Posts Tagged ‘#nola13’

You Only NOLA Once

I’m already ashamed about that headline, but now I’ve committed.


Nancy, Philip and I rolled into New Orleans Wednesday evening. We were playing hooky from a couple days of class and work, so we were all pretty exhausted from trying to get on top of homework and get the Beacon prepped before heading out of town. Naturally, a walk down the infamous Bourbon street woke us up quickly.


Bourbon street actually was one of the more stressful places I have ever been. And I work in a newsroom.

Thursday morning we checked in and got these awkward ribbons to stick on our name tags because The Beacon was a Pacemaker finalist. The name tags were also a perfect example of why everyone needs a copy editor.


Apparently we moved to Pennsylvania.

Here’s a recap of a couple of my favorite sessions from the first day:

Newspapers to Magazines 

I chose this session because editorial is definitely a direction I could go in, but the speaker also gave great feature writing advice. Some highlights:

  • The speaker said the best writers he has ever had were from a newspaper background. Newspapers force you into deadlines and efficiency and teach you to fact check and copy edit your own articles.
  • Whatever you’re interested in, become an expert and start writing about it…
  • …but you don’t have to be an expert about something to write about it well.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in a lot of noise in the media world, but always remember it’s all about the people.
  • And the quote of the session: “Not to drop names, but when I interviewed McJagger I asked him “tell me something about you that even your friends don’t know.” Weird thing is, people also like to answer that question.”
  • OK another quote i couldn’t pass up: “Don’t let anyone tell you you have to pay your dues. No you don’t. They’re just afraid you’ll take their job.”

Critique Meetings

Our critique meetings at The Beacon have been a little dull and predictable lately, so hearing different ways to mix them up was really helpful. Some ideas mentioned were small group workshops, top 10 lists, reaching out to sources for feedback, focusing on a particular area like headlines, captions, or design and bringing in outside editors and designers to critique. Last week, I put a few ideas from this session to use and focused part of a critique meeting on finding story ideas.


This picture has nothing to do with anything in this post, but I took it in New Orleans and it is great so I snuck it in.

 I attended a few other practical sessions on web-first planning and writing and also got to listen to the staff of the Crimson White talk about their experiences covering the first African-American girls to go through rush. Hearing how their story went viral and made a difference was a reminder of the power of student media.


Kelsey  Thomas (Editor in Chief)

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A typical scene between sessions at the ACP convention: highly caffeinated and motivated student journalists hungry to learn tools of the trade, digital and otherwise.


Beacon Opinions Editor Philip Ellefson, Editor-in-Chief Kelsey Thomas and me before the Pacemaker awards ceremony on the final day of the convention. One of the reasons we went to the convention was that The Beacon was named a finalist.



None of us expected The Beacon to win. And it didn’t. But we were honestly thrilled just to be finalists, which entitled us to a shiny plaque. There was a small problem, though.SAM_0702

PS- Paging copy editor: Portland, Pennsylvania?SAM_0701

You can see the list of Pacemaker winners here.

Nancy Copic

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As the sun rose over the Mississippi River, more than 2000 collegiate journalists and their advisers prepared for Day One of the Associated Collegiate Press convention in New Orleans.

Kelsey, Philip and I had to choose from dozens of sessions. So many looked so interesting, so relevant to media in general and student media in particular. Among the highlights for me this day: sessions on infographics, critiquing and sexual assault on campus.


At least some millennials have an affinity for newspapers. Most of them are at this convention, apparently.

At least some millennials have an affinity for newspapers. Most of them are at this convention, apparently.

Online infographics

Alex V Cook, adviser of The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University led this session on using Tableau Public and Google Fusion Tables to make digital infographics. He spent a few minutes emphasizing what we already know: People don’t read newspapers so much anymore, especially younger people. He referenced a term coined by Google: Generation C , so called because they create, curate and collaborate on content.  And by doing so, they create community.

He spoke about the importance of telling stories in new ways, specifically infographics. What skill do journalists today need to know?  Excel.  They need to learn how to find a large amount of data, crunch the numbers and find the story.

As an example, he showed some infographics from a story about the salary of Les Miles, LSU’s football coach. They made the charts from the free software, Tableau. He also recommended Google Fusion Tables, which The Beacon already is using for its online Public Safety reports.


Critiquing for Real

This session offered some fresh ways to approach what is for The Beacon and me a weekly ritual. Dan Close from Wichita State University led this. Many of his suggestion were simply ways to “frame” or “brand” the critique.


His ideas included:

1)  A Top Ten List (the best and perhaps the worst?)

2) The good, the bad and the really ugly

3) Have sources critique your coverage. Or invite alums or students from an editing class.

4) Have critique be content-specific each week. For example, focus on ledes one week, photos the next, news judgment the following week.

Underlying all of these techniques is the notion that a critique is an important teaching tool. They should be supportive and explanatory

Speaking of editing, ACP had a copy editing/geography problem. Notice anything wrong with Kelsey’s name tag? It was a reoccurring theme throughout the conference.

Portland, Pennsylvania? Hello, copyeditor?

Portland, Pennsylvania? Hello, copyeditor?
Critique workshop

Campus Rape Coverage Success Stories

Editors of three college newspapers that have aggressively covered sexual assault on their campus spoke about the resistance and challenges they faced and the gratification of perseverance. In all cases, they said their administrations seemed more concerned about university image than sexual assault. The editors also criticized the practice of treating sexual assault as a disciplinary matter rather than the crime that it is.

“These people (university disciplinary boards) aren’t trained to handle these things,” Samantha Vicente , an editor from the student newspaper at Oklahoma State University, said.

But Nicole Comparato of The Daily Tarheel at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it was important for student journalists to persevere in covering this issue, despite resistance from university administration.

“You really can make a huge difference in raising awareness, she said.

Nicole Comperato (UNC, Chapel Hill), Samantha Vicent (Oklahoma St. University), Katie Taggert (Otterbein)

Nicole Comperato (UNC, Chapel Hill), Samantha Vicent (Oklahoma St. University), Katie Taggert (Otterbein)


-Nancy Copic, Ass’t Director of Student Media and Adviser to The Beacon

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