Archive for March, 2013

The Beacon has won 10 regional Mark of Excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The competition includes collegiate newspapers from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The Beacon competed in the “small” university/college category (5000 or fewer undergrads).

What we don’t know is whether the awards were for First, Second or Third Place. That will be announced at the SPJ regional conference at Gonzaga the weekend of April 13. First Place finishers advance to the national SPJ Mark of Excellence competition.

Here’s the list of award-winners from The Beacon:

Editorial Writing – Caitlin Yilek
Best All-Around Non Daily Student Newspaper  – Beacon staff
Breaking News Photography “She said yes!” -Jackie Jeffers
Feature Photography  “The story behind the ink” by Giovanna Solano
Feature Writing “Molly’s Legacy: Hope for Haiti” – Kate Stringer
General Column Writing Sarah Hansell, Amanda Munro & Lydia Laythe
General News Reporting “Access Denied” – Phillip Ellefson
General News Reporting “Students Cooperate but still can’t party”-Kelsey Thomas
In-Depth Reporting “What’s in our air?” – Rosemary Peters
Sports Photography “Round Two!” -Jackie Jeffers

-Nancy Copic

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Katie and I took a trip down to the Museum of Natural History where we saw butterflies in the conservatory!IMG_9015 IMG_9023IMG_9009 IMG_9155 IMG_9161

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Dinner at Ellen’s Stardust and Beacon photos in front of NBC and The Rockefeller Center.

– Giovanna Solano

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CentralParkAfter the College Media Convention in NYC, I asked the Beacon staffers who attended to list 5 things they learned there, without duplicating items on a fellow staffers list. They shared these with the entire Beacon staff at their weekly critique meeting:

Shellie Adams;

1. Google yourself and see where you stand on the Internet. Improve, and develop a strong and professional online presence.

2. Don’t draw conclusions and don’t tell people what to do in stories.

3. Websites and Apps: there are tons of them but here’s a few. Tout (16 second videos), Overviewproject.org (searches through dense pieces of writing to find hooks and important aspects), Storyful.com (website for journalists to post breaking news and a blog)

4. You’ve got to communicate with your photographer. When you cut a story ,you tell the reporter. If you cut a photo tell the photographer.

5. Photos of people looking bored are boring photos. Photos of white people shaking hands is a bad photo especially when they are men in suits. There has never been, since the invention of photography, a good cubicle photo. Don’t run photos of old people over students unless the old person is doing something embarrassing.


Kate Stringer:

1. Three rules for making a national news story relevant to campus news

2. Don’t be hesitant to use off-campus sources for a story

3. Push-back questions for the push-back questions from tough sources

4.List of unnecessary adjectives: absolutely, very, necessary, complete, amazed, startled,

5.If source has trouble articulating how they feel say “what do you find hardest to talk about?” “Why is it hard to talk about this?”


Kelsey Thomas:

1.Pick one visual focus for each page and put it towards the middle and top.

2.More white space will make the paper appear cleaner and easier to read. Negative space is positive.

3.While objectivity is important, it is okay to take charge of the story – sometimes it’s okay if the reader can tell someone is talking to them / that you feel sympathetic towards victims of a crime.

4.Don’t let your interviewing become a quote safari.

5.Working on long term issues: create data sheet / google docs


Joey Solano

1. When photographing something serious or traumatic it is good to learn how to detach yourself emotionally and focus on documenting everything in order to represent the people or places in the truest way.

2. If you’re in public you have the right to take anyone’s photo with out without asking.  Photographing a protest or riot can land you in jail but know the law is behind you.

3. Almost everyone will miss almost everything you do on social media. Work hard to get the material and get in out there.

4. For the future; Put a price on your work you deserve to be paid.

5. On networking; Reconnect with formality and purpose, do not be a stalker, and instead send them updates resumes and work you are proud of.


Katie Dunn

1. Put verbs in headlines so that people know what is going on.

2. To make game recap stories more interesting, add a feature story wrapped inside of it.

3. You have to think about different personalities and people reading your stories so they can appeal to as many people as possible.

