Posts Tagged ‘reporting’

Times SquarePhoto by Kate Stringer

Times Square
Photo by Kate Stringer

Covering national news – call up the FBI while you’re at it

My guess is that if you’re here, it’s because you go to a small private school where nothing ever happens, and if things do happen, the administration refuses to tell you about it.

Thus began Michael Perrota’s talk on covering national news on campus. For schools like UP, hard news stories are hard to come by. So, when a national news story hits, it’s only natural to want to cover it. The trick is simply how. In order for a college campus to cover a national news story, Perrota said one of three criteria must apply:

The story is applicable to the college campus

The story is applicable to the local area

The story is applicable to the life and experiences of a college-aged student

Filling one of these three criteria is not too challenging. What is challenging is coming up with the right sources to talk about an issue. Perrota said that once you have sources that are knowledgeable on a topic in national news, the story is set.

For national news stories, sometimes the best sources will be off-campus. Perrota said there is nothing wrong with branching out to sources like lawyers, business owners, or students from local colleges if they add to a story. Newspaper clips that show reporters have put in extra effort to contact sources outside the campus will impress their future employers. Besides, Perrota pointed out, getting an interview with the FBI is a lot easier than getting an interview with a university president.

Another source to scavenge for story ideas is PEW research. Many surveys can become stories if they are about college students.

Beaconites at the conferencePhoto by Nancy Copic

Beaconites at the conference
Photo by Nancy Copic

Details, details, details

The next time I interview a source, I’m going to ask them where they got their shoes. And it’s not because I’m in need of a new pair or a creep.

By asking students in our session where they got their shoes, Rob Kaiser discovered that one student is 20 months apart from her sister, who she regards as a best friend. Random? Not if you knew that she was wearing her sister’s shoes to the conference. With this demonstration, Kaiser pointed out how important the details are to revealing people’s character.

The amount of detail in an article can make or break a story. There is a fine line between too much extraneous information that takes away from the point, and not enough detail to engage readers.

Using details in stories take readers to an angle not usually explored. Kaiser showed us an example article about Jackie Kennedy at the funeral of her husband. Rather than focusing on simply the 5 W’s, the author “zoomed-in” on a moment where Jackie struggled to take off her black glove and remove her wedding ring to place by her husband’s body. It was simple description that added a powerful component of connection to the story. The reader saw the human element in the story rather than the simple facts.

I loved this talk because it focused on the art of writing that can be added to news stories. Sometimes I find myself getting bored with a story and frustrated with the writing process because it seems so lifeless. This session gave me a new way to add life to my stories.

“Writing is really a wrestling match with yourself – it’s an act of self-discipline.” –Rob Kaiser

-Kate Stringer

A bit excited to see The New York TimesPhoto by Kathryn Walters

A bit excited to see The New York Times
Photo by Kathryn Walters


Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Day Two at the CMANYC conference once again started early, but luckily, a bit more brightly since we didn’t have to worry about getting in line for media tours. This morning, Kate and I didn’t attend any regular sessions because we went on a tour of Hearst Tower!



Hearst Tower is the world headquarters of the Hearst Corporation, founded by the famous media magnate William Randolph Hearst. It owns magazines like Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar. But that’s not all. It owns cable networks like ESPN and newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle.

Citizen Kane, more than loosely based on the life of Hearst, is one of my favorite movies of all time, so needless to say, I was completely stoked to be visiting the headquarters of this great company. Our first stop on the tour was by the office of Good Housekeeping magazine, which I was not super excited about at the moment, since I am not a girl who likes to clean and cook and be the best housekeeper in the world. I don’t think I will ever fit into that mold. However, the office was a lot more interesting than I anticipated. There were all these cool labs where they test each product they put in the magazine, from vacuums and anti-frizz serums to pasta sauce and laundry detergent. I think the tour guide said they test each recipe three times to make sure it works before they even put it in the magazine. Now that’s dedication!

Next up was a tour of the very top floor, where all the fancy executives, including members of the Hearst family, run the company. Of course, it was all very swanky with all this expensive art on the wall and fancy furniture and top-notch views of Central Park and the rest of the city. I felt like such a VIP.

