The Beacon has won four First Place awards in the 2021 regional Mark of Excellence competition sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). The contest involved college media outlets from five states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The following now advance to the national SPJ Mark of Excellence competition.

FIRST PLACE Breaking News Reporting* – Gabi DiPaulo for “Administrator goes public with concerns about racism and sexism within UP administration”

*colleges and universities with enrollment below 10,000

FIRST PLACE Data Visualization- Austin De Dios for his portfolio of interactive data visualizations including from this story on COVID-19 furloughs and salary cuts.

FIRST PLACE Podcast- Molly Lowney, Jennifer Ng for “What on Earth: Food for Thought” (episode 5)

FIRST PLACE Feature Writing*- Mia Werner “Chasing Ice with the U.S. Coast Guard”

*colleges and universities with enrollment below 10,000


Several other Beacon staffers were finalists (Second or Third Place) in the regional competition:

Breaking News Reporting

Carlos Fuentes – “Over 200 Bon App workers lose their jobs at UP”

General News Reporting

Carlos Fuentes – COVID-19 testing available at UP; information not so much

In-depth Reporting

Brie Haro – “Pilots on the front lines seeking change”

Feature Writing

Molly Lowney – “Going viral: UP students find fame and fortune on TikTok”

Feature Photography

Ryan Reynolds – “Stop reading this and go outside” (slideshow)

Beacon photojournalist Ryan Reynolds

Photo Illustration

Brennan Crowder – “Computers get Zoom fatigue too”

General Column Writing (team entry):

Jennifer Ng – “Why I’m not watching Disney’s live-action Mulan

Mia Werner – “Anti-Semitism at UP: We must condemn bigotry in the classroom always”

Laura Heffernan – “OCD is not an adjective”

Sports Writing

Kyle Garcia – “Chase Adams steps up as glue of the family as grandmother battles coronavirus”

William Seekamp – “I’m not going to just sit back and do nothing”

Dora Totian (’20) leads a training session at Beacon Boot Camp training in August 2019. She recently won the Snowden Ethics Award.


Dora Totoian, 2019-20 Beacon Opinion Editor and reporter, has won one of two annual Snowden Ethics Awards, given each year to select interns in the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. The Snowden program, named after a former editor of The Oregonian and Oregon Journal, places young journalists in paid summer internships in media organizations around Oregon.

Journalistic ethics are a main focus of the competitive Snowden program, which is based at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. The summer internship program accepts applications from students from any Oregon college or university who have completed a basic reporting course or worked at a campus publication. (Dora started as a reporter at The Beacon her freshman year.)

During her internship, Dora worked as a reporter at the News-Register in McMinnville, where she managed to (safely!) cover a wide variety of stories including the COVID-19 pandemic at a local level, wildfires, protests and politics. Infused in the daily challenge of reporting on community events and issues are ethical case studies that require Snowden interns to reflect on issues journalists confront in their work.

No one who worked with Dora at The Beacon would be surprised that among the 18 Snowden interns, Dora stood out for her ethical practices and reflections.

Below is video of the announcement of her award, which, due to the pandemic, occurred at a virtual reception on Zoom. Typically, this event is a catered affair at the UO Agora Journalism Center in downtown Portland.

Hear what UO Associate Professor of Journalism and Snowden Program Co-Coordinator Nicole Dahmen said about Dora:

“Her writing was excellent, her thought process and ethical reasoning were solid. In addition, she raised ethical questions for us to consider and think about.”

-Nicole Dahmen, UO journalism professor on Dora Totoian

This was the second time in recent years a Beacon staffer has won the Snowden Ethics Award.

2017-18 Editor-in-Chief Rachel Rippetoe won the award after her Snowden internship at the Eugene Register-Guard during the summer of 2017.

Update: Kyle Garcia took First Place for Best Sports Column. Dora Totoian took Second Place for Best Editorial. The Beacon engagement efforts led by Natalie Nygren, Ally Weberg, Dora Totoian and Claire Desmarais won an Honorable Mention.

Also, The Beacon received two Honorable Mentions in the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) 2020 Pacemaker Individual Awards for Story of the Year in the following categories: Ernie Pyle Human Interest Profile- Mia Werner for this story ; Sports Feature- Kyle Garcia for this story

The Beacon is a finalist in three categories in the 2019-20 Pinnacle Awards sponsored by the College Media Association (CMA).

