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University of Montana journalism camp examines the future of media
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University of Montana journalism camp examines the future of media

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Some may say that journalism is dead, but the students at the University of Montana’s School of Journalism summer camp would beg to differ.

Nearly 35 high schoolers attended the camp from places like Portland and Pittsburgh, though many were from Montana, anywhere between Missoula and Miles City.

All came to report on one daunting topic — the future of media.

“I didn’t know so many young people were interested in going into journalism,” said Helena Brown, a camper from Billings. “Everybody always talks about how journalism is dying and they focus less on how journalism is just adapting.”

Over the course of four days, students learned how to report, interviewing local media movers and shakers and producing a print product similar to a magazine. The camp was free to all attendees through financial support from Humanities Montana and the School of Journalism.

“We wanted to bring high school students from all around the region to UM and the School of Journalism to get a taste of what the journalism profession is all about,” said Denise Dowling, the journalism school director.

Courtney Cowgill, an adjunct professor, added that high levels of interest in other programs geared toward high school students, like the career expo and high school journalism days in the spring, also aided in reviving the summer camp.

“What we heard from the high school journalism advisers across the state is that their students would love something like this,” Cowgill said.

Students picked from three different mediums to focus on while at camp — writing, photography and design. 

The campers went out into the community to report and photograph their stories and interviewed local podcasters, news anchors, editors and other media professionals in Missoula. When it came time to edit, groups of students huddled around computers, pointing at edits they would recommend to one another. Writers, designers and photographers worked collaboratively across four floors of the journalism building. 

Kendall Toye from Missoula decided to attend the camp to improve her photography skills. She is an anchor and producer for Eagle TV at Big Sky High School.

Throughout the week, she said she noticed huge improvements to her photos and learned how to manually set the exposure on her camera. Many of the photography students even had the chance to take photos at a PaddleHeads game.

“It was cool for us photographers because we were able to go into the pit right next to the dugout and take pictures, like, right next to the field and the players,” Toye said.

Another photography student, Kaitlyn Bancroft from Joliet, said her English teacher recommended the camp to her. She used to not enjoy writing, but now she is interested in pursuing a career as a travel journalist.

“I love traveling, I love seeing different places and different cultures, then to be able to write about them so other people can learn more about them would be amazing,” Bancroft said.

Though the students were working on a stressful deadline, the energy remained upbeat and optimistic. Dowling agreed that the camp was a success overall, and she hopes that students apply these skills back at home, especially those from smaller communities.

“It’s wonderful for them to see all these different journalistic outlets and how they’re operating in Missoula. Some of them I think are going to go back to their schools and try to start a student newspaper or an online news outlet,” Dowling said.

“We hope they’re inspired to really try to bring some content and reporting back to their hometowns.”

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