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Hey everyone! It’s Claire Desmarais, the 2019-2020 editor-in-chief for The Beacon. Last week, I went to the Online News Association conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, with Maddie, our news and managing editor, and Annika, our multimedia editor. We spent the week attending lots of sessions related to journalism and online news, which has definitely given us some better insight into how we can improve our work here at The Beacon. Here’s a breakdown of what I learned in the different sessions and ways to improve our content at The Beacon.

Building Trust: Newsroom Tools for the “Fake News” Era (Panel)

This was the first session I went to on Thursday, and one of the more important sessions as well. With so man accusations of fake news today, building trust with your audience has never been more important. Journalists have a responsibility to create and maintain trust with our audience so we can effectively communicate the information we’ve gathered. Trust is what creates sustainable news organizations, and without it, there is no news organization. Some of the panelists talked about how journalism is imperative to democracy, but if journalists don’t maintain their credibility and trust, then they can cause more harm than good. But to break it down, we need to define trust. Trust is about building a relationship with our readers to serve the overall public good. It requires proactive listening, reliability, consistency, and an emotional connection. It’s a difficult process to build trust but we need to prioritize it and continue to ask questions and provide explanations so we can change people’s attitudes and enhance their overall media literacy.

Essentially, we have to get it right. If we don’t maintain accuracy, then trust cannot be built.

 

Audience Metrics/Development

Another session I attended was in the form of discussion groups. For the first 45 minutes, I was at a table talking about how to create an effective social media campaign and some examples of successful campaigns. Some examples included doing live streams on Instagram and Facebook, conducting Twitter polls, using Instagram story videos, and using Instagram stories to TELL a story. With the increase in social media usage, developing effective campaigns for news organizations has never been more important. The social platforms allow for a new way to communicate messages in a different type of medium other than on a website or in a printed newspaper or magazine. With social, we can curate more organic conversations around certain topics. It also allows for the audience so see behind the scenes of the organization through the use of images.

Breaking News

Breaking news is something that happens in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s an accident, fire, flood, shooting, or something else, there are specific steps in place that journalists need to know to make sure they approach the situation correctly.

  1. Slow down
  2. Check each other’s steps
  3. Independently confirm information
  4. Allow the story to continue developing
  5. Correct mistakes
  6. Admit what you don’t know

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These six ideas help journalists asses the situation at hand and make sure that nothing is rushed and reported on inaccurately. This is extremely important because, during breaking news stories, there can be a lot of misinformation and ethical issues surrounding the information coming to the reporter. The speaker also noted that we all make mistakes, but we need to learn from those mistakes and make sure we do better next time. Maintaining transparency is essential, and fact-checking is crucial.

Overall, I learned a lot at this conference about reporting, leading, and taking care of myself as a journalist. Though these are only a few of the things I learned, I have a whole notebook full of information and notes about ways to be better.

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Going to my first ONA conference was definitely a valuable and memorable experience. It was so much fun to be in New Orleans, and I learned a lot during the sessions at the conference. I want to share a few of my takeaways and what I plan to bring back to The Beacon and apply to my future as a journalist.

Building Trust: Newsroom Tools for the “Fake News” Era

I really enjoyed my first session of the conference. During this talk on building trust, I was able to hear how media professionals are confronting mistrust and “fake news.” It is extremely hard to build trust with your audience when there is misinformation and disinformation that spread so rapidly. 

As journalists, we need to rebuild the relationship with the public. It is not enough to just hope that they will trust us. We have to actively build that trust. And that is not an easy task.

Luckily, the amazing speakers provided me with insights and tips to help build trust. I plan to use what I learned in this session and apply it to building trust between The Beacon and the UP community. 

Here are some key tips:

  • If we want people to trust us, we have to trust them
  • Be transparent about your workflow, process, etc.
  • Meet people where they are: ask them what they need
  • Understand why people don’t trust

I found this session very valuable and I am excited to continue to build trust between The Beacon and our audience!

Maria Ressa

When I found out that Maria Ressa was going to be at the conference, I was very excited. As a Filipino journalist myself, I have looked up to Ressa and her journalistic integrity and determination. 

She has been arrested many times and has faced threats from the government to shut her organization down. Yet she still fights back with a smile on her face.

During her talk, Ressa spoke about press freedom being necessary for democracy. Information is power and the public deserves to have the power to make decisions on their own based on the information they receive. Information needs to be true as well. No facts mean no truth which leads to no trust and ultimately no democracy.

Ressa also touched on how social media is playing a role in misinformation/disinformation. She said that social media broke democracy, but it can also save it. We have to take steps to do this though.

I was extremely inspired by Ressa. I want to embody her drive and passion for finding and reporting the truth while also being a smart business owner. I hope to help The Beacon maintain its value of truth and telling the community the stories they not only want to read, but need to read.

An Evening with Judy Woodruff

I honestly had not heard of Judy Woodruff before finding out I had the chance to listen to her speak. Upon a quick google search, I discovered how lucky I was to be able to hear her and learn from her.

Woodruff gave an inspiring talk about how the job of a journalist is needed now more than ever. With lies and hate being spread rapidly, it is up to journalists to spread the truth. 

