Archive for April, 2019

UPDATE: Brigid and Molly Lowney’s story, “Making Life Small: Student shares her experience living in a tiny house,” won the national SPJ award (First Place) for Feature Writing for colleges/universities with 10,000 and fewer students.

The Beacon’s coverage of the student protest against Fr. Paul Scalia’s appearance at the annual Red Mass has won the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Breaking News in Region 10 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska). That story now goes on to compete at the national level.

Scalia Protest screenshot

Student journalists whose work appeared on the winning entry: Claire Desmarais, Annika Gordon, Jennifer Ng, David Jacobs.

The Beacon also took First Place regionally in several other categories: Breaking News Photography, Feature Writing, Sports Photography, Online Feature Reporting and Online Opinion and Commentary. The regional winners listed below also advance to the national Mark of Excellence competition.

Breaking News Photography Winner: Annika Gordon

We are Portland - breaking news photography annika

Feature Writing Winner: Brigid Lowney, Molly Lowney

Making Life Small: Student Shares her Experience Living in a Tiny House

Tiny House screenshot

Sports Photography Winner: Molly Lowney

Photo soccer coach celebrates with baby- Molly Lowney

Online Feature Reporting Winner: Brigid Lowney and Molly Lowney

Two ROTC Commanders Help Pave the Way for Women in the Military

Women in Military screenshot.png

Online Opinion/Commentary Winners: Rachel Rippetoe and Erin Bothwell





Second or Third Place in the regional Mark of Excellence Awards included the following:

Hannah Sievert, Claire Desmarais- Breaking News

Ana Clyde, Annika Gordon – Feature Writing

David Jacobs, Claire Desmarais – Online Digital News Videography

Rachel Rippetoe – Sports Writing

Olivia Sanchez, Rachel Rippetoe, Kye Garcia, Brigid Lowney – In-depth Reporting

Coverage of the Wally Awards and the aftermath:






Annika Gordon- Sports Photography:

coach ref photo

Molly Lowney- Sports Photography:

Benji gives thanks on field Molly Lowney

Jennifer Ng – Breaking News Photography

Jennifer won Second and Third Place for the Photos below:

scalia and mom- jennfier ng

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

Gay is OK Jennifer Ng




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A Friday at the New York Times

This weekend I attended the 12th annual Student Newspaper Editors’ Workshop.


The New York Times can seem a looming giant of journalism, but the people that work there are as human as anyone. Extremely impressive humans, but people nonetheless. At the workshop in between a few shameless plugs (like for the New York Times’ new TV show, “The Weekly” premiering in June) and some Times trivia, there was a lot to learn from this team of enthusiastic professionals.

Journalism is always innovating

For a media outlet to survive, it’s important that they’re present wherever people are consuming information. Today, that’s mostly on social media. As the Times accrues a wider audience Assistant Managing Editor Sam Dolnick says it has become more important to show your work (here’s what I know, and here’s how I know it) in a way which brings humanity into everything you report (make people care by balancing wonder and experience), and do so within people’s media orbits.

Digital journalism also opens up opportunities in mixing coverage between things like traditional articles, photo essays, live blogs, videos, and various forms of infographics and interactive pieces. The most important thing is to develop media which is factual and easily consumable. Big words and complex phrases can alienate your audience. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your stories, just leave the thesaurus at home.

Journalists are always improving, even the pros

When hiring correspondents, New York Times National Editor Marc Lacey looks for characteristics that show you’ll improve as you work. Be prepared to answer the question “What do you have to work on as a journalist?”, because the best journalist always want to get better. Enthusiasm is infectious, and it comes across in your writing. Have a good time as a journalist, relish in the opportunity to learn about and report the world, and that will show in your work.

Unexpectedly in the middle of the workshop, we got the opportunity to listen to columnist Nicholas Kristof tell stories and answer questions about his experience covering global poverty and social justice. From covering the Darfur genocide to visiting the Saudi Arabian consulate mere months after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, Kristof has seen things which rocked him to his core, sometimes while fearing for his life. Kristof said his work has shown him that “talent is universal, but opportunity is not”.

Headlines. There’s more to it than you may think

Later in the workshop, Senior Editor Mark Bulik shared the results of headline testing he conducted. A headline should give a truthful, succinct reason for someone to read your story. Real news outlets have no business engaging in clickbait. There’s a reason you wrote the story, now tell people that. Bulik’s advice boiled down to 12 characteristics of a good headline. There’s no need to use all 12 at once. Stick to one or two and you’ll be set.

