Archive for September, 2018


By Hannah Sievert

At ONA, I learned a lot about the future of technology, the importance of networking and how to be a better writer.

One of my favorite and one of the most useful sessions I went to was a session on how to be a stronger writer. The speaker gave out a sheet that had 50 writing tools on it from “Writing Tools” by Roy Clark. The examples she used in the presentation were, to me, amazing. She shortened down complex ideas into understandable phrases.

A few memorable writing tips from her presentation:

-Keep key elements at the end of a sentence. She used the example of “The queen, my lord, is dead” from Shakespeare. He could have written the sentence a number of ways but kept the key concept at the end, which keeps the reader’s attention throughout the sentence.

-Spread gold coins throughout the story. She said she keeps a bag of gold coins on her desk to remind her of this idea. The key is to reward readers by reading through the whole story by including interesting tidbits, an interesting detail or a sharply written sentence in the middle of the story. So many people always focus on the start of the story, but a great detail and a well-written bit of info in the middle of the story will continue to hold the audience’s attention.


-Keep subject and verb together near the beginning of the sentence. Don’t overcomplicate the writing process – make sentences easy to understand.

-People don’t like reading big numbers, so lift out heavy number cargo, like data, into a chart, map or graph so it’s easy to see.

-When editing: cut big, then small. Reconstruct the organization and the structure of the piece first, then go through and cut commas and shift words around.


The second most interesting presentation I went to was about the future of journalism jobs. A study on journalism jobs found that in the past few years (since 2015), news media organization jobs have dropped by 31 percent. This is during a time period when jobs in the U.S. increased by 5.7 percent overall.

The research then studied what skills were most sought after in the media job postings. They noticed that technology skills are sought after everywhere. Bilingual skills are becoming more and more sought after. And there is a big demand for skills in SEO writing, understanding of analytics, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Premier Pro.

Multimedia and video production skills are increasingly being sought after in positions for TV, radio and print newspaper companies. Even though jobs are down, Anna Lyn Kurtz mentioned that “the storyteller is needed everywhere” in plenty of other jobs, like marketing, movie production and in business. There will always be jobs that need strong journalistic skills, like critical thinking, writing, editing, communication and storytelling.

Finally, on the last day, a session speaker reminded us of Mary Oliver’s “instructions of living a life,” which include: pay attention, be astonished, tell about it — a message for us writers to take back to the newsroom and into life.


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As a veteran reporter and new editor for The Beacon, ONA allowed me to learn more about journalism as a whole, but also smaller aspects of media I never knew before. Attending the conference as a student surrounded by professionals in the journalism business elevated my professionalism to a new level. We sat alongside CNN, New York Times and other big-name media companies to hear from their experiences as journalists in a time when people often scrutinize the media.


Media and Trust:

The first night night after we landed in Austin we went to a session about media trust. According to a study conducted by Gallup pole, most Americans believe the media has a role in democracy and is important. But more young adults have negative views of the media and cannot decipher between fact and opinion within a story. This leads to what some readers believe is “political bias.” To make a piece of news credible, some Americans want journalists to pay more attention to accuracy, bias and transparency.

Another lecture session highlighted media manipulation and the importance of understanding the type of content you put out and what it may trigger for some people. The speaker at this session said that journalists aren’t Congress, and as journalists, we have the choice over what we want amplified. The speaker said this doesn’t mean we “curtail” free speech, but choosing not to amplify hate speech can allow for radicalism to weaken. Using certain terms can trigger readers to Google search keywords that can lead to hate speech or negative content later on. We must be cognizant of what we amplify in our stories, but that does not mean with are impeding on free speech.

And the speaker also highlighted that what makes something newsworthy is subjective. This means, a topic or issue may be newsworthy to one person but not to another. Not all media is “weighted the same.”

Lessons from Black, Asian and Feminist Twitter:

One of the other sessions I attended discussed covering issues related to diversity and inclusion. When a journalist covers an issue relating to diversity, the speakers said we need to form relationships with our sources before we begin reporting and writing stories. This is important because it provides context, history and creates a foundation to move forward. A lot of times, journalists have an “unconscious bias” relating to diversity issues because of a lack of exposure.

Subtle things can also help maintain trust with sources and specific groups. Pronouncing cities correctly or spelling names correctly may sound small, but if done wrong it could cause a lack of trust. And finally, doing follow-up stories on these issues is very important because it shows that you care. Check in on how an issue has developed or staying in contact with sources can help maintain trust.

Culture for Experimentation:

This session I sat in a group of about 5-7 people and we discussed how to create an environment in your newsroom that allows for experimentation. I found this one very helpful because as student journalists, we have the option to experiment with new ways to write and report on stories. This allows us to give our readers a combination of traditional writing and new multimedia through infographics and multimedia.

