Former NatGeo Editor, ‘Bundyville’ Podcaster Named UM Pollner Professors

April 17, 2019

Leah Sottile has been named UM's fall Pollner Professor and Chris Johns will be the Pollner Professor next spring.MISSOULA – A former editor of National Geographic and a freelance journalist who has earned accolades for her work covering armed militia protests will be the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professors for the 2019-20 academic year at the University of Montana School of Journalism.

Leah Sottile will be the fall professor, teaching a course in narrative writing and the business of freelance journalism. Sottile began her career at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, an alternative weekly in Spokane, and has for the past several years written primarily about people on the fringes of society.

She has reported extensively on the group led by Ammon Bundy, who in 2016 took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and his father, Cliven Bundy, who directed a 2014 standoff in Nevada after a confrontation with federal agents over his refusal to pay grazing fees on federal land. Her work on the podcast “Bundyville” earned her and Oregon Public Radio a finalist award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. Her newspaper and magazine clients include The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Outside and Al Jazeera America.

Chris Johns was editor-in-chief of National Geographic from 2005-14. He began his National Geographic career in 1995 as a photographer and had a variety of positions at the magazine before he became its editor. While serving as editor, the magazine won 23 National Magazine Awards, and in 2008 he was named magazine editor of the year.

Subsequent to that job, he was chief content officer and director of the Centers of Excellence for National Geographic Media and now serves as program leader for National Geographic Society’s “Beyond Yellowstone” program, an assignment that will conclude at the end of this year. Johns will teach a course in conservation journalism, examining the powerful impact visual storytelling has had in the conservation movement.

The Pollner professorship was created in 2001 by the family and friends of T. Anthony Pollner, a 1999 School of Journalism alumnus who died in a motorcycle accident. Dozens of renowned journalists have served as distinguished professors at the school since the program’s inception. In addition to teaching a course, the Pollner professors work with the staff of the Montana Kaimin, the student newspaper at UM.


Contact: Denise Dowling, interim dean, UM School of Journalism, 406-243-4143,