Walking into Sports Illustrated headquarters, I was not overwhelmed by flashing lights, decorated athletes, and big screens with the current tournament games playing. Instead, I was completely underwhelmed by a standard concrete office building with few windows. In contrast to my job shadows with The Oregonian where I was able to interview Portland trailblazer players and was personally introduced to Terry Stotts, I was disappointed. But then I realized, this is a reality check. Not everything in sports journalism is flashing lights and high profile interviews. That being said, the space did not promote creativity, the lack of windows shut out the world and my inspiration with it. In contrast to Sports Illustrated, CNN was an extension of the busy streets of Manhattan. Yes, there were flashy lights but what was most inspiring was you could see the recording of shows while you were sitting at your computer doing research or cranking out a story. The building was bright and I could feel creativity bouncing off the walls and out the windows as oppose to being suffocated by concrete walls. I think this was more of a personal revelation: I may be okay with working in an office space, but I work best in an open space surrounded by people who want to be there. It was also a reminder that not everything about the industry is courtside seats and interviews with famous athletes. I can’t lose sight of the grunt work that needs to be put in.
Katie Dunn |
There’s moments when you sit in class and think, ‘what in the world is going on? I swear we never learned any of this.’ In those moments, I catch myself questioning if I’m on the right track in school or working hard enough to understand what’s being taught. That lost feeling never happened when we were at the College Media Association conference in New York over spring break.
Unlike previous years, I found myself in sessions where I completely knew what they were saying and could related to the issues they were addressing. I knew what I would do in the face of ethical issues because we had faced them already, I knew the forms that held valuable information because we had already combed through them and I knew how hard it is to face some of the challenges related to student media because we had tackled through them. At these moments, I was so proud of the work we’ve been doing and continue to do at The Beacon.
Of course I learned new things, like how to better understand analytics on the website, understanding the importance of posting at the right time and on the right medium, the rights that students and student media holds via the Constitution and a solid list of questions to consider when facing ethical issues. While I was learning practical things to implement on the paper, I never caught myself hearing the speaker say, ‘this is what you should be doing’ and thinking, ‘oh crap we didn’t do that or don’t.’
In my new role as editor-in-chief there are more things I have to take in to account when I’m working on The Beacon. I no longer can get personally offended because someone dislikes something we’re doing. I have to be a strong leader for my staff so they know they can’t let it bother them either. One thing I learned in a session about not being the news was that we as a paper have to recognize how other people see the paper because that can impact how they react to something we do, positively or negatively.
All of the hard work that we put in every week to make the paper great can be overshadowed by one thing a group of people doesn’t like or agree with. On the other hand, a mistake that I can’t help but see every time I look at a printed page can be ignored by everyone else reading because all they see is a powerful story that gives voice to the voiceless. I was reassured at the conference that as long as we have sound reporting, our problems can’t be that egregious. At the end of the day I know our staff works so hard to turn out content the student body wants to read.
All of the strife and late nights and last minute changes seemed so inconsequential when we were sitting in the big ballroom hearing the announcement of the Apple Award for best paper (four-year college, under 5,000 students) and they said The Beacon, University of Portland. My heart skipped a beat as I walked up to collect the award because I knew we deserved it and worked so hard for this shiny red award. We just have to keep grinding out great things and knowing what we’re doing is necessary and important.
Cassie Sheridan has won a national award for an interactive digital timeline she made for The Beacon last spring: “The History of Women at UP”
Cassie won Second Place in the category of “Interactive Graphic for Digital Media” in the Gold Circle Awards sponsored by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, which is based at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.
The Beacon has won several national awards in recent years, but this is the first national award The Beacon has won for anything digital.
So, thanks, Cassie, for helping to bring The Beacon into the 21st century.
Les has uncovered the workings of Mexican drug cartels flooding Oregon with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. He’s exposed corruption in Oregon’s prison system and was on the hit list of the Rajneeshees in the 1980s as he reported on the inner workings of their central Oregon commune. So he knows a thing or two about digging up compelling information.
Here’s a recap of some of the advice he shared with Beacon staff.
- “Shut up and listen” during interviews. Let there be silence at the end of the person’s answer to your question, even if it feels awkward.
- Arrive prepared: Know what information you want out of the interview and bring a list of questions
- Avoid email interviews (except to get certain facts.)
- Tell the people you want to interview, “We are doing the story” and “I just want to make sure I get it right.”
- Don’t ask yes/no questions.
- If you ask a general question, you’ll get a general answer.
- Details make a story good. Dig for interesting ones.
- Never mislead a source about what your story is about.
- Appeal to people’s humanity. Do what you can to earn their trust.
- If someone is upset, put the notebook down for a while.
- If you’re not 100 percent sure what a person meant when they said something, ask them to clarify it for you. Don’t worry about looking stupid. They will usually respect you when they see you are striving to get the story right.
- Get documents if relevant to the story.
- At the end of every interview, ask if there is anything else that’s important or interesting to know about the story.
The Beacon recently said farewell to Kelsey Thomas, who had been editor-in-chief for one year and one semester. Kelsey, who is graduating in December, passed the baton to her successor Katie Dunn at the final critique meeting, which was actually a party if you want to know the truth. Here are some photos from our final layout night of the semester and the party the next night. By the way, in case you’re wondering, that is sparkling apple cider.
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