Some specifics that allow for a culture of experimentation include setting aside time for experimentation (brainstorming), building a safe space to fail (be an authentic leader and show some flaws) and space for experimentation (don’t shut down bad ideas).

SEO Optimization:

This session was extremely interesting because I had no idea about SEO optimization before this conference. The way Google filters through content and moves it to the top of Google searches is a complete mystery. There has been some research as to how they filter content and decides what goes to the top, but it is very tricky. Using key words that people would most likely search for in the heading and the body of the story optimizes it. You have to ask yourself when making headlines: What are readers searching? What key words and stories am I missing?

Having this skill is very important because it not only helps with increasing traffic to the website, but also challenges journalists to be more cognizant of how they phrase headings.

Overall, ONA educated me on more than just journalism, but also gave me helpful skills to become a better leader and more empathetic human being. Listening to speakers explain their own experiences created a more practical and authentic learning environment than just sitting in a classroom might do. Understanding some of these journalism skills will not only help me improve The Beacon, but also in my own professional career.IMG_5772.jpg

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#ONA18 – Not just for journalists, but digital enthusiasts, too


I have never considered myself to be a journalist, but the annual Online News Association conference made me feel like one. While I now work for The Beacon, my major is still marketing, and my school life and work life are still very much business-based. I was shocked when Nancy asked me, a brand-new staffer, to join her and two other well-established staffers at ONA, but nonetheless, I knew this would be an amazing way for me to immerse myself in the world of journalism, a world in which I have very little experience. Spending time in Austin, feeling the hot air and smelling barbecue LITERALLY all the time was a dream, but being surrounded by some of the brightest minds in journalism and media was even more of a dream. Here are my Top 5 Takeaways and a short list of my Top 3 Favorite Sessions.


  1. Media/Journalism is a TOUGH Industry

Not only is public trust in the media lower than ever before, but many small news sources are failing to make money and are being forced to close down. Local news is the key to a successful, peaceful, and informed community, no matter how small or large of a scale. With so many local news sources struggling to find a way to bring in revenue, the industry is losing valuable information, sources, and voices in communities.


  1. Email is Still a Powerful Tool

As the Beacon staffer who creates and edits the weekly newsletter, it was incredibly valuable to learn how powerful email can be when used correctly. Email newsletters allow news sources to connect in an intimate way with their readers, giving them a more casual and individual way to consume news and important stories. They also give news organizations a way to present information in a more visual and creative way, which appeals to different audiences than hard news.

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  1. Transparency is Key

Consumers of news have very little trust in the media already, and journalists now have to focus on gaining that trust back in addition to reporting on important events, people, and happenings. It’s so important for news organizations, especially small ones like The Beacon, to be transparent with their readers, including information about the story writing/vetting process, our correction procedures, and eliminating biases.


  1. Social Media is Important for News Consumption

Whenever I’m looking to learn more about what’s happening in the world, I go directly to news sources I know and trust (CNN, BBC, NYT, AP, etc.), but many young people today are using social media to learn about what’s happening in the world and their communities on the daily. Having a solid social media presence that tells the story in an easily-digestible way is so important to keeping loyal readers and attracting new ones.


  1. Technology and Media/Journalism Go Hand-in-Hand

The number of times speakers talked about AI and algorithms in sessions was too many to count. AI is an up-and-coming piece of technology in a variety of industries, but journalism is starting to adapt it in some really unique and innovative ways. This new technology can help eliminate bias in stories, make the editorial process more streamlined, and find patterns with how readers consume news and tailor their experience in an individualized way.

My Favorite Sessions

  • Beyond Facebook: How to Survive & Thrive After Newsfeed Changes
  • Email as a Driver of Innovation & Loyalty
  • #TwitterForNews: An Inside Look at New Products & Partnerships



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Beacon Boot Camp 2018

Starting the year with lots of enthusiasm…

Ed Board

The new editorial board kicks off the year at a barbecue/planning meeting at our adviser’s house. Pictured: (Back row, l to r: Kyle Garcia, Brigid Lowney, Annika Gordon, Natalie Nygren. Front row, l to r: Hannah Sievert, Delaney Vetter, Ana Clyde, Claire Desmarais




Here are some shots from all-staff Beacon Boot Camp, a four-day journalism crash course.


Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sievert and News and Managing Editor Claire Desmarais lead the first day of training.


Multimedia Editor Annika Gordon (L) tells staff about copyeditor Ana Clyde (R) after interviewing her.


Beth Nakamura 2018

Award-winning photojournalist Beth Nakamura from The Oregonian coaches Beacon photographer Jeff Braccia during a workshop she gave for Beacon staff.


Investigative reporter Gordon Friedman tells Beacon staff about stories he’s working on for The Oregonian.


Jose Velazco, UP’s Digital Initiatives Coordinator, gives Beacon staff a tour of the Digital Lab.


Claire Desmarais, David Estrin and Autumn Fluetsch repping The Beacon at the Activities Fair.


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