I was really inspired after Woodruff’s talk. I could tell she cared deeply about spreading the truth and she provided hope as well. It is easy to talk about journalism as a dying industry or being full of lies, but she encouraged me and the audience to keep fighting against misinformation.

I hope to help The Beacon do our job. We have to tell the stories that the UP community need to know If we don’t, then who will? If there is no organization to provide the unbiased story, then anyone can shape the narrative and our community will be extremely misinformed. 

Judy Woodruff helped me to see how critical my job is––even at the level of student journalism. 

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I learned so much at the ONA conference. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity and I am excited for a great year ahead with the Beacon!

-Maddie Pfeifer, news and managing editor 

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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.

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-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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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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Rachel Rippetoe|

Networking is something that I’ve watched and admired from afar, but never really thought I was capable of doing myself – kind of like watching someone perform brain surgery on Grey’s Anatomy. I’m awkward and bad at small talk and no matter how many times I brush my hair it still looks unbrushed. Networking is all about first impressions and I am terrible at first impressions.

Because of this debilitation, I have always been somewhat dismissive of the term. I’ve grown out of admiration and into slight resentment for those who can do networking well, landing those career-changing gigs from grabbing coffee with someone they met on Twitter (I’m resisting the urge to roll my eyes as I type this). I tell myself that I’d rather let my work speak for itself, and no amount of DM’ing will get me a job I don’t deserve. But still, I felt a twist in my stomach heading to Washington D.C. last week for my first big-girl journalism conference, certain that I would be out-networked.

However, having survived (perhaps even thrived?) a three-day schmooze-fest, let me tell you, kids, it’s not as hard as it looks. Here’s what I’ve learned about networking from ONA this year:

  1. It never happens when you expect it to: 22279679_10214183971824061_4278557276463756106_nDid you totally sound like a dweeb at that “networking” luncheon you went to? Did you spill your drink on the News Editor at The Boston Globe? (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually do this. I did talk to her though, and she looked at me like, “Girl, Please” when I said I was a UP student applying to The Boston Globe internship.) Don’t sweat it. While receptions, luncheons, and beltlines designed specifically for networking can be useful, particularly because employers are on the hunt for young (and cheap) talent, they’re also nerve-wracking and not always effective. Everyone has their guard up in a strange hyper-networking, ‘let-me-pitch-myself-to-you-in-five-minutes’ kind of way. It’s hard to make a genuine connection. But conferences are great because everyone is bottled in the same space together, even after the awkward formalities are over. Olivia and I made much friendlier connections at the hotel bar later that night ordering french fries. We curated friendly faces through karaoke and coffee lines (good things come to those who wait….. in ridiculously long lines for caffeine). It’s easier to be yourself when you’re in a more natural setting. And your mom is right, simply being yourself can get you where you need to go. So let your hair down, pull your name tag off. Who knows who will be standing next to you when you do?
  2. Always go up and talk to the speakers you really really liked: 22281608_10214183981384300_7029370243282221246_n-1You will literally never, ever, ever regret it. You will, however, greatly regret it if you chicken out and shuffle out of the room as fast as possible. My first couple conferences in New York, I thought this was ridiculous. I would see people like Malika go up and chat with freaking Wesley Lowrey after a talk and I would be baffled. It was like watching brain surgery. I’d always tell myself that they probably have a million places to be right now and I have no business taking up their time. I’d also tell myself that I do not have a clever enough comment or question to impress them with, and I will just end up embarrassing myself. But I had to get over this when I went to David Fahrenthold’s session on interviewing. If you follow me on social media and pay even the slightest bit of attention, you should know that David Fahrenthold has been my deepest journalistic obsession for about a year now. He’s a Washington Post reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his reporting on Donald Trump’s charities and the breaking of the Access Hollywood tapes. My favorite thing about him, though, is his first-person account in The Post in which he details the time he shot himself in the eye with his kid’s confetti gun. In seriousness, his career path is exactly what I want to do as a journalist (other than the graduating from Harvard and going straight to The Washington Post thing. That ship has sailed, unfortunately). All this being said, I had to go up and talk to him after he gave a knock-out keynote. After this, my whole stance on talking to speakers shifted. He was the nicest guy and talked with us for over 20 minutes. I didn’t even care that the people in line behind me were peeved. We talked to a few other people after panels and keynotes with our new-found confidence. And not once did we have a bad experience. Always, always do it.
  3. Be genuine: 22310508_10214183973544104_3779407442244115096_nThere is a caveat to the #2 tip above. Don’t talk to someone just to talk to them. Don’t talk to them for their title. Don’t talk to them JUST because you think you might get a job out of it. The reason my really good interactions went really well is that I knew the people I was talking to and I was genuinely excited to talk to them. Networking isn’t just about getting a job. It’s about learning. Learning more about yourself, more about the work that you want to do. I didn’t talk to people like David because I thought he would hire me. I knew he had a job I wanted and I knew he did that job really well and I wanted to know more about his experience, and about what kind of person he is so I can determine whether I can be that kind of person. Call me crazy, but I’m not going to go and DM him on Twitter now asking if he’ll put in a good word for me on my Post application. I got exactly what I needed out of our conversation. Not a job, just reassurance that I’m in the right place doing what I’m meant to be doing.
  4. Is it all a myth anyway?22281547_10214183982024316_3886781855690825578_n This gets me to my last bit. I’m still not convinced that this whole network thing isn’t all a hoax. While journalists might call ONA a “networking conference” (the conference bit is true for all the useful sessions about new technology and online strategies), I’d rather call it a “support group”. As it was pointed out in the panel “How to Get Shit Done”, this journalism gig is really hard, harder than most jobs. Vice said it best: Journalism is terrible for your mental health. It’s an exhausting, mentally draining job and you have a whole outside world telling you half the time that your work doesn’t matter. So maybe instead of looking at these conferences as stress-inducing networking fiestas, we should say screw it, life is stress-inducing, let’s get a cocktail and talk about the ways we can take care of ourselves. I loved all the “real talk” panels featuring real journalists talking about real challenges in their lives and how to face them head-on. What I got the most of out of this schmooze-fest had nothing to do with schmoozing, really. I learned that even big fancy WaPo writers wait until 2 in the morning to finish their articles because that’s the only time they can write well. I listened to accomplished journalists describe habits and situations that I’ve actually been in/can relate to. I learned that it’s not as hard as I think to live in Washington D.C. as a young person. I learned that I can do this job, even if its hard.