4. When you are interviewing someone never ask a question that isn’t a question.

5. Talk about ESPNU Campus Connection.


Sarah Hansell

1. Headlines are just as important as stories because the majority of readers scan headlines and pictures and don’t read the whole story. So when writing headlines, read the whole story carefully, make the headline eye-catching, not broad, and fit the voice of your paper. You can usually pull it out from a small detail from the story, or sometimes a play on words when the story isn’t too serious.

2. Reporters, photographers and designers should communicate about their visions for the story as soon as it’s assigned. Photos and design are just as important to the story as content, especially since that’s what more readers will look at while bypassing the actual story.

3. Ask everyone you interview to record the interview! It saves you just in case a seemingly benign story gets controversial.

4. The places you want to work care about your presence on social media and the internet – not just that it’s not unprofessional, but that you have one. So start tweeting!

5. Be creative, even with hard news stories. Anecdotes and narrative arcs make stories much more engaging.
Kathryn Walters

1. Social media is the key to getting a job these days. Twitter is especially important for building your brand.

2. Details are extremely important in any story you write. Even insignificant details, like someone’s boots, you can get revealing information from.

3. Use both sides of your brain in writing stories, especially features or narratives. Look for the emotional cues.

4. Always be collecting. Constantly use your smartphone, but be careful about what you share.

5. Don’t use kitty cats or puppy dogs in writing. Make everything as concise as possible.


-Nancy Copic

Ass’t Director of Student Media, University of Portland

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Cmanyc13 has drawn to a close and our brains are buzzing with hashtags, headlines and new story ideas. We got to meet social media superstars, renowned professors from across the country and fellow student journalists who have had to deal with campus controversies that received national attention. Now that it’s all over there are couple of things that are still buzzing around in my head that The Beacon should take to heart:

Did this headline grab your attention?

According to one of the session leaders, you’re probably not reading this right now. In fact, if you’re on this blog, you probably just scrolled down the page, scanned the words in bold and the photos, and if nothing was shocking enough to read further, you scrolled right on past the rest of this post. So…it remains to be seen why I’m even writing this right now…OH RIGHT, it’s for the minority of you who are “committed readers,” and the few of you scanners who are fascinated enough by my stunning headlines and photos to continue on. So, if by some miracle you’re still reading, you’ve probably gotten the gist of what I’m trying to say. Headlines are, in many cases, the only words people who pick up the newspaper read. So it’s important for headlines to be accurate and not mislead the story, and to be eye-catching and interest-sparking.

“UP installs new water fountain” is a boring headline that appears to preclude a boring story – and it seems to the reader that all the information they need to know is right there in the headline. Headlines need to feature the most interesting detail of the story, and the subheading can elaborate on what that means. “Athletes’ thirst quenched after two-year dry spell,” for example, is a slightly more interesting headline. It features two details, “athletes” and “dry spell,” the former of which would catch the attention of any athletes vested in getting a new water fountain for their fitness center. It also tells you just how long the fitness center has been without a water fountain, which might surprise some, and interest others because they’ve had to deal with the problem. In order for editors to come up with more engaging headlines like this, they need to read through the whole story and figure out what the story is, not just a summary phrase of the broadest interpretation of the story possible. Reporters work hard on stories, and it’s a disservice to them and to the paper to guarantee that no one will read their story because the headline makes readers nod off.

NY times

Beaconites in front of the NY Times building

Can I get a photo with that, please?

Most section editors are former reporters, so they often think like reporters – in terms of content, ledes, nutgraphs and word choice. The story is the most important things, photos get inserted later, and design is just a way to make the story more readable. But like I wrote earlier, most readers are scanners, so the majority of them won’t read the story, or at least all of it. Don’t be discouraged – having the whole story, and having the whole story well-written and accurate is vital. There are those that will read the whole things, especially those who are directly involved in the story. But photos and design should never be afterthoughts or fit in at the last minute because there is extra space. The photos and design will be seen by vastly more readers than will actually read the stories, so they need to be given just as much time and though. The leader of this session suggested having the photographer, designer and reporter meet as soon as the story is assigned and have a face-to-face conversation about their vision for the story. From then on, they should be in contact whenever the story morphs or changes. If a photographer goes to an event and gets a really great photo, they should notify the reporter so that they can go talk to the subject of the photos, keeping the photos and story connected. When the photographer has a very clear idea of the details of the story, they can take photos that represent the story best. Similarly, when the designer is in the loop the whole time, they can come up with a design that represents the story, showcases the photos appropriately and catches the reader’s eye. When all three are in communication throughout the entire process, they can all share input into every facet of the story and how it is presented, giving the paper a chance to be the best it possibly can be.

