A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


Quill Archives


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. 


October 4th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
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 28th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
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.


September 20th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox, Education Toolbox
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 • 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.


September 3rd, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, From the President
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 27th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
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 24th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
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 12th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
‘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.


August 9th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
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 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
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 29th, 2021 • Quill Archives
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.


July 21st, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
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.