Joe Eaton, the journalism school’s newest professor, is known around Don Anderson Hall as an investigative journalist. But he didn’t always dream of being one.
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in English literature, Joe moved to South Korea to teach English. He says he came across journalism by accident once he realized he wanted to travel throughout his life.
He decided to go to graduate school in journalism at the University of Maryland. “Everyone questions whether you should go to journalism school,” he says. “For me, the value of journalism school is that I had some professors who served as editors of my work, who in five minutes could teach me things that could have taken me five years to learn.”
He has worked as a staffer for The Roanoke Times, D.C.’s Washington City Paper and the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, also in D.C., where he became an investigative reporter, specializing in health care investigations. His writing has appeared in the The Washington Post, USA Today and The Huffington Post, among other publications.
His next adventure took him across the country to Missoula. In the spirit of travel and new experiences, he, his wife and infant son packed up and moved from Baltimore to the Big Sky country last summer. As a professor at UM, where he prefers that his students call him “Joe,” he teaches public affairs reporting, editing and investigative journalism.
“This really offers me a unique opportunity,” he says. “I really like teaching and I really value the process of helping people get better at something they’re trying really hard to do. I remember myself being in those shoes.”
The job also allows him to continue to work as a freelancer for outlets that include NationalGeographic.com and AARP The Magazine.
“I want to be a writer who teaches,” he says. “Both of those things are equally important to me. I feel a lot like my students: I still have a goal I want to reach as a writer, as a journalist. I don’t feel like I’m done with that. Not even close.”
As a teacher and journalist, Joe says that it is important for young journalists to be creative about their careers and to look for opportunities, most of which lie beyond Montana.
“You have to be very open to moving,” he says.
And he offers one more piece of advice.
“Work really hard.”