A few Beacon staffers + adviser Nancy Copic following the end-of-the-year Student Activities Awards dinner. Sarah Hansell won the Spectacular Service Award; Cassie Sheridan was Rookie of they Year, and Shellie Adams won the MVP Award.
The Beacon has won three regional Mark of Excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists:
General News Reporting:
“Cyber confessions become cyberbullying”
Reporter: Olivia Alsept-Ellis
Best Sports Writing
“Selfless, tough, compassionate”
Reporter: Peter Gallagher
The contest was open to all college media in SPJ Region 10 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska). We’ll find out if we won First, Second or Third Place in these categories at the regional SPJ conference May 3 in the University of Oregon Turnbull Center in Portland. First Place award-winners proceed to the national SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards.
I went to Hearst Tower. Also, while there I smiled at a woman with dramatically wiry gray hair and a long leopard print coat and she totally scowled back at me, so The Devil Wears Prada is completely accurate. Basically, it was a great visit.
Our tour guide, an exec for Hearst Corporation, gave us some background information on Hearst as a company and then took us through Good Housekeeping testing rooms and the Hearst executive offices on the top floor.
The editor-in-chief of Food Network Magazine chatted with our group for 45 minutes, and I also had a chance to ask our tour guide a few questions. The most exciting thing I learned personally was that they both had a background in newspapers. Our tour guide actually interned for the Bend Bulletin, and said Bend was “an… interesting experience” despite not being “what I would call a nature person.” And the editor of FNM said they prefer hiring people with a background in newspapers because they are meticulous about being their own fact checkers and copy editors.
My main takeaway: if you want to work in editorial, PR or even many types of marketing and business, newspapers are a great place to start. Cheers to journalism!
- Kelsey Thomas, EIC
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Blazing lights and towering skyscrapers aside, the reason I was so jazzed about visiting New York City was the opportunity to get an exclusive walkabout around the offices of media companies. The CMA offered a handful of tours throughout the four-day convention to places like CNN and the Wall Street Journal. Those willing (and crazy enough) to fork even more media madness onto their convention schedule could sign up at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Nothing gives one media maven street cred like a willingness to pop (read: crawl) out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to sit in a hallway, hoping to beat the line and win a coveted place on a tour group. So, naturally, I was loitering into the hallway at a quarter to 7, chatting with fellow convention-goers and hoping my jetlagged humor wasn’t offending anyone.
Told that I could pick only one media tour, I chose Democracy Now! – a station I regularly connect with when I volunteer at KBOO FM. As a bonus, the tour was held at 7:00 a.m. the next day, meaning I wouldn’t miss any conference session.
The office and studios of Democracy Now! were both everything and nothing what I’d expected: casual, homey and filled with an independent-media vibe. We were offered much-needed coffee and heavenly cookies while the education director Simin Farkhondeh gave us a quick summary of Democracy Now!’s founding and mission. It was intriguing to hear about the role of Democracy Now! in fighting homogeneous media conglomerates that control what passes through news outlets. We discussed the role of the audience in creating show content, what social media plans they had in place, and where they saw the station heading next.
While my heart belongs to print journalism, broadcast will always have a special glamor for me, and getting to watch the incredible Amy Goodman and Juan González host an hour of the War and Peace Report was a true privilege. Almost even more exciting was sneaking back into the production room and have the friendly staff give us a rundown of the equipment being used. Also, it was just plain fun to toss around terms like “syndicated” and “board op-ing” and know everyone understood my broadcast terms.
At the close of the news hour two Democracy Now! interns gave us a tour of the office, and nearly everyone stopped working to chat with us and cheerfully answer our million questions. I learned an immense amount about the work of archivists, translators and producers, so it was no surprise to realize we’d spent almost four hours total on the tour.
