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Hello, this is Fiona. I am one of the news reporters who went to New York for the College Media Association 2020 conference in Times Square. Though some of the events of the conference itself were canceled, I still got a lot out of it that I can take back home and apply to my work at the Beacon.

Though I have spent a lot of time in New York with my family, I learned to look at the city with a whole new eye. I saw how important it is for journalism and learned to appreciate how much information comes and goes from the city. We walked past many important sites for journalism including CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC and CBS. These are things you see on TV and in newspapers, and it felt very cool to be learning about journalism in the center of it all.

On the second day, we were lucky enough to meet with a UP and Beacon alum at CNN Clare, where she writes for their business and tech section. I really appreciated meeting with Clare, she had an incredible drive and demeanor. She worked extremely hard to get where she is today, at CNN. It gave me motivation for networking and to continue writing more and more stories.

We were also able to meet with another UP and Beacon alum, Malika, who works for ESPN now. The day before we met with her, she had broken on Sports Center that the NBA was suspending all play because of the corona virus. Right after she met with us, she had to leave to record another interview for Sports Center. I learned from Malika how important it is to stay connected with all of your contacts in journalism. Ideally, if they feel comfortable with you, they will give you more information.

At the conference, my favorite session was from two professors at the University of Florida who are making a podcast about information deserts. Since I have made podcasts with the Beacon, it was really interesting listening to their process and getting tips and tricks. They stressed how important it is to have a clean sound with no background noises so that listeners stay tuned-in for the whole podcast. Most notably, from their presentation, they talked about the access of public records online and how that can give reporters the upper-hand. I found this really interesting, and a helpful tool that I could use if I was not getting enough information from my sources.

I also really enjoyed another session on diversity and inclusion. A student from a different school asked a question about how to make a diverse paper without a diverse student population. The panel answered to go out into the community and get more from them to make it diverse, and to just cover the minority populations as much as possible. I thought this applied very well to UP and the Beacon, and was a great reminder that we should always be mindful of inclusivity.

I really enjoyed my time in New York with the Beacon, despite a few road blocks. I am thankful we got this opportunity, and I hope to return again soon!

Fiona O’Brien

Hello, blogosphere,

I am sure that, in spite of the commotion happening in and around The Bluff, you have been rapidly refreshing the Beacon staff blog with bated breath, waiting for me to share my synthesized wisdom that I accumulated from my experiences this past week in New York!

My fellow Beaconites and I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Thursday morning, ready to take on our first day of the College Media Association (CMA). My favorite sessions from Thursday were about how to cover traumatic events and about digital diversity.

I strolled into my first session about trauma journalism at the wee hour of 8:00 am (5:00 am in Portland, but who’s counting?). The session was about how to cover traumatic events in a respectful and ethical manner. Three of my biggest takeaways from this session were:
– Give those experiencing trauma control over the interview. Allow them to go on unrelated tangents and monologues, don’t pigeon hole them to directly answering the questions you asked.
– Verify everything. Wrong reporting is terrible to those that are suffering.
– Be ethical and don’t judge.

Another memorable session I went to Thursday was a Q and A about digital diversity and seeing yourself in the content you produce. The biggest thing I gained from this session was that as journalists we should embrace vulnerability in our writing.


I woke up less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the subsequent day, in fact, to put it in positive language, I woke up sluggish and with the crust in my eyes obstructing my vision. Did I let my physical well being, or lack thereof, stop me though? Of course not!

My favorite seminars from Friday were given by the keynote speaker Beth Karas and from Ben Fischer from the Sports Business Journal.

Karas’s keynote was about her experience as a former attorney that transitioned to a legal-reporter. The main transferable piece of knowledge that I took away from her presentation was that when covering delicate matters you have to be compassionate and treat every case as if it is the biggest thing happening.


I found this seminar personally interesting because I only have a vague inclination of where I want my life to go post-college and, given my majors, I believe that law school is an incredibly viable and likely possibility. Somewhat paradoxically, however, I do not have much interest, as of now, in becoming an attorney, so to see another potential career path that I could walk down with a law degree was valuable for me.

The seminar offered by Fischer was also intriguing to me, in large part because I have a passion for the behind the scenes of sports, but also because I will be the Sports Editor next year and looking at sports through a more abstract lens is something that I think would be interesting to incorporate into the sports section next year.