Our final stop was at the office of Marie Claire magazine. I had such a 13 Going on 30 moment/The Devil Wears Prada moment in that office. I half-expected Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly to come gliding around the corner and cast a disdainful glare in our direction. The office looked like what you would think a magazine office would look like, but there definitely was a fashion closet and a make-up closet, and everyone was so fashionable. After our group got walked around the office (I peeked over a worker’s shoulder and saw that she was using Adobe InDesign to lay out a page for the magazine), we were ushered into a conference room where three different editors came in to talk to us about what it’s like to work at Marie Claire, how they got to the positions they are in now, and how the magazine world, and by extension, the whole of media has changed. I was especially impressed by Katie Connor, the Fashion Features Editor, who holds such a high position in the editorial realm at such a young age. She looked like she couldn’t have been more than 26 or 27, and she owed her early success to having many internships before she entered the job market. This made me a little uneasy, since I don’t have much internship experience to speak of, but that is something I am working to change right now.


The hallowed offices of Marie Claire magazine. Does it look straight out of Devil Wears Prada or what?


The three women emphasized the importance of fostering connections in the workplace, because the magazine world is so incestuous and everyone knows each other. A connection you made a few years ago could potentially lead to a job offer down the line. Another tip they had was to “be the person who fixes the copy machine.” By this, they meant that you need to find little ways to make yourself indispensible to whoever you work for that set you apart. Because I am really interested in magazine writing as a potential career path, I took every word they said to heart. After seeing the offices of both Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, I can picture myself in that type of work environment, which I think is suited to my personality. Now, the next step is to get some experience! Easier said than done, for sure.

With our free copies of the March issue of Marie Claire in hand (we didn’t know if we were allowed to take them out of the office, but we did anyway. So rebellious!), Kate and I trekked back to the hotel and arrived a tad late for the keynote address by Jason Wagenheim, vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue magazine.  He was a very flamboyant personality, to say the least, but he had a lot of interesting things to say about the print magazine industry and made it all very entertaining. Some fun facts from his presentation: Sex and the City made high fashion accessible to the public, big events are key to the success of any publication (like the Vanity Fair Oscar Party and Teen Vogue’s Back to School Saturday), and always do your homework on any company you would like to join one day.

After this, I attended a session about Writing with Voice in Narrative, taught by David Simpson, who also taught the Tough Interview session form Sunday. Developing my own voice as a writer is incredibly important to me as I grow more confident in my reporting. David suggested some easy solutions to the “stranglers:” fear, inadequate reporting, excessive objectivity, and limited time. These “stranglers” often keep a reporter from showing his or her own voice in a story, especially in a feature or narrative format. His remedies: read good writing ALL THE TIME, practice makes perfect, “fail faster” so you can get better faster, ask about SCENES so you can better paint a picture for the reader, and above all, trust your gut! If you have an emotional response to something a source says, chances are, so will your audience. The best way to put this is to use both sides of your brain in reporting. Yes, you should be analyzing facts, but you should also search for emotional cues that have the potential to take your story from average to amazing.

The showcase today was by a man named Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media guru who works at Columbia University. Within the first five minutes, my mind just exploded from all the social media tips he threw at us, from different websites to “name-checking” everyone on Twitter to following your ABC’s as a journalist: Always Be Collecting pictures and info with your smart phone or laptop. Sree says, be hashtag happy! The more blue your Tweets have in them, the better. At one point, Sree declared himself a Hindu priest of the Catholic Church, and made us get up out of our chairs, take pictures of his Social Media Success formula, all while chanting this formula together. Who knew social media could be such a religious experience?!

That pretty much concludes Day Two of the convention. Will Day Three be as crazy awesome? Stay tuned to find out!


What a coincidence! Stumbling upon The New York Times in New York City of all places! 😉

~Kathryn Walters

Read Full Post »

Good morning New York from the Times Square Sheraton.

Good morning New York from the Times Square Sheraton.

About fifteen minutes into a session about working with faculty and administration at private schools, I noticed that all fifteen blazer-clad students around me were leaning forward in their seats, nodding and compulsively scribbling notes.

I think I found my people.


Who says print is dead?

Being surrounded by hundreds of college journalists with similar interests and passions, not to mention facing similar problems daily in their newsrooms, and attending lectures by people who have “made it,” all in the amazing setting of New York City has been an indescribable experience. The End.


Walking the streets.

Just kidding – I will do my best to describe it but please know it is better than I convey. Here are a few of my top lessons from day 1:

 The media is still a great place to be:

Keynote speaker William Geist talked about how journalism is such a dynamic industry that, despite what we are told, has many opportunities for us if we work hard enough. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • Yes you are hearing that newspapers are dead, but there are so many exciting opportunities. Get in the door. Keep your head down. Work heard. Show a work ethic and a willingness to do what it takes.

