -