A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


Author Archives: Zoë Berg


May 16th, 2022
Making good on diversity promises One of the most important jobs of any newsroom in any city is to tell the stories of the people who shape and construct the narratives of the community. But for many years, newsrooms, reporters and leaders did not reflect those communities as well as they should.


May 4th, 2022
The Pod Squad When Gabby Petito went missing in September, her story went viral. It was difficult to avoid the constant updates, timelines, theories circulating the internet and armchair detectives swapping “clues” to try and find the 22-year-old. Social media users from old-school Facebook posters to true crime TikTok followers, and traditional news outlets, became deeply invested in this case.


April 26th, 2022
Covering the Midterms Horse race. Polls. Who said what today. Who picked up what endorsement. A soundbite. A gaffe. Even an occasional gotcha, conflict or carnal impropriety story. All expected in election coverage these days. But with control of Congress at stake, media can do much more to help voters make informed choices by probing candidates’ actions, positions, financing and misstatements.


April 12th, 2022
10 with Lars Willnat Every 10 years since 1982, researchers for “The American Journalist” survey a representative sample of journalists throughout the United States to understand who makes up the profession and their attitudes toward it. Leading the survey this year is Lars Willnat, the John Ben Snow Endowed Research Professor in the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.


March 18th, 2022
From the President: Communities make a difference Since becoming president of the Society of Professional Journalists, I’ve constantly talked about #SPJStrong. We are a strong organization in part because we have two communities that bring journalists together for a common cause. If you’re a freelancer looking to expand your network, find a job lead or join a supportive group, all you have to do is turn to the SPJ Freelance Community.


March 8th, 2022
Is That the Right Word? Racking your brain for the right word is particularly grueling on deadline. Are paramedics attempting to stanch the bleeding after a mass shooting? Or should that be staunch? And was the lawyer riffling through her notes, or rifling? Did the defense refute or rebut the arguments?


February 15th, 2022
Code Breakers Violations of journalism ethics come in a variety of types, many of which were committed in 2021. Some happen because of bad judgment, some are committed by journalists who know they are wrong and some come from maintaining the status quo without question.


February 8th, 2022
10 with Apoorva Mandavilli You may recognize Apoorva Mandavilli’s name due to the sheer number of COVID-19 stories bylined by The New York Times health and science reporter. Her background in both science and reporting on other infectious diseases truly prepared her for this moment.


January 31st, 2022
Eyes in the skies: Getting the most out of satellite data and images On May 13, 2021, the British Antarctic Survey observed a massive chunk of ice breaking off Antarctica. A generation ago, journalists would have had very little specific information to write about such an event. But in this case, we almost knew immediately that the iceberg A-76 measured around 4,320 square kilometers (about 1,668 square miles) in size, making it the largest berg in the world at that point.


January 6th, 2022
Face-to-Face Value An Oklahoma City TV station reported in September that local emergency rooms were turning away gunshot victims because they were inundated by victims of ivermectin overdose. Great story — and one fitting into the media narrative debunking the myth that ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medicine used for livestock, can be used as a COVID-19 preventive.


January 4th, 2022
From the President: #SPJChapterStrong SPJ professional and student chapters are the backbone of our organization. Often the “boots on the ground” for our local journalists, student journalists and journalism educators, they play a big part in the strength of SPJ. That’s why I’m devoting my Quill columns to our chapters, whether they are standing up for the rights of journalists, raising scholarship money or giving students a place to grow their network on campus.


December 20th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Quick-and-Dirty Fact-Checking Tools to Help You Get it Right I’ve been posting fact-checking tools to Journalist’s Toolbox for more than a quarter of a century. Verification is at the core of what we do as journalists, and having good resources at our fingertips. Here are a few of my “quick-and-dirty” tools I’ve been using to fact-check stories, photos and video: The Google Fact Check Explorer tracks if a story has been fact-checked by an independent source.


December 7th, 2021
Journalist’s Gift Guide 2021 At first, we thought we’d go for practical this year. After all, journalism is serious business. Then we thought about what a tough year it’s been for many and thought “fun” would be a better road to go. Then again, what about stylish gifts?


November 8th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Resize Social Media Images in Sprout Social’s Landscape Tool A few years ago at a training at the University of Cincinnati, a participant asked me about sizing social media images. Her problem: How can the social media desk properly size an image to fit in a Facebook header, Twitter feed and Instagram in just a few minutes.


November 4th, 2021
2021 Fellow Feature: Clarence Page Now a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, journalist Clarence Page has covered the news for over 50 years, beginning his career in his high school newsroom and working for local Ohio publications including the Middletown Journal. Landing at the Tribune, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist’s coverage is now a staple in households across America.


November 1st, 2021
Extra! Extra! Read all about the Fellows of the Society The Society of Professional Journalists’ Fellows of the Society aren’t just noted for their work in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and online. Combined, they have written what amounts to a library full of books, since the program began in 1948. Here’s a sampling of those between-covers projects penned by just the past decade of Fellows.


