A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


Quill Blog


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.


November 10th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Diversity
From a Brooklyn apartment to the Kennedy Center, BIPOC critics lab challenges norms

There’s no question that the arts criticism world is primarily a white world, with few BIPOC (Black, Indiginous and people of color) voices in the mix. Frustrated by that fact, Jose Solís, co-founder and co-host of the Token Theatre Friends podcast, decided to take matters into his own hands by creating the BIPOC Critics Lab, meeting for 10 weeks via Zoom with eight future critics from around the country.


November 9th, 2020 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives
News Biz Quiz: Election edition

The election may have an outcome, but we still have questions…in this week’s News Biz Quiz. 1. Arrange these news networks by the order in which they (FINALLY!) called the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, Nov. 7: NBC CBS ABC CNN Fox News 2.


November 5th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, People and Places
2020 Fellow Interview: Les Zaitz

No one would have faulted veteran investigative reporter Les Zaitz if, after retiring from The Oregonian in 2016, he’d kicked back at his east Oregon ranch with his wife and watched the world go by. What did a man who’d covered the Mount St.


November 2nd, 2020 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives, News Biz Quiz
News Biz Quiz for 11/2: Election inaccuracies, disinformation and a legendary sports scribe

“BREAKING: Dewey Defeats Truman!”  Or maybe not.  It regularly takes a while — sometimes days, even — to get full results from an election. So we shouldn’t call the outcome and risk disenfranchising voters until we’re sure.  In the meantime, while we all patiently wait, try this week’s News Biz Quiz.


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.


October 26th, 2020 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives, News Biz Quiz
News Biz Quiz for 10/28: New meaning to ‘media exposure’

In this week’s News Biz Quiz, we learn what the term “media exposure” is NOT supposed to mean, and there’s no joy in Mudville as sports networks lose carriers.   1. Okay, let’s dispense with this straightaway: What legal analyst was suspended from his job at The New Yorker and placed on leave by CNN after (accidentally, he says) exposing himself on a Zoom call with colleagues?


October 23rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, People and Places
2020 Fellow interview: Jorge Ramos

A breaking news event that occurred in the United States 39 years ago started longtime Univision anchor Jorge Ramos on his journalism career path. To help pay for college, the Mexico City native was working at a Mexico radio station. When then-U.S.


October 22nd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Before you write about that “haunted” house …

Editor’s Note: ‘Tis the season…for otherwise credible publications to publish unsubstantiated reports of haunted houses and other paranormal activity. To discuss why this is a problem, Quill reached out to Dr. Rob Pyatt, who led the “Weird Science: What Journalists Get Wrong About Scientific Studies…and How to Get It Right” program at the SPJ2020.


October 13th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Bookshelf
Q&A: Leonard Downie Jr. on 44 years with The Washington Post, his memoir and more

During his 44 years at The Washington Post, 17 of them as executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr. found himself at the nexus of historic events ranging from Watergate to 9/11 to the Clinton impeachment. Now, as the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he finally has the time to put it all down in his just-released personal memoir, “All About the Story: News, Power, Politics and The Washington Post.” 


October 8th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
Bookshelf: A career journalist travels the U.S. to define “Genus Americanus”

Mark Twain once said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” It is those who never wander past their front door, who have the hardest time making sense of a world in constant evolution, where the status quo is a symbol of stagnation, rather than progress. 


October 5th, 2020 • Quill Blog, News Biz Quiz
News Biz Quiz for 10/5: Anything but a slow news week

There have been no shortage of national news stories this week. But we’ve got some questions about the news behind the news. Good luck.   During its current session (which begins this week), the U.S. Supreme Court will review proposed changes to media ownership rules which have been stuck down by lower courts, but could lead to even greater consolidation if SCOTUS lets them stand.


September 28th, 2020 • Quill Blog, News Biz Quiz
News Biz Quiz for 9/28: A merger, a debate and more.

This week’s events in the media world have been far from trivial. But how much did you pick up on the details. Test yourself with these questions, culled from the headlines and beyond.   D.C. District Court Judge Carl Nichols has temporarily halted the Trump Administration from banning what social media app from U.S.


September 23rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Bookshelf
Bookshelf: “Community-Centered Journalism” raises issues of trust and objectivity 

Andrea Wenzel comes not to bury journalism. She comes, as she says in her book “Community-Centered Journalism: Engaging People, Exploring Solutions, and Building Trust,” to both burn it down and repair it.   An assistant professor at Temple University, Wenzel certainly is critical of the way journalism traditionally has been practiced.


September 21st, 2020 • Quill Blog, News Biz Quiz
News Biz Quiz for 9/21: What did Trump call “the most beautiful thing”?

The news doesn’t slow down and neither does the News Biz Quiz. Here are this week’s questions:   1. In a campaign speech on September 18, President Trump called it “the most beautiful thing” that what MSNBC host (and former host of CNN’s “Your Money”) was hit in the knee with a rubber bullet while covering a May protest in Minneapolis over George Floyd’s killing by police?