This year for the first time, CMA invited entries for Best Campus Engagement. The Beacon is in the finals along with student media at the University of South Carolina, Texas State University and Southeast Missouri State University.

Engagement encompasses social media, crowdsourcing, events and other ways The Beacon interacts with the UP community. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down campus last spring, audience engagement was even more challenging. But Beacon leadership rose to the occasion, leaning in to the virtual landscape.

Below is a summary of The Beacon’s 2019-20 engagement efforts led by Natalie Nygren, Ally Weberg, Claire Desmarais and Dora Totoian.

2019-2020 Opinion Editor Dora Totian is a Pinnacle finalist for Best Editorial. Other finalists in that category are from the University of Alabama, California State University – Fullerton and Auburn University.

Last year’s Sports Editor Kyle Garcia is up for Best Sports Column. Other finalists come from the University of Miami, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania and University of Kentucky.

CMA will announce the Pinnacle winners Oct. 23.

As we head into a new and historic academic year, here’s a round-up of the most recent awards The Beacon won in 2019-20.

A photo by Beacon photographer Jennifer Ng won First Place for Breaking News Photography nationwide in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards. The Beacon competed against student publications at colleges and universities with fewer than 10,000 students.

Jennifer’s winning photo was shot during the massive Climate Strike demonstration in downtown Portland last fall.

Photographer Annika Gordon, who has won many awards for her photography, won a national award for opinion writing: First Place Gold Circle Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for her personal commentary, “I’m racist, so are you. White people, let’s improve.”

Those were just two of many awards Beacon staffers recently won for their work in those two contests. The Beacon also won:

Third Place (nationally) for Best University Student Publication in the 2020 Catholic Press Association Media Awards.

Best Website for four-year colleges/universities in the annual competition sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Association of Journalism Educators (PNAJE).

Other winners and finalists:

Society of Professional Journalists regional Mark of Excellence Awards (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska)

General news reporting –

FIRST PLACE: Madison Pfeifer – “DACA students await Supreme Court Decision”
Finalist- Gabi DiPaulo – “A City Split in two: Students travel to the border wall

In-depth reporting –

FIRST PLACE: Austin De Dios- “Tuition increases don’t tell the whole story
Finalist: Dora Totoian- “Diversity and inclusion progress report: INCOMPLETE

Feature Writing

FIRST PLACE: Catherine Cieminski- “Curb your enthusiasm: Should you really pet that dog?

Finalist: Dora Totoian – “Faculty celebrates community and leadership for F-Gen Day”

Finalist: Delaney Vetter- “More than my stature: Navigating life with dwarfism”

Editorial Writing

FIRST PLACE: Dora Totoian, Gabi DiPaulo and Delaney Vetter

Online/Digital Feature Videography-

FIRST PLACE: Elizabeth Lyons-Best- “Behind the Scenes of the Penelopiad

Breaking News Reporting

Finalist- Madison Pfeiffer- Owen Klinger disappearance and death coverage (collection of articles, updates)

General column writing

Finalists: Annika Gordon, Dora Tototian, Carlos Fuentes

Sports writing

Finalist- Jamison White: Jacobo Reyes: Broad experience, a steady presence and a tough choice

Finalist- Kyle Garcia: Mary Cain’s slam on Nike sheds light on her year at University of Portland

Sports Column Writing

Finalist- Kyle Garcia and Morgan Wahler

General News Photography

Finalist – Molly Lowney- DACA Candlelight Vigil

Sports Photography

Finalists – Brennan Crowder- Soccer team celebrates after a goal

Online Feature Reporting

Finalist: Ajay Davis, Brennan Crowder, Elizabeth Lyons-Best- “Behind the Scenes of the Penelopiad”

GOLD CIRCLE AWARDS – Columbia Scholastic Press Association

News Writing (Planned News)THIRD PLACE: Carlos Fuentes, “City Removes Unauthorized Stop Signs”

Video Feature PackageTHIRD PLACE– Erica Lavik and Elizabeth Lyons-Best, “Hip Hop Kyle”

Gold Circle certificates of merit:

Breaking News– Madison Pfeifer, “Brush Fires Set Near Campus Considered Suspicious” 

Photo Slideshow– Brennan Crowder, “A Pilot’s Inside Look at Indy Car”

Single Feature Photograph– Paula Ortiz Cazaubon, “Tanzanian Children Watch for Mass Wedding” 

Interactive Graphic– Austin De Dios, “Analysis: UP Tuition Increases Don’t Tell the Whole Story” 

2019-2020 Tuition Increases

Meal Plans

Discount Rates

Click below to see Portland Magazine (Summer 2020) article by Roya Ghorbani-Elizeh

Two now-former Beacon staffers who graduated in May are interning as reporters at two Oregon publications this summer.

Former News and Managing Editor Maddie Pfeifer is reporting for The Portland Business Journal.

Former Opinion Editor Dora Totoian, selected through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism, is reporting for the McMinnville News Register.

Editor-in-Chief Gabi DiPaulo
News and Managing Editor Austin De Dios

Multimedia Editor Brennan Crowder
Living Editor Havi Stewart

Opinion Editor/ Sr. Photographer Jennifer Ng
Sports Editor William Seekamp
Copy Editor/Sr. Reporter Carlos Fuentes
Community Engagement Editor Ally Weberg

Editor-in-Chief Claire Desmarais “passing” the crown to her successor Gabi DiPaulo

Gabi DiPaulo, EIC for 2020 – 2021

A toast, Zoom-style!

The first known direct impact of COVID-19 on the University of Portland hit in late February, when the deadly virus derailed the E-Scholars spring break trip to South Korea and Japan.

The Beacon staff has been hard at work ever since, covering what is now a worldwide pandemic, and has not let up, even though the campus is effectively shut down and classes are online.

All-staff story pitch meetings and the weekly Editorial Board meetings have continued almost seamlessly on Zoom.

Interviews are over the phone, video conference or via email. The editing process, which has been a collaborative online process for years on Google Docs, has also continued with little disruption. The weekly newsletter continues, and is packed with UP-centric coverage related to Covid-19. Likewise, Beacon social media channels continue to provide daily updates.

Opinion editor Dora Totoian did a crowdsourcing project, asking students and faculty for feedback on how online classes were going.

Beacon Instagram
Claire Desmarais leads a Beacon staff meeting on Zoom.

Editor-in-Chief Claire Desmarais created a special landing page on The Beacon website for all Beacon Covid-19 coverage, as well as a private Facebook group for UP students called “Pilots Navigating the New Normal.”

News and Managing Editor Maddie Pfeifer has worked tirelessly leading the ongoing breaking coverage.

Photo illustration by Beacon photographer Jennifer Ng

The biggest challenge has been photography, since everyone is away from campus and scattered. Yet Beacon photographers have been creative with photo illustrations and file photos, and have solicited photo submissions from readers and other sources.

Click on the image above to view a powerful group photo essay and personal narratives about quarantine by Beacon photographers and videographers.

Our video producer, Taylor Ursulum, who lives in Hawaii, produced this video on quarantine grocery shopping.

Claire was recently quoted in a Portland State University Vanguard article about how student newspapers are rising to the occasion:

Claire Desmarais, editor in chief of The Beacon, stated, “a large part of our reporting and how we obtain information comes from having established relationships with club leaders, faculty/staff, students and the administration. We use social media and word-of-mouth to find pieces of information, and then go on to confirm that information with sources on the record.” 

Below is a sampling of screenshots of some of the coverage so far.

Students, faculty and staff continue to contribute to The Beacon opinions section, despite the campus shutdown.
Beacon Facebook post
Reporter Austin De Dios wrote this important story and many other Covid-related articles.
This piece about students on Studies Abroad scrambling to get home was Dora Totoian’s final Beacon article. Dora joined The Beacon as a freshman four years ago. She graduates May 3

UP’s (virtual) graduation on May 3 will mark the official end of Beacon publishing for this academic year. But, after interviewing applicants on Zoom, incoming Editor-in-Chief Gabi DiPaulo has already hired the 2020-21 Beacon staff. Here’s hoping for a healthy, safe and calmer fall semester.

-Nancy Copic, Ass’t Director for Student Media & adviser to The Beacon