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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


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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Day Three at CMANYC13 arrived even faster than it took the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope! Each day was so chock full of sessions that the hours just seemed to fly by. And before we knew it, we were flying back to Portland ourselves!

The first session I attended was about reporting sensitive issues on campus, which I thought would be a good idea to learn about, what with this nondiscrimination policy business on campus. You never know when something little could blow up as big as the nondiscrimination policy issue, so I was ready to get some pointers on how to better cover stories like these. The presenter, Baris Mumyakmaz, a Turkish national who attended university in the U.S. but works for a publication in Turkey that seeks to expose underreported issues in the country, did his best, but the whole presentation was a bit awkward considering I was one of three people there, and the others sort of kept coming and going throughout the presentation. I felt really bad for him, and unfortunately his presentation wasn’t that groundbreaking in terms of tips on how to report sensitive issues on campus. But I did think one thing he said was useful: always have your text, headline and picture be a cohesive package. This would require greater communication between the reporter, designer and photographer at The Beacon, but I think it would make our paper even more awesome!

Luckily, the second session I attended was amazing! The title alone “The Undertaker Takes His Coffee Black (and Drives a Hearse with 71,000 Miles on It)” intrigued me, so of course I had to go! The session, taught by Rob Kaiser of Canisius College, was about keeping an eye out for detail as a journalist, even the insignificant ones, like someone’s boots. Seeming irrelevant details like these could give you more information about a source than you ever dreamed possible. In the beginning of the session, he asked a girl where she got her boots, and after asking her a few questions, learned that she and her sister, who are 20 months apart, are best friends. Who would have thought you could have learned such a personal detail about someone from their footwear? During the session, Rob had us free write a description of our childhood bedroom, and by going around the room and asking some students about their bedrooms, he was able to learn really personal details about each of those students. As Rob put it, “You have a zoom lens on your consciousness. Use it.” His session got me really excited to write more features, so I can try out this detail-oriented approach!

Mark Luckie, manager of journalism and news at TWITTER, of all places, gave the keynote address for Tuesday. He came to offer his insights on how to be a better Twitter user. SAM_0287

Before his talk, I never gave much thought to how people may perceive me on Twitter, but Mark made it clear that people can now judge you based on how often you tweet/what you tweet/how your Twitter page looks/who you follow/who follows you. So much to think about now! Especially as a current and future member of the media, I really need to be aware of how Twitter can even affect my job prospects. Mark said that “Twitter is a great equalizer.” By this, he meant that even though you may not be the most bubbly, extraverted person in real life, you can still have a major presence online through Twitter and other social media websites.

That pretty much concluded CMANYC13! I am so happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to attend such an exciting and informative conference. I am so stoked to apply everything that I have learned to my work at The Beacon! This conference has taught me that the world of media is so much larger and complicated than I could have ever realized, and that real opportunities are out there for anyone who wants them and will work hard to achieve them. My hope is that before too long, there will be a place for me in that world. Now, back to business…

~Kathryn Walters

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