September 15th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
Bookshelf: Brian Stelter’s “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth”

In order to understand Donald Trump, Brian Stelter argues in his new book, you have to understand Fox News.  Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent and anchor of “Reliable Sources,” put that view between covers in “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth,” for which he interviewed 140 current Fox staffers and 180 former employees.


September 10th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
SPJ2020: Virtual D.C. tours for a virtual conference 

SPJ’s Washington, D.C. Pro chapter was really looking forward to showing off the city during this year’s national conference.  But since you all can’t join us in person, we can at least offer  a few virtual highlights to give you a taste of D.C. 


September 9th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Freelancing
California freelancers battle AB5 and the PROAct

Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, ripped through the careers of California freelance journalists much like wildfires churn through the Golden State, turning trees and bushes into plumes of ash. I am one of the lucky ones, whose freelance career has been damaged, but not completely destroyed – yet.


September 4th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Putting SPJ Fellows at the forefront

Throughout its 111 years of history, SPJ has created innumerable cherished traditions. Among them is the Fellows of the Society program, launched in 1948. In those 72 years the Society has named 214 fellows. Last year, at our annual fall convention, we honored Maria Ressa of Rappler, and retired Associated Press staffers Terry Anderson and Nick Ut, plus Jamal Khashoggi of The Washington Post posthumously.


September 1st, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog
As theaters reopen, film reviewers face critical decisions

As movie theaters start reopening in North America, the place deemed a sanctuary by audiences has become a potential hotbed for infections. Cinema chains and independents have developed new cleaning methods and plans for social distancing, but filmgoers can choose to stay home and wait for films to arrive on-demand or to appear on streaming platforms.


August 28th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Pulling up anchors: Hiring broadcast talent in COVID-19 times

The pandemic forced lots of changes to the collection and presentation of TV news. Sources, instead of pontificating to a visiting reporter, now chime in from their home offices via Zoom. And anchors, instead of literally rubbing elbows with their peers on the studio set, are just as likely to broadcast from home as well.


August 13th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Future of in-flight magazines remains up in the air

For decades, well-thumbed copies of inflight magazines were as much a fixture on commercial airliners as peanuts and absurdly tiny pillows. They typically nestled in seat-back pockets next to the barf bags, offering a few minutes of distraction to one of the most captive of captive audiences—fliers sealed inside a pressurized tube cruising at 40,000 feet.


August 11th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
Bookshelf: Investigative journalist Jean Guerrero’s “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda”

Investigative journalist Jean Guerrero has spent years covering immigration in the United States. When the Trump administration implemented a family separation policy in 2018, she found parents who had committed no crimes or threats were still being separated.  She wanted to know why.


July 23rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Awards: Getting your best work recognized shouldn’t be an afterthought

Come 2021, it’s a safe bet some of the stories, web graphics, podcasts and editorial cartoons about COVID-19 will be honored with awards. The virus has spawned a crush of good journalism, and while such awards aren’t the highest priority, they can be important to a team’s morale.


June 26th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog
With fields and arenas empty, sports writers take on hard news

Normally, Ava Wallace can be found interviewing the Washington Wizards players for The Washington Post, but she recently covered a Black Lives Matter protest in Louisville when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.   Alex Putterman, the University of Connecticut football beat writer at the Hartford Courant, hasn’t written a sports story in months.


June 11th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Diversity, Ten With...
10 with Nikole Hannah-Jones

When The New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones pitched the 1619 Project to her editors last year, she didn’t know that people would drive 60 miles to get their hands on the issue the day it dropped or that a few thousand more would line the streets outside the paper’s office nearly two weeks later to snag a copy.


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.


June 8th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Freedom of Information
Media relations controls marginalize the press … and the public 

As protests erupt in the wake of police brutality, one key point for journalists to remember is that many police agencies have enforced silence on police officers. And that creates an historically fearful secrecy.  In an SPJ-sponsored 2016 survey, 56% of police reporters said they can rarely or never interview a police officer without involving a department’s public information officer.


June 4th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics: Should journalists show the faces of protesters?

Taking photos or video of protesters and people marching or demonstrating in public spaces is a right afforded to journalists under the First Amendment. In the United States people have a right to information. Journalists help fulfill that right to information by responsibly reporting on what is happening in communities across the country.


June 3rd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog
Police and protesters: Please let journalists do their jobs

Sunday night, around 9:30 p.m. in downtown Atlanta, I stopped next to a tree to try and gather my thoughts and decide where to go next. I was on assignment for The Washington Post covering the George Floyd protests and, while just an hour earlier there had been a lot of action with tear gas and fireworks in the streets, the city’s curfew went into effect at 9 and for the most part all was quiet.


June 2nd, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Diversity
Emotional dam broken for black community, including black journalists

It’s really difficult to describe how distressing and exhausting the past week has been for many black people and black reporters — and far more difficult to explain why. But as a black man and a black journalist, I feel the need to try.


May 14th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Covering COVID-19: SciLine’s director on avoiding the overreach

Whether we went to journalism school or worked our way up through a series of hard-nosed editors, we all were taught that the job is to tell people the news so they can react to those facts as they will — not to tell them how to feel about it.