Archive for November, 2013

You Only NOLA Once

I’m already ashamed about that headline, but now I’ve committed.


Nancy, Philip and I rolled into New Orleans Wednesday evening. We were playing hooky from a couple days of class and work, so we were all pretty exhausted from trying to get on top of homework and get the Beacon prepped before heading out of town. Naturally, a walk down the infamous Bourbon street woke us up quickly.


Bourbon street actually was one of the more stressful places I have ever been. And I work in a newsroom.

Thursday morning we checked in and got these awkward ribbons to stick on our name tags because The Beacon was a Pacemaker finalist. The name tags were also a perfect example of why everyone needs a copy editor.


Apparently we moved to Pennsylvania.

Here’s a recap of a couple of my favorite sessions from the first day:

Newspapers to Magazines 

I chose this session because editorial is definitely a direction I could go in, but the speaker also gave great feature writing advice. Some highlights:

  • The speaker said the best writers he has ever had were from a newspaper background. Newspapers force you into deadlines and efficiency and teach you to fact check and copy edit your own articles.
  • Whatever you’re interested in, become an expert and start writing about it…
  • …but you don’t have to be an expert about something to write about it well.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in a lot of noise in the media world, but always remember it’s all about the people.
  • And the quote of the session: “Not to drop names, but when I interviewed McJagger I asked him “tell me something about you that even your friends don’t know.” Weird thing is, people also like to answer that question.”
  • OK another quote i couldn’t pass up: “Don’t let anyone tell you you have to pay your dues. No you don’t. They’re just afraid you’ll take their job.”

Critique Meetings

Our critique meetings at The Beacon have been a little dull and predictable lately, so hearing different ways to mix them up was really helpful. Some ideas mentioned were small group workshops, top 10 lists, reaching out to sources for feedback, focusing on a particular area like headlines, captions, or design and bringing in outside editors and designers to critique. Last week, I put a few ideas from this session to use and focused part of a critique meeting on finding story ideas.


This picture has nothing to do with anything in this post, but I took it in New Orleans and it is great so I snuck it in.

 I attended a few other practical sessions on web-first planning and writing and also got to listen to the staff of the Crimson White talk about their experiences covering the first African-American girls to go through rush. Hearing how their story went viral and made a difference was a reminder of the power of student media.


Kelsey  Thomas (Editor in Chief)

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One of the most compelling presenters at the conference was Ted Jackson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist from the New Orleans Times-Picayune who prefers to be known simply as a journalist.SAM_0712

Jackson’s riveting account of covering Hurricane Katrina left many of us in tears. The backstory to the photo below went like this: He was on the end of a bridge overlooking the people standing on porch railings of their flooded house. As he took photos, a man yelled at him to stop. “This is an important moment, and the people of the world need to see this,” he said.

Then women asked for his help. They wanted to have the little girl cling to a log, which they intended to push through the water towards him so she could be saved. But Jackson said he knew the current would just carry her away before the log could reach him. So he said no. Eventually help arrived, and all of them were saved. But Jackson didn’t know that until one year later when the Times-Picayune did an anniversary special on Katrina. He found the family in a Houston shelter. They were happy to see him because they wanted to see the pictures he’d shot of them. “We need them for our family history,” they said.





Ted Jackson of the TImes-Picayune

Ted Jackson of the TImes-Picayune

 You need to care about the people you cover, Jackson told us. “Learn to see with your heart, ” he said.

More photos from Ted Jackson:




SAM_0719-Nancy Copic, Ass’t Director of Student Media

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