Archive for March, 2019

Brennan Crowder, Sam Cushing, Dora Totoian and Maddie Pfeiffer accept the Silver Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in New York during 2019 Spring Break.

The Beacon’s work has been recognized recently by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the College Media Association (CMA).

The CSPA awarded the Beacon a Silver Crown Award for general excellence during the 2017-18 publishing year. A delegation of Beacon staffers received the plaque in New York City during the annual spring College Media Association conference.

At that conference, The Beacon received Second Place for “News Delivery” for its comprehensive coverage (including social media) of last fall’s campus protest against Fr. Paul Scalia.

Finally, we just received word that The Beacon is a regional finalist (or winner) in several categories of the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards. We are in Region 10, which encompasses Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The list of honored students and their work is below.

SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards

(Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska schools fewer than 10,000 students)

Breaking News Reporting

Claire Desmarais, Hannah Sievert: Former UP President Named in Sex Abuse Report

Claire Desmarais, Jennifer Ng, David Jacobs, Annika Gordon: Protest over Scalia LGBTQ Views Draws Hundreds

Breaking News Photography (schools fewer than 10,000 students)

Jennifer Ng:

scalia and mom- jennfier ng

Fr. Paul Scalia and his mother walk through protesters silently protesting his LGBTQ views. Photo by Jennifer NG

Annika Gordon:

We are Portland - breaking news photography annika

Jennifer Ng:

Gay is OK Jennifer Ng

In-depth Reporting – Wally Awards and aftermath

Olivia Sanchez, Rachel Rippetoe, Brigid Lowney and Kyle Garcia:


Feature Writing

Ana Clyde, Annika Gordon – “What Latinos look like”

Brigid Lowney, Molly Lowney – “Making Life Small”

Sports Writing, Rachel Rippetoe: 

Making Strides: Six Years of Athletics Under Scott Leykam

Sports Photography

Annika Gordon- 

coach ref photo

Molly Lowney:

Photo soccer coach celebrates with baby- Molly Lowney

Molly Lowney:

Benji gives thanks on field Molly Lowney

Online/Digital News Videography – David Jacobs, Claire Desmarais:

Students lead protest against Red Mass speaker

Online Opinion & Commentary- Rachel Rippetoe and Erin Bothwell:




Apple Awards – College Media Association

Second Place – News Delivery (for coverage of protest of Fr. Scalia)



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One of the benefits of being on The Beacon is connecting with Beacon alumni in a personal and professional way. During our trip to the annual College Media Association conference in New York, we met up with Rachel Ramirez (UP ’18), who gave us a tour of the Financial Times.

Rachel had done an extended internship there and graciously introduced us to editors and other FT staff members.

Later, we met 2017-18 Beacon Editor-in-Chief Rachel Rippetoe at the (CUNY) Newmark School of Journalism, where she is getting her master’s degree. Clare Duffy, 2016-17 Beacon News and Managing Editor joined us. She is getting her master’s in journalism at Columbia University, after working for a year at the Portland Business Journal.

Here are photos from that day.


In the New York office of the Financial Times, which is based in London.




Former Beacon reporter Rachel Ramirez (UP ’18) explaining a reference chart Financial Times reporters use to determine what kind of graph to use to illustrate data.


Beacon staffers with Rachel Ramirez (UP 18) and James Fontanella-Khan, US Corporate Finance and Deals Editor for the Financial Times


News you can wear!


Rachel Ramirez with Beacon adviser Nancy Copic at the Financial Times


2017-18 Beacon Editor-in-Chief Rachel Rippetoe leads Beacon staffers on a tour of the Newmark School of Journalism’s newsroom


Beacon alumni Rachel Rippetoe and Clare Duffy meeting up with current Beacon staffers

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Every Beacon staffer has to read the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, and it’s a resource to turn to in unclear situations. One session focused on explaining why it exists, how to use it, and a “case study” that generated a very interesting conversation.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is a statement of abiding principles that is intentionally not specific. It’s purposefully a bit vague so that it provides general guidelines for journalists. It sets standards for what is and isn’t acceptable in the field without telling people how to act in every situation.

Every Beacon staffer has to read this code in order to work there.

The presenters outlined a “case study” similar to situations that many campus newspapers have had to confront. An alum is applying to a job at a prestigious law firm, and there’s an article on the school newspaper’s website about a misdemeanor he committed a decade ago that has since been expunged from his record. He asks the newspaper to take it down so that it doesn’t hurt his chances. What should an editor do?