  • Anybody you talk to who has made it in media has some version of the story where they felt stuck and under appreciated.

  • If you stop being hungry and curious and you just want to hang out with all the cool people and get invited to cocktail parties, then maybe it’s time to start thinking about doing something else.

Me covering "Occupy Wall Street." A wee bit late.

Me covering “Occupy Wall Street.” A wee bit late.

I love design  / design is a writers best friend / if you make it hard for a reader to read your paper, they probably wont:

I couldn’t decide between the three titles so I didn’t. I promise no stories in The Beacon next year will have three titles. But all three are true – GO DESIGN. As primarily a writer, I was excited to immerse myself in design during the first day of the conference. The following notes are a compilation of ideas from the session “Chicken Noodle Soup 1” and a private Beacon critique Joey and I attended with the very experienced Gary Metzker.

  • White space is your friend. It makes your paper look more professional and easier to read.
  • Keep the headline and the deck together in news articles. In living, it is okay to split them up. Put fillers and ads towards the bottom and right. Avoid using more than one pull quote per story or page unless it is a very long story.
  • Photography is not just about getting the right shot. Where and how you place the photo is very important. The best photo and story always go on the front page. Always. The front page picture should also feature students. Apparently students won’t be fighting over the newspaper stands when old white guys shaking hands or sitting in a cubicle are on the front. Who knew? If the front page photo is good enough, it alone can carry the page. Always put the caption and byline below the photo, not in it. Avoid using multiple photos of the same size on the same page or putting photos by ads.

When all else fails (even technology), doodle the pope.

Private schools like UP are required to post a variety of forms online.

    • Clery Act: includes a crime log and statistical report for the last three years of crime.
    • IRS 9-90: searchable data about financial details about the school
    • Ed.gov: by searching “Equity in Athletics” and reading the form UP filled out as required by the NCAA, we discovered that coaches of women sports teams make significantly less than coaches of male sports teams at UP. There’s a story idea right there!

    Don't tell me you didn't rush to the Public Library first thing when getting into town too.

    Don’t tell me you didn’t rush to the Public Library first thing when getting into town too.

  • We don’t suck!
  • Although this is pretty obvious (cough *Columbia Awards* cough), this conference definitely confirmed that we are doing a lot of things right.  Improving writing and design is a continual process, but I am lucky to be joining Ed Board next year on such a thriving, successful paper.
  • And that is only day one.
  • IMG_3363
  • Cheers!
  • Kelsey Thomas

Read Full Post »

Just finished our first long day at CMA’s college media convention! I’ve never met so many other college journalists who have had such similar experiences with their college newspapers. It’s so interesting to hear stories from other small private Catholic schools, as well as hear what it’s like to run and work for a newspaper at a big public school or even a community college. It’s even cooler to hear stories and advice from media professionals doing all different types of journalism. One speaker, Brian Storm, started his own visual storytelling business called MediaStorm that uses photos, video, music and skillful editing to tell individuals’ stories as a way to bring to light a larger social issue. Listening to his presentation helped me realize that the skills we learn at The Beacon will teach us more than how to be good student journalists, but will help give us the skills to explore a career in many different types of media outlets.

There were also several workshops on how to handle administrators and university staff that don’t want to talk to student reporters. In the one I went to, the speaker talked about making a civic map – a literal map you can draw up that lists who has jurisdiction over what at the school. The speaker talked about how important it is for reporters to know who to talk to for stories – just to have a knowledge of their school and what the role of all its administrators and staff are. This can help reporters get to the bottom of things, because they know all the places to look and people to talk to without relying on sources to point them in the right direction.

One speaker also talked about the importance of no prior review – not allowing university representatives to review the newspaper in any way before it’s published. And that includes email interviews in most instances, or showing a source the article before its published. It was good to hear that other schools have these struggles too, including the newspaper of the school where the speaker teaches. She also had a lot of ideas for training staff. She suggested having a training before spring semester as well because of the high turnover rate in student newspapers. She talked about training students by putting them in scenarios and having them learn how to react to the sorts of situations they might face working for their newspaper.

Mostly, it was really exciting to hear other people whose journalistic stories and struggles I could relate to. There’s so much to learn from all of these media professionals and fellow student journalists, and it  helped me realize that working at The Beacon will give me skills I could use in all sorts of different career.

This was a long and tiring day so this blog is really short, but there’ll be more tomorrow! Goodnight New York!!

-Sarah Hansell

Read Full Post »