A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists



August 25th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Investigative insights

We’ve seen some terrific investigative stories in recent months. Thanks to federal and state freedom of information laws, reporters from newsrooms large and small were able to dig up important information that people in power would like to keep hidden. The following stories show how public records can be used to cover topics including public safety, national security and government spending.


August 1st, 2008 • Quill Archives
Gems: School stories: show & tell

As the new school year draws near, we’d like to highlight some excellent stories from newspapers, television and the Web that show different ways journalists can cover education. The class project The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Mark Johnson shadowed students in a Marquette University engineering class through the school year as they tried to build a reactor that could convert vegetable oils into fuel.


July 9th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Setting the scene

Stories come alive when readers feel like they’re at the scene of the action. The writers of the following descriptions accomplish this by using vivid sensory details, action verbs and dialogue. Nouns Jeanne Marie Laskas’ “This Is Paradise” in the May GQ explores a landfill near Los Angeles.


May 1st, 2008 • Quill Archives
Fanfares for the common man and woman

The subjects of most profiles are obvious choices. Political honchos, entertainers, sports stars and business chieftains are the usual suspects. That’s why it’s especially pleasing to read stories about interesting people who rarely stand in the limelight. The reporters of the following stories successfully kept their eyes and ears open so they could discover these everyday people doing amazing things.


March 28th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Profiles in persistence

When faced with the demands of daily journalism, it’s tough to track a story over a long period of time. That’s why we’re impressed with the following stories, which showcase the work of reporters and photographers who persistently pursued stories that began years ago.


March 3rd, 2008 • Quill Archives
Brilliant Broadcasts

As many television newsrooms reduce reporting staffs, it’s becoming harder to find good enterprise stories on the airwaves. That’s why we admire the following stories, which go beyond the hubbub of daily events to investigate wrongdoing and reveal important trends. Into the fire The most popular kind of smoke detector does a poor job of alerting people to slow-burning fires, Bob Segall of WTHR Channel 13 in Indianapolis reported in his “Deadly Delay” series.


January 24th, 2008 • Quill Archives
The Best of 2007

We saw many outstanding examples of journalism last year, but the stories listed below were our favorites. They came from television, magazines, Web sites and newspapers big and small. 1. War in Iraq The most important story of 2007 was the conflict in Iraq, and no one covered the fighting and its aftermath better than The Washington Post.


September 27th, 2007 • Quill Archives
Health and safety: Stories that matter

Few stories hit closer to home for readers and viewers than those about health and safety. The best of these stories go beyond the latest studies and the disease of the month to show how big trends affect people’s lives. The following stories feature some of the best reporting and writing I’ve seen this year on health and safety, from toys that can kill children to a dying woman’s decision on how she wants to treat her illness.


September 1st, 2007 • Quill Archives
The fruits of public records

Reporters used the federal Freedom of Information Act and state open-records laws to write great stories this year. From drunken paramedics to wasted Katrina aid to corrupt U.S. allies, these stories brought serious problems to light. Here are examples of some of them.


August 7th, 2007 • Quill Archives
Education reporting reveals shocking stories

It’s not easy climbing to the top of the class when it comes to covering education. Administrators hide behind red tape. Teachers avoid interviews because they fear reprisals if they talk about problems. Privacy rules block access to students. These roadblocks make the following stories even more impressive because their writers kept pushing until they revealed what’s really going on with our schools.


July 3rd, 2007 • Quill Archives
Crime and Punishment

Excellent crime reporting takes readers beyond the basic who, what, where and when. It examines the causes and impact of crime by exploring how and why, as these stories demonstrate. Prevention In “Seen, but Not Heard,” Bill Bishop of The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore.,


May 7th, 2007 • Quill Archives
NewsGems: Telling stories in different ways

When I first learned to report, my teachers and editors taught me to pound my words into inverted pyramids. For a twist, they showed me how to write feature stories with descriptive or anecdotal leads. Many of us have relied on these classic forms over the years, but some journalists are using new media to tell their stories in entirely different and effective ways, as these examples show.


March 6th, 2007 • Quill Archives
Reporters show all sides of war

I’m amazed by the tremendous efforts that reporters and photographers are making to tell the biggest story of our time. The examples below show how journalists are doing great work, whether it’s in the chaotic streets of Baghdad, an Army base, a military hospital or American homes where families navigate the rugged aftermath of war.


February 2nd, 2007 • Quill Archives
Diverse sources make for best stories

I like writing about black Christian women. Since I’m a white Jewish guy, this habit puzzled me until I realized that I simply enjoy learning about what’s unfamiliar. This instinct, I think, leads to the kind of stories that are exciting to report.


December 1st, 2006 • Quill Archives
The Whole Picture

Maybe the smartest thing I did during my daily reporting days was to become friends with the photographers at my newspapers. I’d chat with them about the ideas I was working on and listen to hear if they had any ideas to make my stories better.


September 1st, 2006 • Quill Archives
FOIA Fruits

Reporters throughout the country dug deeply into public records this summer to create important stories that served the public. On beats ranging from health care to the environment to cops, the Freedom of Information Act allowed reporters to unearth documents that people in power wanted to keep hidden.