A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists



February 23rd, 2024 • Featured
Was content a factor in Gannett axing “Doonesbury”?

Fans of “Doonesbury” who’ve been getting the edgy comic strip in a Gannett-owned newspaper searched in vain for it Sunday. That day’s strip mocked the notion that something other than slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War and featured a teacher telling students that many Southerners assisted the Union Army.


January 22nd, 2024 • Quill Archives
Diversity programs under attack

Assistant Professor Chalise Macklin makes sure guests who speak to her broadcast classes at the University of Memphis include people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+  community. And her lectures weave in examples that showcase a diverse range of people and communities.


September 18th, 2023 • Quill Archives
2023 Fellow Feature: Soledad O’Brien

During a commencement address at Spelman College, Soledad O’Brien relayed a story about people in Maryland spitting on her parents in 1958 because they disapproved of the marriage between her mother, a Black Cuban, and father, a white Australian of Irish and Scottish heritage.


July 11th, 2023 • Quill Archives
Refreshing the pool

Like many journalists, Corey Walker didn’t major in journalism; he focused on history and economics while attending the University of Michigan. He loved to write, though, and took one journalism class and penned a few stories for the Michigan Review, a conservative alternative campus publication.


July 6th, 2023 • Quill Archives, Ten With...
10 With Lauren Williams

In 2020, many heavy issues and events were directly affecting African Americans, and not in a good way. Police or police wannabes killed unarmed Black citizens while a deadly contagion was spreading, disproportionally afflicting Black people. Nonetheless, hundreds of marches against police brutality and nervousness about a consequential presidential election drew scores of people outside, further putting Black Americans, in particular, at risk.


May 9th, 2023 • Quill Archives
Raising representation in student newsrooms

After a summer of nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd and outrage over the shooting death of a young Black man by a white bar owner in Omaha, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student newspaper decided to make the value of Black lives the focus of its 2020 fall special edition.


January 6th, 2023 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Conduits of misinformation

After interviewing U.S. Sen. Rick Scott about the challenges of rebuilding areas of Florida decimated by deadly Hurricane Ian, Margaret Brennan, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” attempted to wrap up with an unrelated question about recent “disturbing rhetoric” from former President Donald Trump and U.S.


October 14th, 2022 • Quill Archives
2022 Fellow Feature: Roland Martin

SPJ launched the Fellows of the Society program in 1948 and has named three or more Fellows every year since. Roland Martin is among the 2022 recipients of this, the organization’s highest honor. When Roland Martin decided at age 14 that he would establish a career in journalism, he also decided he wouldn’t limit himself to just one medium.


July 6th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity
“Sorry” state: Should newspapers apologize for their pasts?

The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, partnered with white supremacists to intimidate black voters in the 1890s yet remains a respected newspaper today, writer Alexandria Neason noted in a story last year. “Americans have short memories; we don’t like to be reminded of our many sins, so instead we prop up lofty narratives of progress and unity that obscure the violence enacted along the way,” Neason wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review.


April 14th, 2022 • Featured
Op-ed writer challenges newspaper’s decision to inform readers of past crime

Steve Schulz’s social life often led him to downtown Minneapolis, where he’d attend ball games, go to the theater or just have drinks with friends. Since he was there so much, he decided to sell his house in the suburbs and get an apartment downtown, where he could walk to his favorite hangouts.


March 25th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Widely shared Ketanji Brown Jackson graphic misleading without context

A Washington Post graphic comparing Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s experience with that of current justices has been widely shared on social media, sometimes without the headline that provides important context.  The chart ran online and in the newspaper with the headline, “How Ketanji Brown Jackson’s path to the Supreme Court differs from the current justices.”


February 17th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Hicks: Palin case dismissal comes with a reminder of vulnerability

Both the jury and judge who considered Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit against The New York Times concluded she did not prove her case. That means news shops will continue to enjoy the high legal standard that’s rarely met by plaintiffs attempting to prove libel. 


February 16th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Beyond the Zucker headlines, another ethics issue

Jeff Zucker’s departure from the network he led has been big news. But media executives and newsroom managers who strive to produce journalism with high ethical standards should take note of a passing detail in the events at CNN that preceded his leaving. 


October 8th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
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 9th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
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.