October 14th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Create Layered Maps in Google MyMaps Google MyMaps is the perfect tool for mapping small datasets for dayturn stories and projects. Have a dataset of pothole repairs in your city? Map it. Tracking crime in certain neighborhoods? Load a spreadsheet from your police department into MyMaps. There are thousands of stories to be found in datasets on your city, county, state and federal data portals.


October 4th, 2021
2021 Fellows Feature: Maria Hinojosa For almost four decades, Maria Hinojosa has shared the stories of marginalized communities through work that celebrates the diversity of the American experience. In 1992, she helped launch the Peabody Award–winning “Latino USA” — one of the earliest public-radio shows devoted to Latino issues — and is its host and executive producer.


September 20th, 2021
2021 Fellows Feature: Barbara Walters Barbara Walters, who would become one of 20th century television journalism’s most well-known faces, almost didn’t enter the field. TV was in its infancy when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951, and her personal background hardly pointed toward a career in the new medium.


September 13th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Tools in the classroom. Plus: Replacing “very” With the school year underway, let’s explore how to implement Journalist’s Toolbox into a classroom rather than focus on a single tool this month. College professors and high school journalism teachers have used the site for more than 25 years, mainly for research purposes.


September 9th, 2021
2021 Fellow Feature: Yamiche Alcindor Yamiche Alcindor sees her role as seeking the truth on behalf of Americans and telling stories in ways that connect to their lives. Alcindor is White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and moderator of “Washington Week,” a PBS news analysis show anchored for years by her late mentor, Gwen Ifill.


September 3rd, 2021
From the President: Building by listening I’ve done a lot of listening in my year as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. The best membership organizations are built around listening. I think back now to the first moments of my term, when I gave an inaugural speech in shorts and a jacket from my bedroom, my youngest daughter lying on the floor outside my closed door, listening.


August 24th, 2021
The 19th*: Gender, politics and policy are the keywords at a bold start-up writing “for communities rather than about them” Launching a journalism startup in the midst of a pandemic, protests and a presidential election year with an unstable economy looming overhead, most would probably agree, is a terrible idea. But, for The 19th co-founders Amanda Zamora and Emily Ramshaw, it was the perfect opportunity to put women front and center.


August 23rd, 2021
Ms. Mayhem: A self-funded news website takes pride in reporting on the intersection of race, class, gender, ability and sexual orientation Late one night in December 2017, Madison Lauterbach was having trouble falling asleep in the Sydney, Australia, hostel where she was staying over Christmas break. In between journalism school semesters at Metropolitan State University of Denver and getting ready to start her first journalism internship, she had an epiphany.


August 9th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: How to build a cool chart in Google Flourish — Handout + video Google purchased the Flourish graphics tool five years ago, and it has evolved into an excellent tool for creating animated charts, maps and other interactives using only a spreadsheet. The tool includes a paid account for developers to code and add watermarks, but the free version of Flourish meets most newsrooms’ needs.


August 9th, 2021
BridgeDetroit: Connecting with readers is key for a newcomer filling “information gaps” in the Motor City BridgeDetroit launched in the middle of 2020 with one purpose: to focus on “lifting up the issues that Detroiters themselves identify as important to their lives.” That meant staffing with a diverse team that reflected the city’s demographics, and hiring an engagement director whose job would be to meet with the community in an effort to create something that truly represented Detroit.


August 4th, 2021
Researchers: Knowledge of SPJ Code of Ethics helps students better navigate ethical issues College journalists who were familiar with the SPJ Code of Ethics, had taken an ethics course or had other exposure to ethical decision making were more likely to identify unethical behavior in scenarios posed to them in a survey by two South Carolina researchers.


July 29th, 2021
Wind Newspaper: A free, bilingual weekly with a staff of one makes a difference in San Francisco Every Tuesday and Wednesday, Portia Li makes the 45-minute trek north from her Millbrae home to San Francisco’s iconic Chinatown neighborhood. On a particularly gorgeous day, with a warmth that is the antithesis of the cool weather the City by the Bay is known for, she purposely parks on hilly Sacramento Street.


July 21st, 2021
Interview: Jerry Ceppos and “Covering Politics in the Age of Trump” Jerry Ceppos, former executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News and vice president of news at Knight Ridder, got to “sit out” reporting on the Trump administration, thanks to his current position as a distinguished professor of journalism at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication.


July 12th, 2021
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Video Editing on VN Smartphone App There are many good smartphone video editing apps on the market, but for my work, the VN video editing app for iPhone and Android gets the job done better than any other tool based on ease of use and powerful controls.


July 6th, 2021
From the President: Our most important interviews Remember your first nerve-racking interview as a student journalist? Remember the thrill of finishing your first story and having it actually be in the world? Remember reaching out to pros for advice while in college, not knowing if they’d talk to you, then hearing they gladly would?


June 28th, 2021
10 with Lindsay Peoples Wagner Named editor-in-chief at biweekly The Cut in January, Lindsay Peoples Wagner took the reins of the fashion magazine after serving in the same role at Teen Vogue — where she was the youngest and among the few Black journalists serving as editor-in-chief of a Condé Nast publication.