A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


Quill Archives


May 27th, 2022 • Quill Archives
Texas shooting renews debate about trauma journalism practices 

“How can it be that nothing has changed?”  That’s how Kai Ryssdal began the May 25 edition of the public radio program “Marketplace.” The story he referred to that prompted the question was not a classic “Marketplace” story, he acknowledged. But the big story of the week could not be ignored — that of 19 students and two teachers killed by a shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 


May 16th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity
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 • Quill Archives
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 • Quill Archives
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 21st, 2022 • Quill Archives
Making space for Black women photographers 

The first time Polly Irungu picked up a camera was when a guidance counselor encouraged her to get involved with the yearbook club. After a series of relocations that left Irungu feeling depressed, photography offered hope. “It was the first thing that brought me joy in those few years, so I decided to explore it more as a career opportunity,” she says.


April 12th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ten With...
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 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.”


March 18th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
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 9th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Freedom of Information
Declining fulfillment typifies today’s FOIA. Here’s why.

(image credit: www.epictop10.com) Many a great story has come out of Freedom of Information Act findings. At the same time, many a story doesn’t get written because the requested documents don’t arrive by deadline – if at all. And the two-year-old pandemic is worsening response times.


March 8th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Words & Language Toolbox
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 23rd, 2022 • Quill Archives
11 more films added to Quill’s ranked list of journalism films

Below you’ll find eleven more film reviews that have been added to our ongoing ranking of journalism flicks, taking the total up to 150. Yes, 150. Newcomers include films released as recently as 2021 as well as others dating back to the 1930s.


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. 


February 15th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ten With...
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.


February 4th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Accident brings attention to safety of lone journalists in the field

On the night of Jan. 19, Tori Yorgey was in the field doing a live report for the 11 p.m. news on NBC affiliate WSAZ in Huntington, West Virginia. Yorgey was covering the significant winter storm that hit the area, which resulted in a water main break in Dunbar, a town roughly 7 miles west of the state capital Charleston.


January 31st, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
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 27th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
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 • Quill Archives
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 • Featured, Quill Archives
UN warns of ‘a significant number’ of risks toward 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.  


January 6th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, From the President, SPJ Report
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
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 • Featured, Quill Archives
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 23rd, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
“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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
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.


November 8th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
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 25th, 2021 • Quill Archives
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 14th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
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 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.