  • Offer a surprising thought
  • Use vivid language (if a story uses a superlative, get it into the head)
  • Employ a conversational tone (punctuation like periods and colons can help)
  • Present readers with a mystery
  • Use powerful quotations (be careful using quotations which only represent one side of a story however)
  • Emphasize a telling number
  • Promise an explanation by starting with who, what, when, where, how or why
  • Create internal tension
  • Focus on the result, not the process that produced the result
  • Play up the human angle
  • Make clear who is to blame for a problem (when the story clearly does so)
  • If it’s a visual story, emphasize the visuals

During the presentation, Bulik showed use examples of headlines which did and didn’t use these tools. Those that did typically attracted 50-400% more views. Headlines can help with search engine optimization as well, but be careful of using too many keywords. One or two words from Google trends will typically suffice.

Photo captions are an often overlooked detail in stories. It’s easy to just use a description of the photo as a caption, but that’s just redundant. A caption should include a compelling detail which explains what the reader can’t see in the photo. It should include context beyond just the who and where.

— Sam Cushing

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Fruitful Freelancing

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of full-time jobs in reporting and media is set to decline over the next 10 years. This is a concerning statistic for those in the field, but all hope is not lost. By 2027, 50% of America’s workforce is expected to be freelancing. Professional freelancers and editors Emily Bloch and Lucy Diavolo gave their best tips for thriving in this growing field at their workshop “Freelance Flex”.

Personal connections are essential to any media job. Build a relationship with an editor as a freelancer, and they’re that much likely to hire you. To do this, you need to make yourself as easy to work with as possible. Figure out each editor’s style of communication (text, email, slack, etc.) and use it. Give them times during the week that you’re available, and communicate problems early. Work with their style and be open to edits. When writing, make your stories easy to edit. Submit polished drafts with clearly cited sources.


Many good relationships start with a pitch. How you propose a story tells an editor a lot about whether or not they want to work with you. A pitch should be succinct, professional, relevant, and well researched. Don’t waste time with long paragraphs and complicated ideas. Make your case with potential sources and an angle, and move on. Research your editor to find out their story process and what they cover. Don’t send a tech story to an arts editor, and definitely don’t do it over social media (unless specifically asked). Make your pitch relevant to the publication. An editor can tell if you’ve send the same exact thing to a hundred other papers. If you want to write a feature for Vice News, you should know how it fits into their broader coverage, and why your angle is useful. You should also demonstrate why you’re the right person to write the story. This can mean providing links to your clips/website, or giving a brief bio. Finally, a good pitch should demonstrate prior research on the issue. If you’re not willing to do the legwork to research the pitch, how can an editor expect you to research the story?


Freelancing is tough and competitive, but can be lucrative if done correctly. Even if it doesn’t work out at first, keep trying and always be prepared to learn. Once you get started, advocate for yourself. If you know what your work is worth, don’t be afraid to communicate that. A lot of editors were probably in the same situation once, and will listen if you’re sincere.

— Sam Cushing

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Editing Advice from the Soviet Union


A man wearing a libel suit playing the soviet national anthem, so begun Michael Koretzky’s workshop “Editor -in-Grief: Rule with an Iron Fist, Wear a Velvet Glove.” As Koretzky circled the room, riding crop in hand, he imparted five pieces of wisdom upon us all about managing an efficient newsroom.



In a mass emergency, first responders treat those who can be saved first. According to Koretzky, the same principle applies to the newsroom. Instead of focusing all of one’s effort on reporters who can’t be saved (so to speak) editors should help those with potential to grow. This includes things like firing a slacker to set an example, and publishing sub-par stories to reward reporters who’ve made progress.


Overthrow the Old Order

If what your old process doesn’t work, stop doing it. Changing habit is hard but not impossible. Koretzky recommends hosting guest speakers to reinforce good practices and shake up the newsroom. To keep momentum on stories, save a few non-time sensitive ones for a rainy day and stress deadlines for others.


Embrace Your Impatience

News is a fast-paced industry, and your newsroom should reflect that. Koretzky said that editors shouldn’t be afraid of “blowing their top” over things like deadlines. To prevent this from happening, however, you can break up deadlines. If the story is due on Friday, make the lede and nut-graph due on Wednesday. After an event on campus, discuss it as a staff to generate ideas. When editing a story, focus on teaching rather than rewriting. This saves time and helps reporters learn. Hold short meetings that get to the point and get going.


Write and Go to War

Editors are busy. But as leaders it’s important to set an example. If you can make time to take finish a story on time, then your reporters have no excuse not to. When picking these stories however, think big and write small. Choose a local issue that appeals to a broader topic. On college campuses, issues like Title IX and diversity can be specific to your University while engaging a larger audience.


Edit and Rule

According to Koretzky being too nice as an editor can


 get you into more trouble than being too tough. Make a strong first impression, then ease up as needed throughout the year. Critique a story in front of your staff with the other editors, and tear it apart. When asking for story ideas, don’t assign them immediately. Just because someone pitched something doesn’t mean they would be the best person to cover it.

There are a lot of little things you can do to polish a newsroom, but the most important is simply being mindful. Don’t be content with what you always do just because it’s familiar. If you see a problem, fix it and move on. Rule with an iron fist, but wear a velvet glove.

— Sam Cushing

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