A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


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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.


April 8th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Code Words, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics: Answering questions about COVID-19 coverage

At the Society of Professional Journalists, we talk a lot about how your ethical standards should not change no matter the medium or type of story you are producing. While covering COVID-19, the same is true: Ethics apply no matter the medium.


April 1st, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Toolbox, Quill Archives, Freelance Toolbox
Freelancers, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act

Can you show a decrease in your journalism income because of the current pandemic? Freelance journalists nationwide including sole proprietors, independent contractors and the self-employed (for example, S Corporation owners) might now be entitled unemployment benefits in their state. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the provisions of the unemployment program have been expanded to help provide temporary monetary relief for freelance journalists and other workers who illustrate a decrease in income resulting from the effects of the current pandemic virus on business operations.


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.


February 18th, 2020 • Quill Blog, Toolbox, Freelance Toolbox, Narrative Writing Toolbox
Excerpt: Tips on organizing notes from “The Craft of Science Writing”

The new book The Craft of Science Writing is a curated collection from The Open Notebook, a primary resource for science journalists. It offers a primer on how to report and write about science, including how to read a scientific paper and how to explain complex concepts and processes clearly.


February 3rd, 2020 • Featured, Freelance Toolbox, Odds and Ends
Studies show…or maybe they don’t

Misinterpreted data and unsubstantiated conclusions plague press and social media. What can journalists do to stop them? Quill asked Rob Pyatt, who has presented workshops focused on teaching critical thinking skills, to chime in on the subject. Pyatt, an assistant professor in the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics at Kean University, is certified in Clinical Molecular Genetics and serves as a director of the Oxy-Gen Laboratory in Norcross, Georgia. 


December 13th, 2019 • Featured, Toolbox
Toolbox: What’s to like (and not like) about “likes” leaving Instagram? 

Instagram has begun hiding likes. Well, from the public. You, as a user, will still be able to see your own likes once this reaches all accounts, but your followers (and their followers and their friends), won’t be able to see your likes.


October 1st, 2019 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
The SPJ Code of Ethics at 110

As the Society of Professional Journalists celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2019, it may come as a surprise that SPJ did not have its signature Code of Ethics for the group’s first 17 years. In 1909 when the young men at DePauw University founded SPJ as a college fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi, one of their goals was “to advance the standards of the press by fostering a higher ethical code.”


August 8th, 2019 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Quill question: When does sponsored content require disclosure?

An SPJ member asked: “A local entertainment publication provides a weekly print edition with information on weekly entertainment happenings in the area. They also feature various articles on people and events. Sometimes the cover is sold for the featured event. Does this require a disclosure?


November 23rd, 2018 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Diversity, Diversity Toolbox
Covering social movements: Learn the community, relay context

Journalists and Baltimore residents have suggested ways to improve coverage of protests and social movements, such as those that followed the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in the city three years ago. Baltimore officers alleged Gray, a 25-year-old black man, had an illegal knife when they arrested him after a chase.


September 30th, 2018 • Quill Blog, Ethics Toolbox
10 lessons in journalism ethics

My tenure as the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee chairperson began in September 2014. A Minneapolis news station would broadcast a story now known as #Pointergate in early November. Rolling Stone would publish its now-infamous story on sexual assault a couple of weeks later. 


September 18th, 2018 • Toolbox, Quill Archives, Freelance Toolbox, Freelancing
2017 law means changes for freelancers’ taxes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) included several provisions that affect how independent journalists are taxed on their business income. We asked Matthew Apodaca, a certified public accountant and executive vice president at NCH Tax & Wealth Advisors in Fullerton, California, to help us understand the current tax situation for freelancers.


July 2nd, 2018 • Quill Blog, Words & Language Toolbox
Take this quiz to help refresh your writing

Nothing annoys readers like having to plow through a litter of errors on their way to a period. And because even professional writers can get rusty regarding the basics, it’s a good idea to check on one’s recall from time to time.


June 18th, 2018 • Quill Blog, Narrative Writing Toolbox
Turn your ideas into stories

During my 40 years in the business, I’ve learned to listen to anyone who tells me they have a story. Great stories come unannounced, like a soft tap on the door. You need to be alert to that sound. The series that turned out to be the story that won me the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2001 came from a telephone call to me from a reader.


April 27th, 2018 • Quill Blog, Ethics Toolbox
Transparency on full display in Garrison Keillor case

As Minnesota prepared for an early April storm that would dump over a foot of snow in the Twin Cities, Minnesota Public Radio and Garrison Keillor struck a deal. Nearly five months after MPR and its parent company, American Public Media Group, severed ties with Keillor over accusations of sexual harassment, Keillor and MPR reached an agreement where the archives of the two programs for which he worked, The Writer’s Almanac and A Prairie Home Companion, would be restored.


March 28th, 2018 • Words & Language Toolbox
This checklist will help you edit faster and better

A reader had a question: “You say in The Book on Writing that we should write fast and edit slowly. As a reporter, I found that advice helpful, and I’ve tried to follow it. Problem is, I’m now a copy editor — and I edit too slowly.