So, network THAT, b*tch.

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#ONA17

By Olivia Sanchez

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Rachel, Rachel & I at the Washington Post

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Olivia Sanchez, Rachel Ramriez, Nancy Copic and Rachel Rippetoe at the Facebook party at Newseum

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Look, the capitol!

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Facebook party at Newseum!

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MJ Bears fellows give early career advice

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Truth, trust and media panel

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The art of getting s*** done panel

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a map I found in the exhibition hall of places conference attendees have reported from and what they reported on!

#ONA17 was an amazing experience. It was so great to be around people who are doing what I want to do (and doing it well). I feel reinspired and and ready to fill out the millions of internship apps I have due within the next month! Here is some of what I learned!

My takeaways:

  1. Never let one source make or break your story. Do enough reporting that you can do your story even if a big source blows you off. Never be in a position where you’re relying on one person.
  2.  Be patient in interviewing. Stay even after you get a good quote. Wait for people to open up to you.
  3. Do ambitious journalism.
  4. Don’t tie your identity to your job.
  5. Go above and beyond. Always say yes in the newsroom. Always be willing to do more.

My favorite sessions and what I learned:

The Art of Getting S**t Done
This session was done in panel format, and featured Justin Ellis (ESPN), S. Mitra Kalita (CNN Digital), and Elena Bergeron (SB Nation).  The description on the conference app said the session was designed for “anyone who wants real-world advice on accomplishing their goals.” And, “this is meant to be a candid, real-world conversation about what it takes to move something to your “done” column.

This was one of my favorite sessions because the panelists were open and honest about what it is like to work, and succeed in this industry, and still be a person. Some major things I learned from this session include:

  • You need to be able to thrive on change
  • What are the ideas I’m most passionate about? Prioritize. Organize your life around these.
  • Celebrate even the small victories
  • Don’t waste people’s time
  • Have other things (besides your job) in your life that mean a lot to you. Spend time and energy on these regularly.
  • Eat healthy to be more productive!!
  • Send “atta boy” emails on Friday (shoutouts to coworkers), and your work week goals to your boss on Monday.
  • To be a successful leader, you need to ask for help. Ask for input. Understand the decisions you’re making and the impacts they will have on others

Trust, Truth and Questions for the Media

This was the keynote on the first day of the conference and it was by far one of the best sessions I attended. It was moderated by Brian Stelter (CNN) and featured panelists Michelle Homes (Alabama Media Group), Elle Reeve (Vice), Nikole Hannah-Jones (New York Times Magazine), Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks) and Asma Khalid (WBUR).

The main topic of this session was the role of the media in the current political climate. It was great because all the panelists came from different backgrounds and publications, and all brought different viewpoints to the session. By far my favorite was Nikole Hannah-Jones and the way she talked about diversity issues in the media. She focused on the the need to give voice to marginalized communities who are so often left out of the news narrative the is promoted by mainstream media. She also was adamant about the need for diversity in newsrooms, and how important it is that reporters look like the communities that they are covering.

Panelists also discussed the importance of getting to know the communities you cover, not just popping in and out, but staying and returning and making sure that you have the real, full story.

Interviewing advice from David Farenthold

This session was awesome. David is awesome. #goals

  • If the front door doesn’t open, start outside and work your way in.
  • Go into interviews knowing more than your source
  • Always be polite
  • If someone is going to lie to you, let them tell the whole lie first. Then gently unravel it
  • Don’t worry about being annoying. It’s your job to get all the information
  • Let your sources talk! Be OK with silence. Never finish their sentences.
  • Never leave yourself open to unverified information, even if it’s coming from good intentions

 

 

 

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