A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


Author Archives: Lou Harry


January 27th, 2022
Legal matters: To retweet or not to retweet?  To retweet or not retweet. This isn’t a complicated question for most tweets. But not all. Some retweets can be used as evidence in a defamation suit against a journalist. Think this is fiction? Think again. Recently, a federal appeals court said a journalist’s retweet of a potentially defamatory article via Twitter can be used as evidence of malice in a defamation suit.  


January 14th, 2022
Is redemption possible for journalists who cross the line? Can a journalist with past credibility issues ever be redeemed or truly rehabilitated or will they be forever tarnished by past transgressions? If the former, is there a statute of limitations or a timeline for reentering the field?   Those questions have surfaced as Ruth Shalit Barrett, the controversial writer who resigned from The New Republic in 1999 amid claims of plagiarism and credibility issues, was back in the news.  


January 7th, 2022
UN warns of ‘a significant number’ of risks towards journalists  The United Nations has warned that journalists still face a significant number of risks, even as newly released figures show the lowest death toll of journalists and media workers in over a decade.  The Observatory of Killed Journalists at UNESCO, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency, reported that 55 journalists and media workers lost their lives in the past year.  


November 23rd, 2021
“The French Dispatch” and more added to SPJ’s journalism movie rankings We started with 110 journalism films, in honor of SPJ’s 110th anniversary. But the list keeps growing, both with new flicks and discoveries from the past. Here are the latest additions, as reviewed by our project partners at Midwest Film Journal.


November 16th, 2021
Bookshelf: Behind the biographies with Ray Boomhower Biographer and ex-reporter Ray Boomhower has made a career out of commemorating the lives of some of our less-celebrated historical figures. His works include explorations of Gus Grissom (the second American in space); Lew Wallace, (Civil War general and the author of the novel Ben Hur); and Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S.


October 25th, 2021
Bat Masterson: Wild West gunfighter, lawman, gambler and — New York sportswriter?  (William Barclay “Bat” Masterson, standing, was photographed in his office in the New York Morning Telegraph in 1921 with his friend, Western movie star William S. Hart. Eighteen days later, Masterson died at this same desk after writing his popular column.


October 8th, 2021
Hicks: Colorado fabrication further erodes trust in journalism There are countless reasons why many Americans do not trust information reported by journalists, and no one change will turn that around. But each reporting infraction pushes the trust meter in the wrong direction, even if incrementally.  The latest breach occurred in Boulder, Colorado, at the Daily Camera, where the newspaper published a nearly 900-word retraction on Page 1 pointing out an extensive list of problems with a story, including numerous false quotations. 


September 28th, 2021
Rising postal rates (again) prompt publisher concerns It’s not as though community newspapers aren’t struggling enough these days: declining advertising and circulation, COVID-19 and increased printing costs. Now they’re dealing with another scourge — increasing postage rates. Even in this era of instant electronic access to news and hedge fund ownership of newspapers, many small American towns still depend on that locally-owned mail-delivered weekly to keep them informed of community happenings.


August 29th, 2021
Why Lou Grant mattered (in memory of Ed Asner) In the mid- to late 1970s, hundreds, perhaps thousands of young people were inspired to become journalists after seeing the movie “All The President’s Men.” But for those who already were journalists, even those of us with only a few years in the trenches, the real cultural avatar of the time was the CBS-TV show “Lou Grant.”


August 27th, 2021
Is Congress threatening press freedom by intimidating carriers? Since government can’t censor news content, can it control it indirectly through threats and intimidation? A congressional inquiry this year led by Democrats hinted at it and attempted to examine whether conservative news media were responsible for inciting violence. The representatives said they were just asking questions.


August 12th, 2021
‘Whirlybird’ documentary covers copter couple who covered L.A. The news chopper world in Los Angeles is its own subculture. In a city that makes gridlock on its vast freeway system a high-contact sport, those with resources go up and over the traffic, experiencing a version of the city that mere vehicular mortals can only dream of having.


