Archive for October, 2013


A typical scene between sessions at the ACP convention: highly caffeinated and motivated student journalists hungry to learn tools of the trade, digital and otherwise.


Beacon Opinions Editor Philip Ellefson, Editor-in-Chief Kelsey Thomas and me before the Pacemaker awards ceremony on the final day of the convention. One of the reasons we went to the convention was that The Beacon was named a finalist.



None of us expected The Beacon to win. And it didn’t. But we were honestly thrilled just to be finalists, which entitled us to a shiny plaque. There was a small problem, though.SAM_0702

PS- Paging copy editor: Portland, Pennsylvania?SAM_0701

You can see the list of Pacemaker winners here.

Nancy Copic

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I was not excited when I heard Hoda Kotb was the keynote speaker on Day Two of the convention simply because I am not a fan of that 9 a.m. hour of NBC’s Today show, which she hosts with Kathie Lee Gifford. However, I must say she won me over, and I think she inspired many students as well.

Hoda Kotb starts by taking a photo of the group for tweeting.

Hoda Kotb starts by taking a photo of the group for tweeting.

 Fresh out of Virginia Tech, Hoda hit the road on her first job hunt, making her pitch at one small television station after another. It was rough.

“Twenty seven news directors told me to my face I was not good.”

That’s right. Twenty seven news directors rejected her. But finally, she was hired in Greenville, Mississippi.  The news director there had confidence in her.

“You only need one person who believes in you,” Hoda told the crowd.

From there, she progressed from small market to bigger market TV stations. But she said she made each place her home.

“To be a good journalist, you have to go to a town and own it,” she said.

She particularly loved New Orleans, where she lived and worked for 6 years.  Later, she covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked for Dateline NBC.SAM_0655


But some of her most valuable lessons came when she got breast cancer several years ago.


Three things having breast cancer taught her;

1) Stop wasting time. Hold on to the things you love. Let go of the things you don’t.

2) “You can’t scare me.” Her new mantra. Having survived cancer, she had nothing to fear. Ever.

3)The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life. FInd what you love and figure out how to get paid for it.

During Q & A, students asked mostly for career advice.  For one student, it was a bit more personal. She wanted to be a TV reporter, and she had always been brave. But her dad had been killed in a car accident, and it made her afraid. She asked Hoda what to do about that fear that was holding her back. Hoda called her up to the podium, hugged her and promised she would be okay.SAM_0663



Interview Techniques

This session with Dan Close from Wichita State University had a lot of practical advice. I found myself wishing the entire Beacon staff was there. Some of his tips:

  • Quit being boring when asking for an interview. Who wants to talk to a boring person?
  • Quit asking permission for interviews. Assume you have authority. Come out forceful without being a jerk.
  • Be comfortable with silence after your question. Wait for your source to answer, even if it takes a while and feels awkward.
  • GIve sources their chance to tell their story. You are doing the story regardless.
  • Crowdsource
  • Look for information about your source online.
  • When people are being vague with answers is the time to bore in with more specific questions.
  • Ask them if they have questions or opinions on the subject.
  • Play psychologist. Figure out what makes your source tick?
  • Bob Schieffer’s two favorite follow-up questions: What do you mean by that? Can you give me some examples?
  • Don’t allow quote approval.
  • Keep your readers in mind when asking questions.
  • Imagine yourself winning the gold medal for interviewing. Visualize success.
  • “Use your big person voice.”
  • Always interview for Page One
  • Use humor
  • If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. You can even ask them to write something down in “two sentences my grandma could understand.”
  • Listen to complainers and conspiracy freaks.


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As the sun rose over the Mississippi River, more than 2000 collegiate journalists and their advisers prepared for Day One of the Associated Collegiate Press convention in New Orleans.

Kelsey, Philip and I had to choose from dozens of sessions. So many looked so interesting, so relevant to media in general and student media in particular. Among the highlights for me this day: sessions on infographics, critiquing and sexual assault on campus.


At least some millennials have an affinity for newspapers. Most of them are at this convention, apparently.

At least some millennials have an affinity for newspapers. Most of them are at this convention, apparently.

