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Alumni Spotlight: Nate Rott
UM alumnus Nate Rott is a correspondent on NPR’s National Desk, where he focuses on environmental issues and the American West.
Nate Rott is no stranger to saying “yes” to opportunity, even when it takes him to wild places. A UM journalism degree and some chance meetings have sent the Missoula native from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica to the Australian bush.
Rott graduated from UM’s School of Journalism in winter 2009, earning a national award for his senior Native News project. Former UM Professor Carol Van Valkenburg suggested Rott apply for a Washington Post and NPR fellowship after graduation.
“I applied and was definitely the least qualified for the fellowship, but was really lucky to get it,” Rott says.
Weeks later, fellowship in hand, he found himself reporting on election primaries in the nation’s capital. The five-month fellowship at the Washington Post and NPR taught him what makes a good story and how to work with top editors, as well as manage the challenges of radio reporting.
“Not only do you have to get a person to talk to you, but you have to get them to talk to you in a good environment on tape and take everything else into consideration,” Rott says.
Rott’s next opportunity came at the suggestion of another UM journalism alum. He traded the city for the snowy wilderness and joined the United States Antarctic Program as a general assistant. The program introduced Rott to science in the field and, he says, the sacrifices made by scientists and the people who feed them and fly them into an inhospitable location.
Rott changed up environments once more when a former editor told him about an NPR job based in Los Angeles.
Seven years later, as the environmental correspondent for NPR’s national desk, Rott reports on regulatory rollbacks, national disasters, human disasters, biodiversity, and public lands issues and climate change.
Now Rott’s beat has shifted to the coronavirus, as he reports on air pollution and its negative effects on the respiratory system. He also is examining medical shortages and barriers in access to health care, emergency response and financial aid.
As the country’s social environment alters with COVID-19, Rott says having local journalists answer important questions is crucial.
“We all lose when there’s fewer journalists,” he says. “Those are questions no one can answer better than local journalists looking at where they are. These are monumental things happening, and some people say this is the first draft of history, so it’s important to have people doing that. It’s an incredible opportunity in a precarious situation.”
Keep us posted! Send your news to the University of Montana Alumni Association, Brantly Hall, Missoula, MT 59812. Go to www.grizalum.com and click on “Submit a Class Note,” email email@example.com, or call 1-877-UM-ALUMS (877-862-5867). Material in this issue reached our office by Aug. 9, 2019.