The Weekly Scroll for Jan. 5, 2018

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News, tips and advice from the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society
Compiled and written by Quill and Scroll journalists

The Lede:

Access and Credibility

“You can’t make this (stuff) up.”

That was former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s motto while he worked for President Trump for most of 2017. Now there’s more evidence, in the form of Michael Wolff’s coming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” excerpts of which have been published in New York Magazine and which Wolff himself wrote about for the Hollywood Reporter.

It’s all fun (or frightening) stuff to read — especially Steve Bannon’s claim that Donald Trump Jr. committed treason — but questions about Wolff’s reporting style and his credibility have to be raised in the run-up to the Jan. 9 release. It’s fun to read, in large part, because of the detailed dialogue that Wolff included in the book. As he noted in his preface to the Hollywood Reporter piece, he was granted regular and unfettered access to the West Wing, from which he observed what’s in the book.

But did he observe all that dialogue? Did he adhere to Spicer’s credo or did he make stuff up? Other reporters are questioning Wolff’s accounts, including the Washington Post, not because of his current stories (those are being parsed separately), but because of his history of playing loose with events and facts.

Bottom line for student reporters: Don’t EVER give ANYBODY reason to doubt your credibility. Always be diligent, dogged and determined to ferret out the truth, and do it without a hint of personal agenda and vendetta.

Are you faking it?

We’re all now hyper-aware of the term “fake news,” how it may have affected the 2016 election and how politicians use it to label any news that may make them look bad. But are you doing your bit to make sure it isn’t spread?

Here’s a great piece from the Dallas Morning News that asks about fake news: “How complicit are you in its spread?”
Can your student publications staff produce a piece about journalistic practice and/or ethics that might help your readers, viewers and listeners better understand how journalists do their work? Can you explain to them your rules on unnamed sources? Or the number of sources required for a story? Can you show them a process that you use to determine which stories should run and which shouldn’t?

And what about government?

This year promises to present quite a bit of news about the processes of government. On Thursday, for example, Newsweek published a story in which a Democratic Representative from Texas claims that he House Intelligence Committee has heard about crimes committed by President Trump’s staff.

All that will be covered by the national media, of course, but you might have a chance to do an explanatory story — with the help of social studies teachers and local politicians — about how the government functions? What’s the House Intelligence Committee and what power does it have? What happens if they find something? Is there a Senate Intelligence Committee? Do they work together? If not, why not? How does the makeup (Democrats vs. Republicans) of that committee affect its decisions?

It’s an honor:

It’s that time of the year

If you’re at an active Quill and Scroll charter school, you are probably thinking about who’s going to be inducted into the honor society this spring. Some of you may already know the date, the time and the honorees. If you aren’t quite sure how this whole induction thing works, check out our Student Memberships page to learn more about the qualifications. Scroll down to see the various awards you can get to commemorate your induction.

We also have scripts for the induction ceremony if you do it with candles or sans candles. Both are pretty cool.

We would love to see how you do Quill and Scroll

Does anyone have any footage of their induction ceremonies! We would love to feature your students in a video! Contact us at [email protected] for more information.

What does being a Quill and Scroll member mean to you?

Go to our Facebook page to learn how to share your testimony about what it means to be a member of Quill and Scroll. Or you can go to the Quill and Scroll website to give a more detailed story about your connection to Q&S.

The Student Advisory Board is a go!

The first Quill and Scroll Student Advisory Board has been formed, and it consists of 11 students — boys and girls from public and private schools across the United States. The SAB has already begun providing feedback to the Executive Director about our programs and contests, and it will soon begin planning a nationwide Quill and Scroll activity for the fall 2018 semester.

A big part of our planning includes a face-to-face meeting in San Francisco at the April JEA/NSPA convention. But some students will need help getting there. So Q&S Executive Director Jeff Browne has created a fundraiser on his Facebook page to help defray some of those costs.

You can help by sharing that fundraiser on your page (or, if you have some extra holiday cash lying around, by donating). Every little bit helps. Thanks!

What’s Viral:

Too tiny for the family

So living in a tiny house would be cool, right? Just park your little home on a beautiful lot in the country, on the beach or in the mountains and enjoy the natural, simple life. Not so fast, says this Texas family. The tiny house phenomenon didn’t live up to their expectations.

Are there any families are your school living in tiny houses? Former students you know? How have they fared? Is tiny really working for them? Is this a rich-person problem? After all, millions of Americans have no permanent home, so they’d love to have a tiny house.

Cigarette sale age being raised

It was nearly 35 years ago when the Reagan administration made a push for a national drinking age of 21, ostensibly to reduce drunk driving. Every state eventually complied with that.

Now, led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, states are beginning to raise from 18 to 21 the age at which Americans can buy tobacco products. On Jan. 1, 2018, Oregon joined California, New Jersey and Hawaii in making that the law. Maine will join that club on July 1, 2018. Nearly 300 cities, towns and counties have also passed similar ordinances.

Where’s your city, county or state on the list? How many students at your school smoke? If so, how do they get cigarettes? Will a new law slow them down? The Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. die every year because of smoking-caused illnesses, including lung cancer.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

If you’re in Southern California right now, well … good for you. The same with South Florida. But the rest of us are freezing our tucheses right now as record cold temperatures and blizzards make the new year a bit of a challenge. You might even have to miss a day or two of school (horrors, I know).

So what are your school’s policies on snow days? What does it take to shut things down or at least delay? That’ll range from one inch of snow in Southern locales, but could take several feet in places better equipped to handle the snow. And what are the policies on make-up days? Do teachers have to report? If they’re stuck at home, how do they get their work done? What are students doing on their snow days?

Just a Thought:

From the Quill and Scroll Executive Director

As we noted above, it’s time for most of our chapters to start inducting students for the 2018 cycle, which includes ordering pins and cords for graduation. Some sophomores and juniors will also be inducted, and they’ll become the leaders in their chapters for the coming years.

I hope you pay close attention to our induction ceremony and the values it promotes, namely Truth, Leadership, Loyalty, Learning, Initiative, Integrity, Judgment and Friendship. I further hope that this becomes a list of values that you always hold dear, no matter your profession and station in life. We know that most high school journalists don’t become professional journalists or even major in journalism in college. But these are values that can be applied in any circumstance.

Further, I hope that your Quill and Scroll membership is truly a lifelong commitment to our society and its values. If you don’t already have a list of Q&S alumni from your school, we can help you build one. Alumni can help inspire your students and to explain how they’ve used Quill and Scroll’s values to inform their personal and professional lives.

Finally, begin thinking now about how your Quill and Scroll chapter can create positive change in your community, and how it can promote ethical journalism and the dissemination of it. If you’re stumped, the Q&S Student Advisory Board will be meeting in San Francisco to finalize its plans for a 2018 activity. We’ll publicize that when it’s ready.

In the meantime, keep in mind the words in the Quill and Scroll pledge:

Do you pledge in the presence of all your colleagues, faculty, family and friends in attendance that you will be true to the ideals of Quill and Scroll Society? In whatever field you choose to enter, you will always painstakingly seek the truth? Will you strive to aide the best interests of the community? Will you be a responsible and reliable worker? And do you pledge to do all in your power to aide in the cause of better journalism? If you assume these responsibilities, please answer “I do.”

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