New journalism fund seeks to enhance conservation coverage in the Crown

Stories of climate, communities and conservation in the Crown of the Continent will be the focus of a new journalism fund at the University of Montana.

The Crown Reporting Fund will support graduate students in UM’s Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism program as they pursue stories in the Glacier National Park area of Montana and Canada. It will also fund a mentoring program that teams students with veteran editors familiar with the field.

The innovative mentoring model is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Ted Smith, a tireless and strategic 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.

The goal of the Crown Reporting Fund is to inform public understanding of landscape-level conservation, conflicting demands for natural resources and community efforts to build climate resilience in the Rocky Mountain region of Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.

“UM is uniquely situated in a world-class laboratory for environmental science and natural resource journalism,” Journalism Dean Larry Abramson said. “We’re looking to leverage the region’s natural systems, research programs and conservation initiatives to produce quality, on-the ground reporting.”

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 will receive a stipend and travel funds.

“In our mentors, we are looking for professional journalists with a strong track record covering science, conservation or natural resource policy and management,” the J-School’s Graduate Program Director, Henriette Löwisch, said.

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

In addition to providing practical training, the project aims to create networks of knowledge and common purpose between emerging journalists, research scientists, conservation advocates and other stakeholders in the Crown region.

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

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

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- posted on 09/29/14 -