Fischer’s talk consisted less of advice for aspiring journalists and more about current events and how sports are being affected by Covid-19, specifically how insurance companies will be affected by the postponement and cancelation of major sporting events.

I found Fischer’s talk valuable primarily because it reassured me that as a professional journalist you don’t need to just do features, news, sports, or some other broad, nondescript category of journalism, you can create a carve out a niche that is more tailored to your interests and make a living doing it.

The highlight of my time in New York, however, was being able to meet up with Beacon alums and living legends Clare Duffy and Malika Andrews! Clare currently works at CNN and Malika at ESPN.

Clare and Malika are the benchmarks for excellence that we try to live up to and what all Beaconites aspire to be, so having the ability to listen to them talk and pick their brains, as well as observe and experience first-hand how their minds work and how they carry themselves was, without hyperbole, surreal and enlightening.

As I am currently writing this I am trapped 20,000 feet in the air with nothing to do but reflect on my week in NYC (I, somewhat, unfortunately, forgot to download any Netflix shows to pass the time).

The most valuable thing I gained from this trip was hearing time and time about the importance of networking. Speaker after speaker as well as Clare, Malika and Rachael stressed the importance of cultivating a robust network and how it is critical to being successful in any field.

Being afforded the opportunity to go to New York and to participate in the CMA was incredibly valuable and through listening to Clare and Malika as well as speakers at the CMA I believe that I have a clearer vision of the areas that I need to improve on as a reporter.

This is an experience I am not soon to forget!

William Seekamp

Our experience at the College Media Association Conference was definitely an interesting one. A few days after flying coast-to-coast for the conference, we were informed that our classes back at UP were going fully online, and that much of the conference would be going home. In New York, things were particularly hectic as tourists vacated the streets and a state of national emergency was declared. Although unexpected, I think that the alarm and uncertainty surrounding this conference was a lesson in journalistic experience, media literacy and the ability to calmly and quickly process information.

One session that I attended had been cobbled together that morning by a day journalist who had been reporting on COVID-19 in the Boston/NYC area. One of the strongest take-aways was that readers should not be unduly scared or worried by coverage of an outbreak. He cautioned us to stick to just the facts, and when using editorial/opinion based pieces, to only explain how your coverage has been influenced. He told us to continue working with human interest, writing stories about people and communities, not just numbers. A session like this was very helpful to me, as for the entirety of the conference I couldn’t help but to stress-refresh Twitter and Apple News. So much misinformation and panic has been swirling around the COVID-19 outbreak that it was refreshing to hear about it from a journalistic point of view.

I also attended a panel by journalists from LA’s city college, entitled “Gender Awareness & Inclusive Language.” As I consider next year’s journey as editor-in-chief, making our newsroom as inclusive as possible is constantly at the forefront of my mind. At The Beacon, we advise asking sources for their pronouns, but I’m aware that it doesn’t always, or even often happen. Next year, I want this practice to be as standard as asking for the spelling of their name. I also want to make sure that during our Beacon boot camp and orientation, both new and returning staffers state their pronouns while introducing themselves. One focus of this panel was that normalizing the practice of vocalizing pronouns creates a culture in which staffers feel more comfortable expressing themselves and even correcting somebody who accidentally misgenders them.

Likely my favorite session was called Communicating Like a Leader, a very interactive session in which student journalists from across the country practiced communicating about issues within their newsrooms. This was anywhere from overpowering advisors to staffers who disrespected the newsroom space by using it for personal reasons. The session leader helped us practice an “assertive communication” style, which was described by the mantra: I can’t control others, but I can control myself. This leadership style is respectful, clear and competent. This particularly hit home for me as I will be leading next year’s staff. I know that I will naturally stumble into my leadership style, but this session really helped me visualize what I want for myself and my staffers.

Another thing that helped me visualize next year, and beyond, was meeting up with some Beacon alumni who have found their homes in New York. Every former staffer we met with was so informative and so inspiring – it made us starstruck to think that this group had been in our spots just a few years ago.

This definitely was not how I pictured the conference, or my first trip to New York City, going. At the end of the day though, this was a lesson in life – sometimes, it just happens. Although you may have no control of the hailstorm around you, you can control the way you react. I’m glad that ultimately, our group decided to make the most of our time in NYC, and to learn as much as we could even as panic ensued. Thank you to The Beacon and Nancy for making this experience possible!