Heading back on the subway to the conference one of the folks who was on the tour mentioned that the ProPublica tour still had spaces open. So at 2:00 I showed up in the lobby, smiling hopefully and sweet-talking my way into the tour group. Since I hadn’t signed up, I knew I was running a risk at being turned away by security once I reached the ProPublica office. But $.5.00 of subway fare was worth the risk, and I blithely “borrowed” the name of a student who hadn’t shown up when the security guard asked for my name. Luckily, we didn’t have to produce ID, and that’s how I snuck into the office of ProPublica – an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism.
Minhee Cho, the communications officer quickly summarized ProPublica’s mission, and then let us ask her questions about the details of how the organization works. She was remarkable frank, talking about the trials investigative journalists face, shared funny stories and moments of triumph. We peppered her with questions, seeking to understand how ProPublica was changing the landscape of investigative journalism.
Eventually we ran out of things to ask, and she led us about the office, introducing us to journalists and mentioning the fascinating work they were doing. We didn’t have much time to chat with the reporters, and many of them were occupied pouring over documents or speaking with sources. Yet seeing them hard at work, bring hidden truths to light, was a very inspiring end to an educational and enlightening day.
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Good journalism is readable journalism.
It can be passionate, descriptive and full of facts – but first it has to read clean and clear. A brilliant investigative article is useless if readers can’t make sense of it. A wordy food review drenched in detail won’t make anyone’s mouth water. And forget about covering a scientific breakthrough if you’re tangled in academic terms.
The ability to write about complex topics simply is an art, one that was respected by many of the presenters at CMA. It was fascinating to hear journalists and professors give their input on how to craft a quality article.
Food reviews sound like a niche form of journalism, but the skill of developing rich descriptions without sliding into purple prose is transcends the restaurant beat. If you can master writing about food, scaling back to write news stories that nail the clever details will be easy.
Holly Johnson talked about finding that sweet spot between using stock descriptions and confusing metaphors. The trick to writing about food is truly living the experience and figuring out how to articulate that experience. Translate more than flavor and texture – what did it feel like to bite into that sandwich? What colors, sensations or emotions did that kombucha tea evoke?
Food reviews are more than just opinions. They aren’t ads or poetry. Their goal is to clearly express what it was like to eat or drink something. Even if it’s something you’ve tried before, with eat bite (or sip) imagine this is your first time tasting it.
Part of achieving that is using descriptions that mean something. Don’t just say “decadent desserts.” What does “decadent” make you feel or taste? Nothing. It’s an empty word that slows down your writing. Use instead words with texture, motion, or have a strong sense of place. Lean on your nouns and verbs and go easy on adjectives and adverbs. Verbs keep writing in the present while adjectives can bog writing down.
Another technique is using metaphors. Figurative language can share culinary experiences with word pictures. You can almost taste this drink: “Sour cranberry ripples across the tongue and breaks at the back of your throat like a scratchy wave.” I’d never want to try an éclair described like this: “Gluey cream sags between cobweb-thin layers, like a fat lady in stringy bathing suit.”
Quick, clever metaphors that tap into universal experience are invaluable. But don’t sacrifice being precise over being witty.
A recent debate among the camera community is whether or not the mirror-less camera will be able to compete with the quality of a DSLR camera. Now there was no shortage of camera diversity, from film, top of the line DSLRs, point and shoot, mirror-less, and everything in between. However during the session Paul gave he didn’t stress using one over the other, in fact there was an emphasis on using both in a working camera set. Mirror-less cameras such a a Leica, Fujifilm, Nikon V1, or many of the others on the market have enormous benefits to a photographer.
- First and most important to a college kid who is limited by funds, the price. A mirror-less camera and its lenses are remarkably cheaper than its DSLR counterparts.
- Another great feature is hoe simple to use it is, a DSLR has generally settings to help you manipulate the picture to get everything you want. A mirror-less camera will have most of these settings as well but on the surface it is extremely easy to use and great also for beginning photographers.
- Second, it is incredibly more compact, its an easy grab and go camera to store in your backpack or purse if you are going to an event or you could have it in there just to catch something interesting as it happens.
- Subtle. A smaller less conspicuous camera like a Nikon V1 is likely not to draw as much attention in a crowd as a bulky DSLR and could help avoid those awkward shots of people staring at you as you use a huge DSLR.
