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


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


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

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)



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

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

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