May 19th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Connecting to the Code

This feature celebrates one of SPJ’s four guiding principals: We are stewards of ethical journalism.  Truth took a beating during the past four years, with the previous U.S. president frequently spewing provably false or misleading statements as disinformation overall coursed through social media with ferocious speed.


April 16th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Blog
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 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Diversity, Journalist on Call
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. 


February 15th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Journalist on Call
Handling the Hate

Rachael Eyler was confident she was prepared to start her career as a multimedia reporter at a small Wisconsin TV station back in the spring. She had a new journalism degree, experience from internships and campus media, and was coming off a multimedia fellowship at The Wall Street Journal in London.


January 15th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Journalist on Call
Groups say frontline journalists at-risk, seek vaccination priority

UPDATE: The CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan lists the media as essential workers to be given the vaccine in Phase 1c. This places them after people aged 65 years or older and other essential workers including healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers, public transit workers and teachers.


November 17th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
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.


October 29th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, People and Places
2020 SPJ Fellow Tribute: Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill was a trailblazer and journalism icon with near-universal respect from peers for how she conducted her craft. She began her career in newspapers and moved to television networks, serving as moderator and managing editor of PBS’s “Washington Week” and co-anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour” at the time of her death in 2016.


June 8th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Hicks: Safety and self-care vital for front-line journalists

When police in Ferguson, Missouri, launched tear gas into a crowd of protesters in 2014, reporter Errin Haines was swept up in the ensuing stampede, prompting a man to usher her and another journalist to safety in his nearby home.  The man wasn’t a total stranger.


May 1st, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Journalist on Call, Odds and Ends
Beyond the hard news: 23 tips for when feature ideas run out

While COVID19 has necessitated hard news writing (under very challenging circumstances), consumers also need and want more to engage them, help them and even make them smile during these challenging times. Need some ideas to supplement the leading news stories? At Quill, we brainstormed and came up with a list of story areas that might fill your editorial gaps.


March 23rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog
Hicks: Trump among challenges of accurately covering COVID-19

Journalists are encountering numerous challenges as they report on the coronavirus outbreak. One is the president of the United States. President Donald Trump spent the early days of the virus’ arrival on the homeland denying it would have much impact here.


March 18th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Toolbox, Quill Archives
Hicks: Groups urge care, precision in coronavirus reporting

Journalists covering the coronavirus have produced compelling, informative stories, but along the way, there have been mischaracterizations, inaccuracies and absent nuances. An ABC News story posted to its website incorrectly implied the terms coronavirus and COVID-19 can be used interchangeably, a common mistake.


March 3rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Journalist on Call
Hicks: During crises, public needs trust in government and the press

As the infectious coronavirus travels the globe, claiming more than 3,000 lives so far, public health professionals have urged people to learn the facts. Meanwhile, a White House official had a different message for Americans: Stay uninformed. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Feb.


February 17th, 2020 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Hicks: Snoop Dogg’s threat to Gayle King echoes national media attacks

Snoop Dogg’s sexist, threatening response to Gayle King for bringing up an old rape allegation against Kobe Bryant looked very familiar. It reminded me of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launching into a profanity-laced tantrum following an interview with National Public Radio anchor Mary Louise Kelly.


December 19th, 2019 • Featured, Journalist on Call
Hicks: Media essential in impeachment understanding

Much of the evidence introduced during the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump was accessible to Americans through the news media and online sites. This allowed unprecedented access to hours of testimony, the opportunity to review documents and, ostensibly, to judge the case against Trump for themselves.


April 18th, 2019 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Impactful Pulitzer-winning journalism undermines ‘fake news’ claims

The news stories that won Pulitzer Prizes this week show the benefits of having journalists free to tediously dig through records, analyze volumes of data, interview sources under dangerous circumstances and widely share their findings. They show how good journalism can help people understand issues that directly impact their lives.


March 26th, 2019 • Quill Archives
Perception of bias: the media and the Mueller report

There’s much chatter on social media claiming that the failure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to draw any conclusive links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — combined with the exhaustive coverage of the investigation — is proof of a bias against the president by the news media.


March 19th, 2019 • Featured, Quill Blog, Journalist on Call
Sacramento residents assess media coverage in wake of Stephon Clark shooting

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Residents across Sacramento said they generally are pleased with the breadth and accuracy of the local news media’s coverage related to the death of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man killed last year by two police officers.