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Web-First Berkeley Beacon Wins Collegiate Journalism Award

When the Berkeley Beacon, Emerson’s student newspaper, switched to a digital-first publishing model this year, its editors weren’t exactly sure how well it was going.

Judging from the Best of Show Award the Beacon won at this year’s Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) National College Journalism Convention, it’s going pretty well.

“Turns out that our transition to digital was working and was the right thing to do, because that’s kind of like what that victory said to us, that we’re not doing anything wrong,” Beacon Editor-in-Chief Allison Hagan ’19 said from Long Beach, California, where the conference was held.

For decades, the Beacon has been a weekly print newspaper—and a good one. In previous years, the paper would place in the ACP’s Small College Print category, Hagan said (this year’s Best in Show Award was in the Small College Website category).

The 30-odd staffers still put out a smaller, eight-page Beacon every Thursday, but now it is first and foremost a digital daily news source for the campus community, with fresh new content posting every day. It wasn’t an easy switch.

“One of the hardest things is reorganizing the newsroom itself and shifting priorities and deadlines and everything else,” said Laura King ’18, managing editor of Beacon, editor-in-chief last year, and one of the people leading the transition.  

The editors spent time looking at the different sections of the paper to see what it would take to move to a daily schedule, King said. They created some new positions, according to Hagan, including two editors dedicated to enterprise reporting and two in charge of shorter, web-first stories.

Staff were introduced to the plan in two operational meetings, in which they learned about the new model, gave critiques, and developed their own goals for making the change, King said. At first, people worried that it would create more work for a staff that is already busy with paper deadlines, class deadlines, and other projects—not to mention a social life. But the work has been redistributed in a way to relieve some of the burden, she said.

“I think it’s working out that people were less stressed with [the new structure],” King said.

Moving ahead, the Beacon wants to update web content for print, so that the stories are advanced when the paper comes out, King said, as well as work with the school to sell web ads.

Hagan said this semester’s crop of reporters—particularly the many first-years on staff—make her excited for the Beacon’s future.

“They’ve done really well adjusting to this crazy schedule and putting out great stuff, and I’m super proud of them and excited to see them move up,” she said.

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