Derek Brouwer, Altweekly Staff Reporter

Creating a healthier and more informed community

Interview by Lucas Ailport

Derek Brouwer, staff reporter for the Missoula Independent, at the University of Montana, April 7, 2017. Photo by Lucas Ailport.

Q: Why are you in journalism?

A: I chose to try journalism unsure if I wanted to make a career out of it or anything like that. It was really a public service thing for me and tied up with my own thinking at the time, which was, how can I best influence and help shape how people know or understand the world around them and more specifically the community around them, and how can I make that a healthier and more informed community. I thought that journalism is the best way to do that, better than the other routes that were available at the time. I thought it was messy, and imperfect, and really hard and fragmentary, but it’s worth doing and it needs to be done.

Q: What do you do to get people to read or view your work?

A: That question seems to be getting harder every day and year for us. The first question I would ask is, “Is this is a story I want to read?” The type of stories I like to read are stories that don’t water the issue down and can cut through and bring clarity to something, while at the same time respecting and appreciating the nuance that does exist. But, to boil it down for people, so that they know what’s important and why, and then to present that in a way that highlights whatever the conflict is at issue there, and put that front and center, as well as the people who are affected by whatever the issue is that I’m writing about. So, the people behind the issue and the conflict at the center of it are the two things I try to highlight and push for.

Q: What’s the one thing you want to tell your readers about how local journalism works?

A: Obviously, I have come into the profession with my own experiences. When I write critically about it, it’s because I think it can be made better, and the way you get better is by dealing and facing with those shortcomings. So, nobody is immune from that framework for me when I approach my job. I live and work and shop in the same community and hike the same mountains as people here. So, I think there is this baseline, these shared values and goals, to make this place we live and work as well as it can be.