Jan Brocci began her career as the second intern for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s magazine Bugle, and the newly retired editor counts her work with interns during the past 25 years, as one of the greatest joys of her job.
The University of Montana School of Journalism sends a steady stream of interns each year to cut their journalistic teeth at the Elk Foundation. The program puts the rag-tag group under the tutelage of Bugle’s editors, writing for an audience of the organization’s 200,000 members.
Brocci spearheaded the program after becoming managing editor two decades ago, helping many young writers hone their craft while telling the organization’s story.
“I guess everybody’s different,” Brocci said of the dozens of interns she worked with. “I really enjoyed working with them on their stories and helping them find their writing voice. I got to watch their creativity grow.”
While students varied in abilities, Brocci often found herself humbled by the quality of their writing, she said. Although Bugle primarily recruits journalism students, including three of us now working at the Independent Record, interns from the English, forestry and communications departments have also participated, she added.
Brocci took an editing internship at the Elk Foundation as a UM English student in 1988. When the internship wrapped up, she needed a part time job, and worked in the visitor center before becoming an editorial assistant the following year. When the managing editor position opened, Brocci found the job she would hold until retiring this year.
The fact that she was not a hunter made for a unique fit in an organization primarily funded by hunters with a conservation message. But as Bugle continued to find its voice, Brocci brought innovations such as a column focusing on women in the outdoors.
“She’s brought a whole little galaxy of women’s voices to the magazine, some of them full-time writers, some of them publishing their first story ever,” said Bugle senior editor Dan Crockett. “Either way, she’s worked every bit as hard to bring the best out of them.”
Brocci was an asset as editor, but it was her relationship with interns that has had a lasting impact on so many journalists, he said.
“What’s really telling, though, is how many of those interns have stayed in touch with Jan over the years,” Crockett said. “People who spent three months with us a dozen years ago still drop by the office and it’s Jan they’re coming to see. That’s a pretty good testament to how much they appreciate and respect the difference she made in their lives.”
The Bugle program offers UM journalism students the opportunity to see the inner workings of a magazine with a vast audience, and Brocci had a knack for finding an intern’s strengths, said journalism professor Dennis Swibold.
“Students have really liked working there, they really did, and it fostered some careers even for people that didn’t go into journalism,” he said. “I think what was good about the way she did it was depending on the talents our students brought.”
Brocci hopes to enjoy the coming spring and her new freedom by hiking with her husband Mike, gardening and making jewelry, although she has not made too many plans. Whether she will get involved with wildlife issues again is up in the air, although she remains highly interested in conflicts with bison near Yellowstone National Park.
Brocci likened the people she worked with as a family, and leaving so many good people behind has been hard, she said.
“It’s different than just having a regular job,” she said. “Most of us were really committed to the mission and I loved feeling that my job was contributing to making things better for wildlife and conserving open spaces. It made it seem like more than just a job.”