Do Missoula and the University of Montana have what it takes to lure the nation’s top environmental journalists here for their annual convention? Members of the board of the Society of Professional Journalists came to find out last week as they descended on Western Montana to kick the tires on the Garden City.
For three days, board members from such notable news outlets as the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Houston Chronicle and Chemical and Engineering News were wooed by university officials, fellow journalists and local dignitaries in hopes that SEJ would bring its members (and their cash) to Western Montana in 2010. According to Rita Munzenrider, director of University Relations, the SEJ conference would bring “unprecedented exposure to UM and Western Montana.” So at a meet-and-greet for board members on June 30 the wooers pulled out all the stops.
The evening kicked off at the UM Honors College with a catered reception that had difficulty keeping enough bottles of Moose Drool on ice. As board members, journalists and a handful of local dignitaries munched on fancy meatballs and deviled eggs, Munzenrider urged Montanans to give the invited guests “the hard sell.”
After hearing Mayor John Engen’s oft-used welcoming speech, Jerry Bromenshenk, UM’s star bee researcher, apprised SEJ board members on the status of disappearing honeybee colonies.
After the reception, attendees crossed the Oval to the University Center, where UM chefs showed off the Farm to College Program with a dinner consisting entirely of local ingredients, after which UM climate researcher Steve Running walked gatherers through the social stages of global warming, from “denial” (it ain’t happening) to “depression” (we’re all doomed) to acceptance (let’s do something about it).
But in the end it may be something Western Montana wishes it could get rid of that may seal the deal. As part of their hard sell, Munzenrider and Engen both bragged: “We’ve got a Superfund site right in our backyard!”