Answers varied widely, which I wasn’t expecting. Some (but not that many, surprisingly…) argued it should stay up while many said they would take it down. Another person said they’d keep it up but put an update at the top saying that it had since been scrubbed from his record. And the session leaders said they’d establish a take-down policy for articles related to certain crimes in specific situations.

This conversation was one of the most interesting and puzzling parts of the conference because frankly, while I was frustrated that so many people would have simply taken it down, it was fascinating to hear and consider the varying perspectives on this matter. Working through them forced me to analyze my own view in some ways but also reinforced to me why I believed it in the first place. This session highlighted the importance of reflecting on the Code of Ethics and relying on it.

-Dora Totoian

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Two of the most interesting sessions I attended were related to each other and also relevant to conversations people at UP and at many other colleges are invested in. One focused on the value of diversity in the newsroom and the other centered on microaggressions the news media engages in and how they perpetuate larger systems of intolerance. The most interesting component of both of these sessions was the ensuing conversations and the various perspectives people from colleges all over the country had.

What stood out from both sessions was the importance of employing a very broad definition of diversity that extends beyond race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation to consider aspects of identity like age, immigration status, socioeconomic background/class, ability, faith, being a first-generation college student, and more. Thinking of diversity in this way highlights more of the ways people are diverse and the varying knowledge and perspectives their experiences bring.

People on the diversifying the newsroom panel described several strategies their college or professional newsrooms relied on in order to recruit and retain more diverse candidates. A student from the Yale Daily News explained that the newspaper has an entire site dedicated to recruitment and demystifying the hiring process so that students are well aware of all the job opportunities available (especially jobs beyond writing) and what working there is like.

That panelist and several others also emphasized the importance of ensuring these jobs are decently paid (or paid at all). If the only people who can afford to work in student media are those who have the luxury of not having to earn much money to support themselves, newsrooms are going to look largely as they have. The panelists explained several ways of securing this funding that hadn’t crossed my mind, such as trying to establish scholarships from endowments or soliciting money from outside organizations (like professional journalism organizations) to fund these positions and ensure more people can participate.

It was fascinating to hear people’s stories about trying to include diverse perspectives in their newsroom, their struggles, and the opposition some of them had faced. They described the struggles that came with not having a very diverse staff included not coming up with story ideas that spoke to what everyone on campus was experiencing. Another was finding it hard to cover different communities on campus because of the lack of personal connections and the massive blind spots many staff members had that didn’t let them responsibly and thoroughly report.

The media microaggressions session was related to these themes because a key way to be aware of microaggressions is to have people from a wide range of backgrounds on staff who will read things through different eyes and perhaps see a problematic or hurtful idea where other people would perhaps not.

A crucial point that the presenter raised was that journalists are wordsmiths – therefore, they must be well read people who are aware of both the denotation and the connotation of words. However, a story and the message it communicates is conveyed by so much more than the main text, she noted. It’s in the headline, the captions, and the photo or video choice. Therefore, all of those components have to be designed intentionally.

The conversations here were especially interesting as we looked through examples of news media microaggressions, such as the coverage of Serena Williams last summer or a TIME cover about Hillary Clinton from a few years ago. Some people viewed these examples as extremely offensive while others were arguing that they could have multiple interpretations. In my opinion, some of them could be understood differently; however, many of them could not, and the work of the presenter to navigate and moderate these conversations emphasized why it’s important to be conscious of these dynamics.

At the end, she presented the media circle of empowerment, which concisely summed up the role and impact of the news media. Some delicate topics were discussed during this session, but this last component reiterated the great power and responsibility journalism (even on college campuses) has to do good and create a more welcoming, respectful world.

-Dora Totoian

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our tour group

Visiting Democracy Now! was the highlight of this conference, because of the up-close look we got at the special kind of journalism it produces. Democracy Now! is an independent news program that doesn’t accept money from “advertising, underwriting or government agencies.” As a result, it reports on many issues or delves deeper into issues that are often neglected by more traditional news organizations. For example, on the day we visited, the hosts spent two-thirds of the broadcast interviewing people knowledgeable about the US-backed Saudi Arabian war in Yemen, including a Yemeni human rights activist who had testified on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

What’s surprising about the space of an organization that reaches so many people is that it’s quite small, and much of that space is taken up by the studio and the control room. However, Democracy Now! is broadcast on over 1,400 radio stations, has hundreds of thousands of television viewers, and translates its online articles into Spanish. We watched the 8:00 a.m. broadcast live, spoke with one of the co-hosts, Nermeen Shaikh, and one of the guests a bit afterward, and later went on a tour of the studio.