July 29th, 2021
Ten more films added to Quill’s journalism movie rankings Did you think we were going to stop at 110? When SPJ celebrated its 110th anniversary, one of the features included in Quill was a ranked guide to 110 journalism movies. The popularity of that piece sparked us to continuing adding movie reviews, new and old, and adjusting our rankings accordingly.


June 30th, 2021
Capital Gazette memorial unveiled Three years to the day after five staff members of the Capital Gazette were killed in an assault on their Annapolis, Maryland newsroom, a memorial to the victims, “The Guardians of the First Amendment,” was unveiled in downtown Annapolis on Monday.


June 1st, 2021
June — and final — News Biz Quiz I’d like to begin this, the final Quill News Biz Quiz, by saying thanks. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these quizzes over the last few months and perhaps even gotten some new insight into how media itself can shape the news. As for me, I’m signing off to start work on my PhD in mass communications at: a) Syracuse University’s Newhouse School b) Faber College c) Grand Lakes University d) Wossamatta U e) UC Sunnydale The correct answer is a, obviously, but bonus points for you if you can name the source of the fictional higher education locations on this list.


May 26th, 2021
Bookshelf: Ken Ellingwood looks at journalism pioneer Elijah Lovejoy Ken Ellingwood readily admits that the subject of his new book is not exactly a household name. But for anyone who believes mightily in the First Amendment, Elijah Lovejoy was a titan of its promise and protections. “First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and the Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slavery” is Ellingwood’s deeply researched story of a man in the 1830s who used the power of the pen to speak out firmly against the horrors of slavery, fighting back harder with every death threat and unruly mob who came after him.


April 16th, 2021
Hicks: DeSantis square off with “60 Minutes” feeds media distrust It sounded familiar: A politician brazenly admonishing the press for a story that portrayed him unfavorably, accusing the reporter of bias and the “big corporate media” of smearing his name for profit.  But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ excoriation of a “60 Minutes” report on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout landed differently because a significant aspect of his criticism — a questionable allegation of wrongdoing — was echoed by respected mainstream journalists and news organizations, elevating the credibility of his complaint. 


March 30th, 2021
Diversifying newsrooms requires buy-in and commitment to goals A goal of American newspaper editors to achieve newsroom diversity that matched the racial and ethnic diversity of the country was considered so ambitious they set the deadline more than two decades out.  Twenty years after the deadline, the goal still hasn’t been met, but the urgent need to do so remains, highlighted by the recent Atlanta-area killings of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. 


December 21st, 2020
News Biz: McClatchy unionization, an 1897 letter to the editor, more A mass McClatchy unionization effort and a timeless question-and-answer highlight this week’s News Biz Quiz.   1. Danish researchers took to CNN recently to debunk what Fox host’s misinterpretation of a study they did, in which they did NOT seek to repudiate the practicality of mask-wearing.


December 14th, 2020
News Biz Quiz: The Doctor is in … unless Joseph Epstein has his way Dear Joseph Epstein — kiddo — you may want to jump to question 5. For the rest, start at the beginning and see how you do with this edition of the News Biz Quiz.   Both the House and Senate have passed a defense spending bill which refuses to delete Section 230 of what 1996 legislation (full name or Act acceptable), which protects against lawsuits stemming from user comments on internet sites?   Time Magazine named tech entrepreneur Eric Yuan its Businessperson of the Year.


November 25th, 2020
“Bad Education,” “The Photograph,” “Most Wanted” and more journalism movies Need ideas for what to watch over the holiday breaks? Here are a batch of recent films we’ve added to our almost-exhaustive, ranked list of 110+ Journalism Movies. To see where these are ranked and to view the entire list, click here. 


November 17th, 2020
Caution boosted credibility in election coverage Lost in the Trump-fueled chaos of the presidential election is a glimmer of light cast on the news media for doing an exceptional job covering it. In recent years, news organizations have been trying harder to prove to news consumers they can be trusted by providing information about reporters who covered a story, uploading more documents to back up their reporting and explaining controversial news decisions, among other efforts.