#buildyourbrand #getyourstoryoutthere #unnecessarilylonghashtagsareneveragoodidea

During the convention, Beaconites got the chance to meet Twitter superstar Sree Sreenivasan and VP of Twitter Mark Luckie, who made our heads spin with hashtags and the importance of building our brand. In the information age, twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets are as much a part of  your resume as your references and work experiences. Social media cannot be considered a private outlet for everything that pops into your head. Whoever you want to hire you will look at your social media presence, and if it’s unprofessional or shows that you don’t seem to fit in with the company’s mission, you’ve hurt your professional reputation and your chances of getting hired. Not only that, but having no social media presence is also a problem. Social media  is a huge part of journalism today, and being active in social media is a must. What’s more, is that having connections is vital in journalism, and with social media you can have connections with people across the world whom you may never have met. These connections can help you find stories and source, as well as make career connections. Sreenivasan talked about how having the skills to get and write the story is only half the battle. Having the skills to get the story is just as important. You could be insanely talented at getting information and interviews and writing the story, but if you can’t get the story out there, then the story you’ve covered is basically useless. Nowadays, social media and the web world are the primary platforms on which to share information. If you show, by your social media presence, that you can be successful at sharing stories and being seen, you show that you know how to get stories out there.

Mark Luckie

Beaconites with Twitter VP Mark Luckie


Cliches aside, this convention has taught us all things that we will now bring back to our work at The Beacon, having learned how to me more professional, effective journalists and create a paper that is a must-read. There’s so much more we learned…such as to use narrative arcs and anecdotes in stories to lure the reader in and create a story that really communicates the emotions of what you’re covering, instead of only reporting cold, hard and dry news. We learned so much more than we can fit into a few blog posts, but everything we learned will help push us to be better student journalists. #cmanyc13 #studentjournalist #hashtag #goodnight

-Sarah Hansell

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Another day, another fifty people talking about Twitter (#hashtag #everything #now). The last series of sessions were just as helpful, and I’ve since been wandering around mumbling things about “leadership” and “freelancing” and “networking.” Strangers have been giving me a wide berth which is particularly rare in NYC. Here are a few of the session highlights:

Social Media 

Language like “putting the story to bed” leads journalists to think that once they turn in the final draft of their story, they’re done. However, if a journalist wants their story read it is partially up to them to get their story “out there” through social media. This is part of why social media presence is so important for journalists and is one of those skills that gets you hired. Here are a few of Sree’s tips concerning social media:

  • Social media can help media pros find new ideas, trends and sources, connect with readers in new and deeper ways, bring attention to their work, and help create their brands. It is important for journalists to use social media in all four ways!
  • Your twitter bio should be clear and direct in describing who you are and what you do. It should also include your email address and website.
  • Remember that every time you post on Twitter of Facebook it is a public document. Ask yourself – is this putting my best foot forward? Is this enhancing my brand?
  • Success formula for social media: post information that is helpful, useful, timely, informative, relevant, practical, actionable, generous, credible, brief, entertaining, fun and occasionally funny. All your posts have to be some of these things.

200 Story Ideas 

Repeat after me: everyone and everything has a story idea if you look hard enough. Everyone. And Everything. By being constantly curious, journalists should find new and fresh story ideas every day. Take the same old topics, such as academics and student life, and look at them in completely different ways.

I left this session an hour early to get to another, but I still left with quite a few new ideas under my belt. Weird study habits or animal cruelty in science labs, anyone?


Story Idea: dangers of public transportation?
Beacon staffers Sarah Hansell and Shellie Adams ride the subway.


