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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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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.

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.)

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

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This is Oscar and he is very good at skating

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They wouldn’t let me drive it 😦

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A man waiting for the subway

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A shot of traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge

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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

 

Claire Desmarais, news and managing editor, here! Last weekend, I attended the Midwinter National College Journalism Convention in La Jolla, California. This conference comprised of other student journalists from colleges like California State University, Chico, California Lutheran University, and others from various Midwest and Eastern universities.

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At this conference, I attended a variety of sessions showcasing different experiences from students, and many advisors and students gave presentations on skills that I can utilize in The Beacon newsroom.

From Gunfire to Wildfire

Editors from California State Lutheran gave a presentation about their experience covering the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting, and then the next day covering the Woolsey Fire that erupted near campus. These two tragedies at once forced student journalists to take their skills to a new level to report on these horrendous events, but they also had to deal with their own grief in the midst of these tragedies.

The student editors had to assemble late at night while the Borderline shooting was still going on, head to the scene of the crime, listen to statements, and reach out to those at the hospital who were affected by the shooting. They had to show courage and work on this story even when they were checking in on their own friends who may have been at the Bar during the time. But it wasn’t even that long after the frist tragedy that the Woolsey Fire ignited. The editing team was spread across nearby towns as each evacuated, and lost power and wifi so they utilized social media for updates on what was happening.

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These students had to show courage and also maintain composure even when they were dealing with stories that caused a lot of pain for the reporters and the community around them. They were so brave to be able to share their information with students while they were also grieving.

Creating Culture in Your Newsroom

Another session talked about how to create a culture in your newsroom. I found this incredibly helpful because as editor-in-chief next year, I really want to create a culture in the newsroom that is a positive environment.

Here are some tips from this event:

  • hold team lunches
  • play icebreakers
  • celebrate birthdays
  • celebrate holidays
  • play, sing, dance, laugh
  • ask about everyone’s days

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By taking the time to really get to know your team, you can form better relationships and have a better work environment. Other suggestions about creating a positive culture included understanding the best techniques on how to lead.

These included:

  • set the tone
  • negative attitude can affect everyone in the room
  • legacy dependent on behavior
  • acknowledge when you’re wrong and apologize

By utilizing and making sure you’re in line with these ideas, your newsroom culture can remain positive. Another aspect is understanding that every staff member is going through their own things, and to be respectful fo what they are going through. We all are trying to do our best and and we all face hard times so let’s be there for each other.

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Trauma Reporting

This session focused on how to cover events that are tragedies in the communities that may be difficult to speak with people. It’s really important to be an empathetic reporter so you can truly listen to people’s stories. If you are on the scene of a tragedy, make sure to respect people and their boundaries. Not everyone will want to talk with you. But a lot of people, if you give them time, want to talk about their story. They want to be asked.

Other tips included that people in emotional distraught often say things that it may not be ethical to write about because they are not in the right state of mind. Having the skills to understand when the right time and place to ask questions is can really affect how information is gathered for a story.

Overall, this conference gave me great tips on how to incorporate new techniques in the newsroom and how to further my own skills and those of other staffers. I’m looking forward to sharing all my great info with the staff!

Claire Desmarais

Another session from the conference that I really enjoyed was a presentation on passion projects from the newspaper staff at LMU. The editors at LMU had their staff work on projects they were passionate about which resulted in interesting, diverse and engaging documentaries, photos and stories.

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One of the examples of a passion project

The speaker explained that the projects were collaborative, meaning that the editors really guided the staff member and helped bring their vision to life. The process was explained in clear and concise steps and the results speak for themselves.

It was evident that the content that resulted from the passion projects is something that the staff members are extremely proud of. I think that it is such a valuable experience to be able to pour yourself into something you are truly passionate about and walk away from it feeling like you accomplished something.

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Another example of a passion project created by LMU

The passion projects of these student journalists demonstrate the quality of work that is produced when you are passionate about the topic. I think that this concept spans across all mediums and genres because passion often leads to beautiful results whether it be through photos, video or stories.

I was personally really inspired by this presentation. I have ideas for stories I want to tell but do not know where to start, but I think The Beacon would be a great platform to use for sharing my stories.

This session and the conference as a whole were very inspiring, and I cannot wait to get back to the newsroom and keep finding great stories to share!

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Here are some key takeaways from the conference:

  1. Hearing about how the Financial Times expanded into other mediums over the years made me wonder what we can do at The Beacon to really evolve the ways in which we reach students and how we can engage and interact with our audience more.
  2. I think what I took away from the ethics session was how important the ethics of journalism really are and how critical having a code is. I also learned that it is important for the public to know our ethical standpoints.
  3. I think that our staff is talented and diverse and everyone has a different story to tell. I would love to see The Beacon do more passion projects and try different ways of telling stories such as documentaries.
  4. Social media is becoming an increasingly important way to create a presence with your audience.
  5. What it means to be a journalist is changing with new technology and ways of sharing information, so it is important to be ready to adapt to where the media world is heading.

– Maddie Pfeifer

 

One session from the College Media Association conference that I found interesting was a session on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. I think that as journalists, we run into ethical issues all the time and it was really helpful to hear from two speakers who helped create this code of ethics that we follow.

Learning about how the code of ethics came to be and how it evolved over time was fascinating. The speakers emphasized how this code is for all kinds of journalists. They also spoke about how they had to take into account the growing influence of social media when they revised the code of ethics in 2014.

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I think what might have been the most valuable part of the session was getting to hear from other student journalists who have dealt with ethical issues and applied the code. I think we do not often deal with huge ethical issues at The Beacon, but you never know when you will be confronted with an important issue that you need to make a decision on quickly. It is reassuring to know we have a code to guide us and the SPJ will take our calls whenever we need advice.

It is critical as journalists that we know our resources and I think that this session helped me to know more about some resources we could use at The Beacon. It is always good to get a refresher on ethics because ethical decisions will have to be made by not just editors, but reporters and photographers as well. It is just part of the job.

Something especially interesting about the session was we were posed with a hypothetical scenario and asked what we would do in the situation. There were many different opinions and arguments from the journalists in the audience but we all used the code of ethics to back up our points.

This session was valuable to me and I look forward to helping ensure that we always keep in mind ethical guidelines at The Beacon!

– Maddie Pfeifer