-Gabi DiPaulo

CMA 2020

This conference was slightly derailed by the COVID-19. Due to the timing of this conference, many groups and speakers dropped out — resulting in many secessions getting canceled. However, this also means that we had more intimate class sizes and one on one interactions with speakers. Dispute all the craziness, I really enjoyed the trip and think it was a really valuable learning opportunity.

The part of the conference that I enjoyed the most was hearing from The Beacon alumni that we were lucky enough to meet. The past staffers as well as a few speakers mentioned the importance of reaching out to people/sources when you don’t need them. This will foster those relationships and make people feel more important. One of The Beacon alums specifically amazed me, she had such a powerful presence that radiates confidence and practically demanded respect. However, she said that she has not always been this confident and at the beginning she too was scared. Hearing this was really helpful to me to see how someone who seems to have all the confidence in the world wasn’t always like that. It’s inspiring to know that confidence can be grown and developed and gives me more hope for myself in the future.

One of the more interesting sessions I went to focused on the different communication styles and how to communicate like a leader. This was really helpful to me because I tend to be a very passive communicator, and this is something I have been avidly working on for a while. It was nice to be able to see the written benefits that can come with stating what you need from other people.  

I really had a great time and am really happy I had this experience. The sessions and meeting the alum were amazing, but I think my favorite part was getting to spend more time with my amazing fellow staffers and get to know everyone better.

  • Havi Stewart

Hi everyone, Carlos here.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2020 CMA Conference this past week, and although many of the sessions were canceled because of COVID-19, I still learned so much and had a great time.

The two main takeaways I would like to share are how important diversity is in media content and engagement and how important of a role student journalists can play on their campuses.

Diversity is important. We know this, but I can’t repeat it enough.

One of the sessions that I attended was called Why Can’t We Call it Racism? and was presented by Tamara Zellars Buck. I could summarize what I learned in these 50 minutes, but I think it’s best summed up in Buck’s own words: “You cannot discount someone’s experience just because you don’t understand it.” as well as “The needle isn’t going to move unless people of all color are having these discussions. Put that issue out there and let it be uncomfortable.”

What I found so interesting about this talk is that diversity and inclusion are such popular buzzwords in today’s culture, but we need to make sure it is being put into action and not just talked about. Buck told us that although journalists have to be objective and simply tell the news as it is, racism needs to be called as it is, and we shouldn’t be scared to make a solid point about the facts.

Another session I went to was called Digital Diversity, which was presented by a group of students from Mt. San Antonio College. Their focus was on how they have produced so much diverse content, even when at a school that might not have a very diverse staff or administration. Some of the key points I took away from this talk were: there is always an angle to cover a story that hasn’t been done before. Diversity and inclusion are not new concepts, but they play a different role in everyone’s lives, and those individual stories shouldn’t be ignored. All of the journalists had such interesting stories to tell, and they told us that just because a story might not seem like a big deal, you never know who it’s going to resonate with.

I found this point fascinating. As a reporter, sometimes it can be difficult for me to see why every story I’m working on matters, but I need to remember that every story is important to someone. Just because I wouldn’t read a story doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth reporting on.

Another session that I went to was Diversity in College Media. At this session, I learned some statistics about college media. I learned that 38% of journalists between 18-29 were white men as of 2018, and 46% of journalists between 30-49 were white men. The same year, 56% of journalists over 50 years old were white men. What we are seeing here is an increase in diversity over generations, which is a promising sign for the future to come.

Media groups should be focused on recruiting a diverse group, which can be done in a few different ways. It is important to advertise to many groups on campus, and to make sure that the content in the media is representative of everyone, so that journalists can see themselves in the stories they are sharing with others.

Every story should be a top priority, no matter what.

The keynote speaker, Beth Karas, shared her experience as a crime journalist with us. She gave us some advice which I found very compelling. She told us: “Every story is the most important story to whoever is in it, so every story needs to be a top priority.”

Coming back to the Beacon, there are several things that I would like to contribute to our newsroom. As Tamara told us, we need to be having discussions about how we are going to produce diverse content in meetings, and having those discussions during our meetings. Even if some people think we talk about inclusion enough, this is a never-ending conversation that needs to be consistently talked about. Another thing I want to bring back is making the most out of every single story we work on. There are stories that I have worked on that I now realize I could have made better than I did, but I know that every story is important to someone, so they deserve to have a high-quality story put out.