Apparently color isn’t just to make things pretty (although that too!) It has the power to make readers pay attention to certain articles, feel a certain way towards these articles and even remember the articles better later. In short – it’s important. But there are a few things to keep in mind to use color affectively:

  • Use a single color at least three times for balance. 
  • When using small pops of color, go vibrant.
  • Be careful that color under text does not make the text difficult to read.
  • When you have great photography, the best way to show color is on a clean, white background.
  • Keep in mind the meanings of certain colors when pairing them with articles (ie. red = passion / excitement and yellow = sunshine / optimism)
  • Image

Journalism literacy 

Just because someone tweets something does not mean it’s true. Just because someone took the time to chart or graph something does not mean it’s true. Just because a bunch of news sources are sharing the same info does not mean it’s true. Just because it’s on a press release does not mean it’s true.

Basically – check everything out for yourself, even if it means calling people outside of your school bubble. Recognize that everyone you interview has an agenda and a bigger idea they want you to buy into, even if they are not conscious of it. Don’t just report what people say. Avoid the “he said she said” and report the truth.


Example of a true statement: The Beacon is the most read newspaper on Wall St.

I can’t decide whether I am more sad that we have to leave the conference (can’t we just stay and talk about journalism in NYC forever?!) or more excited to put all that we learned into practice. I’ve even seen several Beaconites practicing their new Twitter knowledge already!


(Yes, I screenshotted your tweets. Yes, I just invented a new word. Okay, that’s all.)

Nice work! Cheers.

– Kelsey Thomas

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Times SquarePhoto by Kate Stringer

Times Square
Photo by Kate Stringer

Covering national news – call up the FBI while you’re at it

My guess is that if you’re here, it’s because you go to a small private school where nothing ever happens, and if things do happen, the administration refuses to tell you about it.

Thus began Michael Perrota’s talk on covering national news on campus. For schools like UP, hard news stories are hard to come by. So, when a national news story hits, it’s only natural to want to cover it. The trick is simply how. In order for a college campus to cover a national news story, Perrota said one of three criteria must apply:

The story is applicable to the college campus

The story is applicable to the local area

The story is applicable to the life and experiences of a college-aged student

Filling one of these three criteria is not too challenging. What is challenging is coming up with the right sources to talk about an issue. Perrota said that once you have sources that are knowledgeable on a topic in national news, the story is set.

For national news stories, sometimes the best sources will be off-campus. Perrota said there is nothing wrong with branching out to sources like lawyers, business owners, or students from local colleges if they add to a story. Newspaper clips that show reporters have put in extra effort to contact sources outside the campus will impress their future employers. Besides, Perrota pointed out, getting an interview with the FBI is a lot easier than getting an interview with a university president.

Another source to scavenge for story ideas is PEW research. Many surveys can become stories if they are about college students.

Beaconites at the conferencePhoto by Nancy Copic

Beaconites at the conference
Photo by Nancy Copic

Details, details, details

The next time I interview a source, I’m going to ask them where they got their shoes. And it’s not because I’m in need of a new pair or a creep.

By asking students in our session where they got their shoes, Rob Kaiser discovered that one student is 20 months apart from her sister, who she regards as a best friend. Random? Not if you knew that she was wearing her sister’s shoes to the conference. With this demonstration, Kaiser pointed out how important the details are to revealing people’s character.

The amount of detail in an article can make or break a story. There is a fine line between too much extraneous information that takes away from the point, and not enough detail to engage readers.

Using details in stories take readers to an angle not usually explored. Kaiser showed us an example article about Jackie Kennedy at the funeral of her husband. Rather than focusing on simply the 5 W’s, the author “zoomed-in” on a moment where Jackie struggled to take off her black glove and remove her wedding ring to place by her husband’s body. It was simple description that added a powerful component of connection to the story. The reader saw the human element in the story rather than the simple facts.

I loved this talk because it focused on the art of writing that can be added to news stories. Sometimes I find myself getting bored with a story and frustrated with the writing process because it seems so lifeless. This session gave me a new way to add life to my stories.

“Writing is really a wrestling match with yourself – it’s an act of self-discipline.” –Rob Kaiser

-Kate Stringer

A bit excited to see The New York TimesPhoto by Kathryn Walters

A bit excited to see The New York Times
Photo by Kathryn Walters

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