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A law would have allowed guns on campus at the University of Montana. These student journalists explored what could happen next   – Poynter

As the student editors pointed out to me, Montana had—until 2021—generally escaped the most contentious debate about firearms.

They explained that Montana’s frontier background meant that most citizens were more comfortable and knowledgeable about firearms than the average American.

However, there were places where guns were not culturally accepted and therefore banned – the University of Montana campus was one such place.

That’s why UM student journalists were surprised to learn of state legislators’ efforts to legalize guns on campus, and motivated them to explore the issue.

the result is “In sight,” A look at gun culture in Montana and efforts to normalize firearms in educational settings.

“This is one of the most unrestricted gun bills in the country,” said Kaimin editor Addie Slanger.

Student Journalists were selected for the Poynter College Media Project through an application process in the spring of 2021 that asked them to propose an investigation focused on a problem or issue facing the campus. Dozens of student media applied, and seven were selected for the program, which provided custom project planning, ongoing support from Poynter staff and a host of distinguished speakers. Among them was a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Barstow, writer for the Atlantic team Ed Young And Sarah Ghanem, which broke the story of Jerry Sandusky as a young reporter.

The project was supported by a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

In the spring of 2021, the Montana legislature proposed House Bill 102, legislation that would allow hidden and open carry on college campuses. The bill was approved, but was frozen by a judge in May when the Montana collegiate board of governors challenged the law. They asserted that the state legislature could not override their rule, and that governors did not want guns on campus.

“We decided to take a look at the politics and culture behind the country that adopted House Act 102, and the implications of the bill, as it evolves through the court,” said Slanger in a webinar December 6. “We want it to culminate in looking into the future a little bit, with the hope that this is something that people can use as this bill moves into court, and eventually either gets supported or not supported.”

All of Kaimin’s employees were involved in this project in some capacity — from reporters on the ground to find stories and designers who create graphics, to the copy team for style editing and photographers who take pictures, Slanger said. Head Copy/Digital Editor Andrea Haaland created the website’s own tab and design editor MaKayla O’Neil designed the final print edition with the help of designer Mariah Karis.

who – which special section Distributed at the state level.

Cover of Kaimin’s Special Section.

“One of our main challenges was staying on top of the project and the stories to come,” said Slanger. “We struggled with that by having a really strict schedule and just sticking to it.”

By far the team’s greatest challenge has been the changing nature of the 102nd House of Representatives, which the courts could have ruled at any moment.

“We kind of had to make a last-minute call like, ‘Do we want to move forward with this project, even though it could change at the drop of a hat?'” Slanger said.

A screenshot from the presentation by The Kaimin Editor-in-Chief Adi Selanger showing how quickly the subject matter of their project is evolving and changing.

The timing turned out to be perfect.

“Just last week, while we were distributing our final version, the district court permanently ruled that sections of the bill related to campus are not legal,” said Slanger.

She had some advice for other student journalists trying to do an investigative project.

“Definitely choose reporters who have a passion for the topics they write about,” she said.

In the end, she said, one comment from a reader stuck with her.

“This was a particularly special email I received… a 91-year-old law school graduate from Missoula, a veteran, who was congratulating us on our special edition – coverage and objectivity – that I am most proud of… This is truly a hot issue in Montana” .

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