Online infographics

Alex V Cook, adviser of The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University led this session on using Tableau Public and Google Fusion Tables to make digital infographics. He spent a few minutes emphasizing what we already know: People don’t read newspapers so much anymore, especially younger people. He referenced a term coined by Google: Generation C , so called because they create, curate and collaborate on content.  And by doing so, they create community.

He spoke about the importance of telling stories in new ways, specifically infographics. What skill do journalists today need to know?  Excel.  They need to learn how to find a large amount of data, crunch the numbers and find the story.

As an example, he showed some infographics from a story about the salary of Les Miles, LSU’s football coach. They made the charts from the free software, Tableau. He also recommended Google Fusion Tables, which The Beacon already is using for its online Public Safety reports.


Critiquing for Real

This session offered some fresh ways to approach what is for The Beacon and me a weekly ritual. Dan Close from Wichita State University led this. Many of his suggestion were simply ways to “frame” or “brand” the critique.


His ideas included:

1)  A Top Ten List (the best and perhaps the worst?)

2) The good, the bad and the really ugly

3) Have sources critique your coverage. Or invite alums or students from an editing class.

4) Have critique be content-specific each week. For example, focus on ledes one week, photos the next, news judgment the following week.

Underlying all of these techniques is the notion that a critique is an important teaching tool. They should be supportive and explanatory

Speaking of editing, ACP had a copy editing/geography problem. Notice anything wrong with Kelsey’s name tag? It was a reoccurring theme throughout the conference.

Portland, Pennsylvania? Hello, copyeditor?

Portland, Pennsylvania? Hello, copyeditor?
Critique workshop

Campus Rape Coverage Success Stories

Editors of three college newspapers that have aggressively covered sexual assault on their campus spoke about the resistance and challenges they faced and the gratification of perseverance. In all cases, they said their administrations seemed more concerned about university image than sexual assault. The editors also criticized the practice of treating sexual assault as a disciplinary matter rather than the crime that it is.

“These people (university disciplinary boards) aren’t trained to handle these things,” Samantha Vicente , an editor from the student newspaper at Oklahoma State University, said.

But Nicole Comparato of The Daily Tarheel at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it was important for student journalists to persevere in covering this issue, despite resistance from university administration.

“You really can make a huge difference in raising awareness, she said.

Nicole Comperato (UNC, Chapel Hill), Samantha Vicent (Oklahoma St. University), Katie Taggert (Otterbein)

Nicole Comperato (UNC, Chapel Hill), Samantha Vicent (Oklahoma St. University), Katie Taggert (Otterbein)


-Nancy Copic, Ass’t Director of Student Media and Adviser to The Beacon

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Kelsey Thomas, Philip Ellefson and I landed late tonight in New Orleans, where we will spend most of the next four days in conference rooms with 2300 other college journalists and their advisers. We’re here for the Associated Collegiate Press fall convention, a whirlwind of workshops on all things college media. But tonight, on the eve of the convention, we took a walk down Bourbon Street.

Lest you think things got too wild, I will tell you that in the midst of this hedonistic haven, Kelsey checked in with The Beacon crew at home putting together tomorrow’s edition. Here is a photo of her reviewing the PDF of page one. That’s dedication.photo-19


Now, as the moon glows above the Mississippi, The Beacon delegation will try to get a few hours of sleep before diving in to #CollegeMedia13.


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photo-16Congratulations to The Beacon’s  “designing women” + last spring’s assistant design editor, Zach Hartman for winning two Gold Circle Awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York.

photo-14The Beacon won Third Place (in the nation) for Overall Design of a tabloid-size college newspaper. Student newspapers from Ithaca College and Loyola Marymount University won First and Second, respectively.


This was truly a team effort. Congrats to Liz Tertadian, Shellie Adams, Emily Strocher, Laura Frazier and (designing dude) Zach Hartman.

photo-17The Beacon also won Third Place for Page One Design for this issue, designed by Emily Strocher and Shellie Adams.

caffeineThe Beacon won two Certificates of Merit for “Single Subject News or Feature Package, single page design”:

“Drugged for Success”– Story by Laura Frazier, Design by Shellie Adams:

aderallThe second Certificate of Merit was for the feature “Professors tap up the dance floor.”

Story by Hannah Kintner, Photos by Becca Tabor, Design by Rachel McIntosh

tap dance story 2013-10-02 at 6.23.31 PM-1

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