November 16th, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 11/16/2020 Do they allow inmates at Camp Cupcake to read Wine Spectator? What pairs well with half-baked insider trading schemes, anyway? There’s lots to chew on in this week’s News Biz Quiz.     “Read News, Speak Free” is the slogan of what conservative social media platform which became the most-downloaded software on the Apple App Store on the weekend many news organizations called the 2020 election for President-elect Joe Biden?   Three news photographers who captured images of President Trump golfing on the day his electoral loss was announced by the news networks had to shoot their images from nearly a mile away across what body of water?   A California District Court judge said Mayor Christina Shea violated the First Amendment when she blocked some viewers of her Facebook profile, following controversial statements she made in the wake of this summer’s police brutality protests.


November 10th, 2020
From a Brooklyn apartment to the Kennedy Center, BIPOC critics lab challenges norms There’s no question that the arts criticism world is primarily a white world, with few BIPOC (Black, Indiginous and people of color) voices in the mix. Frustrated by that fact, Jose Solís, co-founder and co-host of the Token Theatre Friends podcast, decided to take matters into his own hands by creating the BIPOC Critics Lab, meeting for 10 weeks via Zoom with eight future critics from around the country.


November 9th, 2020
News Biz Quiz: Election edition The election may have an outcome, but we still have questions…in this week’s News Biz Quiz. 1. Arrange these news networks by the order in which they (FINALLY!) called the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, Nov. 7: NBC CBS ABC CNN Fox News 2.


November 2nd, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 11/2: Election inaccuracies, disinformation and a legendary sports scribe “BREAKING: Dewey Defeats Truman!”  Or maybe not.  It regularly takes a while — sometimes days, even — to get full results from an election. So we shouldn’t call the outcome and risk disenfranchising voters until we’re sure.  In the meantime, while we all patiently wait, try this week’s News Biz Quiz.


October 26th, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 10/28: New meaning to ‘media exposure’ In this week’s News Biz Quiz, we learn what the term “media exposure” is NOT supposed to mean, and there’s no joy in Mudville as sports networks lose carriers.   1. Okay, let’s dispense with this straightaway: What legal analyst was suspended from his job at The New Yorker and placed on leave by CNN after (accidentally, he says) exposing himself on a Zoom call with colleagues?


October 22nd, 2020
Before you write about that “haunted” house … Editor’s Note: ‘Tis the season…for otherwise credible publications to publish unsubstantiated reports of haunted houses and other paranormal activity. To discuss why this is a problem, Quill reached out to Dr. Rob Pyatt, who led the “Weird Science: What Journalists Get Wrong About Scientific Studies…and How to Get It Right” program at the SPJ2020.


October 19th, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 10/19: a buyout, a merger and a gossip columnist documentary Hello, Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea, let’s go to press…with this week’s News Biz Quiz!   A University of Mississippi study shows that what group of people is appearing on three times more magazine covers than in past years?


October 13th, 2020
Q&A: Leonard Downie Jr. on 44 years with The Washington Post, his memoir and more During his 44 years at The Washington Post, 17 of them as executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr. found himself at the nexus of historic events ranging from Watergate to 9/11 to the Clinton impeachment. Now, as the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he finally has the time to put it all down in his just-released personal memoir, “All About the Story: News, Power, Politics and The Washington Post.” 


October 12th, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 10/12: Twitter rules, an auctioned desk and more No, The Big Red Machine is not the name for Alexander Lukashenko’s cabinet. But they both figure into this week’s News Biz Quiz.   Over the weekend, the Radio-Television Digital News Association held its national awards ceremony digitally, due to COVID-19. For what legendary newsman are those awards named?


October 8th, 2020
Bookshelf: A career journalist travels the U.S. to define “Genus Americanus” Mark Twain once said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” It is those who never wander past their front door, who have the hardest time making sense of a world in constant evolution, where the status quo is a symbol of stagnation, rather than progress. 


October 5th, 2020
News Biz Quiz for 10/5: Anything but a slow news week There have been no shortage of national news stories this week. But we’ve got some questions about the news behind the news. Good luck.   During its current session (which begins this week), the U.S. Supreme Court will review proposed changes to media ownership rules which have been stuck down by lower courts, but could lead to even greater consolidation if SCOTUS lets them stand.