A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


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.

November 2nd, 2017 • Quill Archives, Narrative Writing Toolbox
Energize yourself with a new writing approach

I wrote in the last issue about a young reporter who discovered the critical importance of picking the right character upon which to build a story. Now I want to introduce you to Jen Kocher, a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Wyoming.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Education Toolbox
Education Toolbox

On a warm summer night, I’m volunteering at the check-in desk at a community event. During a lull, I chat with a fellow volunteer. As often happens, the topic turns to work. After learning I’m a professor, he asks what I teach.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Narrative Writing Toolbox
Narrative Writing Toolbox

From time to time I receive emails from young journalists who want to eventually move into feature reporting, but they find themselves on a beat where they tell me they have no chance to work on storytelling skills. My first gig was at a weekly newspaper where I covered four small towns.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
Digital Media Toolbox

In June, the New York Times Magazine published a 10,000-word article by Nikole Hannah-Jones about segregated schools in New York City. Those who read the article online or on mobile devices may have noticed a subtle multimedia element buried halfway through the content: a graphic showing the shifting school zones for two Brooklyn schools.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Words & Language Toolbox
Words & Language Toolbox

I get lots of reader queries about that and which. Here’s a typical email: “I’m pretty good at grammar and usage, but apparently I don’t have a clue about the correct use of which and that. There’s some principle at work here that I don’t understand.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Freelance Toolbox
Freelance Toolbox

I recently decided to become a full-time freelance journalist after working in the field part time over the past few years. As a full-time doctoral student, I knew I needed to do something that allowed for a flexible schedule and fulfilled my academic needs as well.

November 10th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

The SPJ Ethics Committee handles a lot of issues that, as expected, involve news outlets representing all kinds of media. What may surprise some people is that we also deal with a lot of issues involving non-fiction books. These issues often involve works that could be classified as creative non-fiction.

February 17th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Education Toolbox
Education Toolbox

Last fall, college journalists across the country reported about diversity issues on campus, sometimes involving classmates raising awareness of racism, discrimination and threats. These issues came to our campus at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., with an unprecedented action: The administration canceled classes for one day, concerned about threats on social media toward students of color.

February 17th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Narrative Writing Toolbox
Narrative Writing Toolbox

The New Year is less than a month old as I write this column, but I’m in a reflective mood. I hope it reaches a young reporter, perhaps someone at a weekly or small outlet, at your first “real” job after college.

February 17th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
Digital Media Toolbox

In today’s digital-first news industry, priorities have turned to clicks and “attention minutes” and whatever the next big metric will be. But in all these analytics, how are we measuring readers’ understanding of news? Where is the metric showing that what we’re reporting is actually resonating with readers?

February 17th, 2016 • Quill Archives, Words & Language Toolbox
Words & Language Toolbox

I know a real-life Mrs. Malaprop, and it’s impossible not to grin when she speaks. Examples: She said she didn’t think her skin rash was generic because no one else in her family had it. She said that when she mentioned her favorite uncle, she meant Uncle Joe pacifically.