However while the Mirror-less camera is breaking berries in terms of picture quality and frequency of use.
- The autofocus on a mirrored camera is faster at getting adjusted and generally better than a mirror-less, but mirror-less cameras auto focus feature had made great strides.
- The lenses are limited for Mirrorless cameras and that can sometimes limit what and how you will shoot
However there is one great advantage to having a mirror-less camera, a Leica for instance makes virtually no noise compared to a bulky DSLR. Recently many reporters and photographers have started using mirror-less in press conferences or plays for instance so it will attract less attention and be far less distracting.
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I am thrilled to be back in this city full of energy, pollution, fashion, food, and – most importantly, of course – most of the major media companies in the country. I may be missing PDX coffee, but that hasn’t stopped me from downing 13 cups a day (for accuracy’s sake, that’s a bit of an exaggeration) to run around all day going to sessions on everything from photography to Google analytics, a Broadway show (Once is amazing), and meeting other student journalists from around the country.
There was one awkward moment when I walked into the wrong session and realized everyone was talking about why to stay involved in student media even if you don’t want to be a journalist, and from the front row I slowly realized this is the one session going on in the whole conference center that does not apply to me at all. Right now, anyway. Maybe when I’m unemployed in a year and realize that everyone who told me breaking into journalism was really hard wasn’t just a pessimist I will wish I had stayed. But of course I got out of there quickly, and after making a quick coffee stop (seriously, this coffee thing got out of hand), I headed to a great feature writing session. Since the other staffers did a fantastic job covering the sessions in their posts, I’ll focus on my main takeaway’s for The Beacon. But first, a few of the session highlights:
“Find the humanity in sports. The greed, sloth, anger, emotion.” – Jeff McGregor, ESPN
“Even when writing for a magazine or website with a slant, such as a feminist magazine, you are responsible for reporting both sides of the story. Keep your credibility” – Julian Wright, AQ (Abberrance Quarterly)
“If you want to get creative with fonts, get in advertising. Don’t just grab some shit and plug it in there.” – Ron Johnson, Indiana University
Last year, CMANYC13 was inspiring and cemented my interest in journalism. After being EIC for a year, however, it was an even more fruitful experience. It is cool to know I can begin to implement changes immediately instead of waiting six months. After reflecting on the conference, here are a few shifts I think The Beacon should aim for:
- More cooperative workflow. I’m not exactly sure yet how I’m going to make this one happen, but if the reporter, photographer, web person and designer work together throughout the development of the story, it will be stronger in both print and online. It would also be nice to involve reporters more throughout the process, particularly when they are working on a complex or significant story. Mandy Jenkins of Digital First Media showed us these two slides. The first is the old style of journalism, which is basically how The Beacon tends to operate. The second is a new, more cooperative style of journalism. Since we are not all in the same newsroom all day (there’s this thing called class we all have to attend now and then), this is a lot more difficult to accomplish. But I still think it’s a mindset we can move toward adopting.
- An “everyone does everything” culture. Although photographers primary job is to take pictures, they should do some reporting or interview a source of two when on the scene to write cutlines and be aware of how to present the story most accurately through visuals. On that same note, reporters should also get used to taking their own photos, and everyone should learn to make videos.
- Staff social media accounts helping to promote work. Our Beacon SM accounts have vastly improved this year. Although we are still trying to improve our reach and interaction with our readers, it would be so much more beneficial for content to be pushed from 30 accounts instead of just one. So, one of the things I want most out of life right now is for every single reporter and photographer on staff to be active on twitter and other social media and pushing out their work on a regular basis. I’ve been thinking up a few ideas for how to encourage this. They might all be wishful thinking, but they’re still worth a try.
Obviously there are a lot of nit picky details I’m thinking about too (hello even more white space) and new web ideas I want to try out (interactive timelines?!), but if I can make the above goals happen in the coming months, the Beacon will be stronger than ever.
- Kelsey Thomas, EIC
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