They have a team dedicated to producing content in Spanish, which I really appreciated!

The conversation with Shaikh and the guest, William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Research, was particularly interesting because they described how thorough the process of booking guests for the show is and how it differs from that of many traditional media sources, a process I had not considered too deeply.

Shaikh explained that they have about a day to plan a show, which involves doing the relevant research (a big part of which is digging into books – like real, paper books) to find the most knowledgeable people for a given topic, seeing if they’re available, and then doing an interview with them before they visit the show the following day to be interviewed on air.

So. Many. Books! all over the studio, which shows their commitment to thoroughly investigating each topic they report on.

Hartung explained that what distinguishes Democracy Now! from many other news shows on television is the context they provide and the amount of time they allow guests to talk and genuinely delve into an issue and educate an audience on it. Shaikh bluntly stated that you can’t talk about the war in Syria or a similarly convoluted and sensitive topic in five minutes, reflecting the philosophy of Democracy Now!.

Seeing the thoroughness of Democracy Now!, its emphasis on education, and its understanding of news as a service to the public was incredible and thought-provoking. The entire space is filled with books – in the studio, on desks everywhere, and lining all the walls – and they communicate a clear message: news stories occur in a greater context, and it’s critical to do the hard work to understand them in order to report and consume them.

All of us pretending we’re Amy Goodman.

-Dora Totoian





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action air air shooting aircraft

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

The Beacon has a respectable media department, if I do say so myself. As a photographer that works for the Beacon you could argue that my position is biased (in which case you’d be correct), but I also have a unique view of our media arsenal.

We have strong photographers and videographers, but we are lacking severely in one key place, a place that separates us in many ways from “competing” on the professional level: aerial media.

I attended three workshops on drone photography and videography that covered basic drone flight, photo and video production, and legal hurdles during my time at CMA’s conference in New York. A drone would unlock an entire realm of media production that we have yet to experience. For instance, imagine an aerial video shot of Merlo Field from above at kickoff, or a low, fast diving shot through the trees that showcases the campus on the other side.

Aerial shots help give perspective and context to story as much as they provide unique, cinematic angles. For instance, patterns and geometric shapes often emerge from the ordinary at 450 feet in altitude. Further, drone shots are especially good at establishing the size and scope of a subject while giving a fresh perspective.

Logistically speaking, a drone would be very easy to maintain and incorporate into the Beacon’s “arsenal.” The DJI Mavic Pro 2 folds up to fit in the footprint of a composition book, making it easy to transport in a backpack and easy to stow in a drawer. It can be flown from a smartphone and has removable batteries for extend flight time. Spare parts can either be bought from the manufacturer or designed and fabricated in-house by Shiley students.

I had been considering either suggesting that the Beacon purchase a drone or purchasing one myself before the conference, but after attending these workshops I am now thoroughly convinced that the Beacon needs a drone in its media arsenal as I believe it is the next logical step in growing our media department.

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New York City is filled with a constant bustle of activity and an energy that floods your senses. Everything is happening around you as fast or faster than you can take in and interpret it. There is no way you could possibly hope to document it all. To capture what you’re after technically and emotionally in a photo is a venture in mindfulness, which is why New York lends itself particularly well to film photography.

The bulk of the photos I shot on this trip were taken on my Canon FT QL, a 60-year-old film camera with manual focus, manual aperture, fixed film sensitivity, and manual frame advance. No, this wasn’t just my inner Portland hipster coming out, or because I enjoy the darkroom process, but rather because it is very difficult to get a good, fast photo out of a slow, manual camera, which in turn forces me to be a bette photographer.

A large part of being a photo journalist (and a piece of advice the workshops stressed time and time again) is knowing what to take a picture of, how to make it interesting, and when to capture that “money shot,” all of which is a practice of being present, observant, and creative as much as it is about being technically proficient. Using a fully-manual camera forced me to strip down my work to the bare essentials, which in turn yielded far more interesting and print-worthy photos. (Unfortunately, I haven’t developed the rolls of film yet, so the photos shown were instead shot on my Sony A7 digital camera using the manual-focus lenses from my film camera, all while using the same mindset and techniques as if it were a film camera.)


It’s quite hard to reach 88mph in downtown NYC, apparently


This is Oscar and he is very good at skating


They wouldn’t let me drive it 😦


A man waiting for the subway


A shot of traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge


Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge at night

I believe that the reinforcement of these techniques through the conference workshop sessions as well as the practical application during the photo shootout has taught me to not only be a better photographer technically and creatively, but it also taught me how to do more with less.

– Brennan Crowder


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