I had a great time at the CMA conference, even if we didn’t get to meet many other journalists who couldn’t make it out. I am excited to bring back these lessons to the Beacon to ensure that we are doing the best job that we possibly can.

Carlos Fuentes

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh in The Beacon newsroom sharing the stories behind his stories about Saudi students charged with serious crimes, who then fled the country with the help of their government.

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, whose self-described beat the The Oregonian is “murder and mayhem” visited the newsroom recently. His series “Fleeing Justice” uncovered a pattern involving college students from Saudi Arabia studying in the U.S. who were charged with crimes here. Those students, who represent a small fraction of Saudi college students in this country, were literally bailed out of jail by Saudi government representatives and whisked out of the country with no repercussions.

Kavanaugh told Beacon staff that the series was triggered by a conversation with a Multnomah County prosecutor who had mentioned his frustration about a hit-and-run , in which a 15-year-old Portland girl was killed, and the accused was bailed out and disappeared. Kavanaugh wrote about that case, and soon began to learn about similar scenarios in Oregon and across the country. About 75% of the cases involve sexual assault.

Kavanaugh’s series of reports led to congressional action led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sponsored legislation requiring the FBI to de-classify any information it has related to the Saudi government’s role in helping the students get out of jail and out of the country.

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh in The Beacon newsroom

Ultimately, President Trump signed the legislation in December. According to Kavanaugh’s latest piece, one recently declassified FBI document indicates the Saudi government “almost certainly” helps its student flee justice, and will likely continue doing so unless the U.S. government confronts the Saudi government.

Stay tuned. We know Shane Dixon Kavanaugh will keep us informed.

My biggest takeaway from the Online News Association (ONA) conference in New Orleans, Louisiana is this: journalists are working hard, but struggling to stay on top of the rapidly developing digital world.

This was ONA’s 20th anniversary.

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I loved celebrating the 20th ONA conference with these three ladies.

In the last 20 years, what has been expected of journalists has shifted dramatically. Things, stories, experiences are being driven by social media and the news has had to adjust accordingly. This is really the reason ONA exists. Everything is online.

The sessions I went to and what I learned had more to do with doing journalism well on the internet than doing well in general. This is an important distinction since adding the element of “online” actually adds overwhelming layers of an infinite number of things to think about, pay attention to and address.

What do I mean by this? Well, rapidly developing technology and the vast world of virtual reality means:

  1. A journalist has to do it all: report, photograph, film, stay ever-present on social media, and also stay somehow human. Gone are the days of hiring a full-time photographer. This is something we have known for a few years now and did not come as a surprise to me at this conference. However, the reality of what that meant for journalists doing “just one thing” was made especially dauntingly apparent here.
  2. Journalism has to think vertically. For a long time, journalists have been thinking horizontally. Horizontally-shot photographs are what made the front page because that is what fit the layout best. Even when most of the news was digested on the computer or the television, journalists were still thinking horizontally since that is what fit those screens best. However, we have really rather suddenly entered a vertical world: the phone. The amount of conversations I sat in on surrounding how to grow a paper’s social media presence using vertical imagery shouldn’t have been surprising, but as a visual-thinker, I cannot bring myself to warm up to the idea of shooting video vertically or making a horizontal video fit a vertical screen.
  3. News outlets are creating positions not only for social media teams, but for audience editors who essentially exist to gauge social media response towards (what The Washington Post Senior Audience editor Everdeen Mason dubs) social media “experiments.” This means diving into analytics to determine beyond what went well, but to gauge why things did not go well, to come up with digital transformation strategies, to teach their reporters where their traffic is coming from, and to effectively develop an audience on all social media platforms. Yes, that even means some audience editors are thinking of ways to appeal to Tik-Tok audiences.

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One session left me with a few tips and tricks for tackling a shift to a vertically organized digital world.

After this conference, I am not sure what the future of journalism is. All I know is what other journalists know:

  1. Good journalism is a necessity.
  2. Good journalism is going to have to keep up with the times.

But the issue with keeping up with the times is, more than being concerned with what we are leaving behind as we move forward into a digital world, we need to be aware of what we are taking with us.

As Rappler journalist Maria Ressa pointed out in her speech at ONA this year, “Colonialism moved online…Lies laced with anger and hate spread faster than boring facts.”

Journalists have a lot to do, it’s incredibly overwhelming, nobody knows exactly what’s next, but hey! The NOLA food was AMAZING.

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Food. Such good food.

 

Annika Gordon