The Weekly Scroll for Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

News, tips and advice from the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society.
Compiled and written by Marni Wax, Allison Wunder and Emily LaGrange.

The Lede:

Feed your curiosity, get out there

Maybe you caught the first few episodes this week of Ken Burns’ documentary about Vietnam. (Maybe you didn’t. Don’t worry; there’s time to catch up online or streaming to your television.) Burns tells great stories about the politics and the people involved, but even he can’t tell all the stories about that time and the Americans affected by the war.

You can help. Who are the people in your town who served in that war? What stories do they have to tell? Your teachers? Your parents and grandparents? How about the people who emigrated from Vietnam to the United States during the war or shortly after? There are dozens of stories out there. Go get ‘em.

Tips for dealing with tragedy

Caleb Sharpe takes the bus every day to his high school in a small Washington town, and one day last week he brought a black duffel bag with him to school.

Sharpe quietly pulled a pistol from his coat and shot his classmate, first in the stomach and then in the face, leaving him dead. Sharpe continued to make his way down the hallway, firing at other students or blindly shooting. Absolutely ruthless. When victims fight back against their bullies, it has gotten to extremes (and as we can see, it’s the worst case scenario at this point). Click here to learn tips on how to cover stories of this magnitude.

Arrests due to London bombing (but do you feel any safer?)

Britain on Sunday lowered its terrorism threat level, a day after the police arrested a second man in connection with the bombing in a London subway station that left dozens of people injured.

The first man, was arrested Saturday in Hounslow, a borough in West London. The suspect, was detained under the Terrorism Act and was held at a police station in South London.  The second arrest came the same day. An 18-year-old man for suspicion of being in connection with the bombing.

Click here to learn about more tips on covering this (especially to a younger audience). Let us know and comment with what you think these reporters did well…or not so well.

It’s an honor:

Get these critical tips, from one of our own

On the Quill and Scroll website, former Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte weighs in on the need for all journalists — especially student journalists — to have easy and ready access to public information, even if government agencies don’t always want to comply.

What’s it like to be a part of something bigger than yourself?

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. http://quillandscroll.org/alumni

CALLING ALL ADVISORS!

Does anyone have any footage of their induction ceremonies! We would love to feature your students in a video! Contact us at marni-wax@uiowa.edu for more information.

What’s Viral:

Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation

Ladies, ladies. Don’t you want to be represented (I mean we are the future…right?)! Click here to read about how Margaret Sullivan remembers standing in front of a class of Northwestern University journalism students. She noticed the difference there from the newsroom meetings she had led in previous years. Find out what that difference may have been.

Times running out, and so is the Administration’s patience

The Trump administration escalated its verbal altercations with North Korea last Sunday, warning that time is ticking for Kim Jong Un’s regime and the United States to remain as allies (and ticking fast). The Administration said the risk from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is only escalating and President Trump will address the crisis head on at the U.N. General Assembly.  

When you love your job, you don’t work a day in your life

Report for America is a model that will strengthen journalism, enrich life in communities, and give confidence to citizens. This will restore the broken trust in media by developing a new generation of journalists to serve local news organizations in under-covered corners of America.

This organization is wanting to create a program modeled after the Teach for America program, which puts recent college graduates into America’s classrooms as teachers. Report for America would do the same for newsrooms (hear that, guys?! JOBS!) and are looking for people to help them in this pursuit.

Just a Thought:

Sports, sports, sports!

No. 24 Florida (our executive director’s second alma mater) beat No. 23 Tennessee on a last-second Hail Mary on Saturday, 26-20. Feleipe Franks found Tyrie Cleveland to win it from 63 yards away. Despite their efforts, Tennessee didn’t have a lot of defensive help at the back of its secondary, and two defenders didn’t have the angle to deny Cleveland in the middle of the end zone. Bummer for the Vols! Click here to see commentary and learn a new way to present game coverage via social media.

Tools for a social media mastermind

Click here to see that latest trends and tools across the biggest social media platforms (that you all are probably surfing in another browser, as you read this).

Journalists have help in the fight for access to information

By Frank LoMonte
Brechner Center, University of Florida

The first person ever to call the Student Press Law Center’s legal hotline for help was a high-school newspaper editor from Pecos, Texas, whose principal spiked a news story that he considered too controversial. And over its 43 years, tens of thousands of students (and an occasional teacher) have called the SPLC for free legal help when school administrators censor their work – almost always for image-control reasons.

The SPLC was founded to give students like that Texas editor, Stephen Bates, a powerful ally to speak up to authority figures who, acting out of fear and insecurity, silence young voices.

But there is a different type of silencing taking place today in America’s schools and colleges, and the services offered by the SPLC have changed over the years to keep up with the new frustrations journalists face.

Over my nine years leading the SPLC’s legal staff, I developed a name for this new method of squelching unfavorable news: “Censorship by starvation.” Instead of directly ordering students not to cover certain topics – though far too much of that censorship still goes on – authorities simply deny journalists from access to vital information.

Do you want to know how many times students brought guns into the school last year? How many students got concussions playing football? Or might be deported because they’re in the U.S. without paperwork? Well, good luck getting those answers, because in recent years, journalists have been told all of that information – even without any private details about any individual student – is off-limits to the public.

State open-records laws give the public – including minors – the legal right to demand access to just about any record kept by a government agency. That includes a public school (including a charter school) or school district. Getting schools to actually comply with the law can be a challenge.

In most states, when you make a request to see a record and you get rejected, your only recourse is to get a lawyer and go to court. That’s hard enough for professional journalists whose companies have lawyers on staff. It can be especially intimidating for students to find themselves on the other side of a courtroom from the person writing their college recommendation letter.

Still, student journalists are a persistent bunch. To a determined reporter on the trail of a big story, “no” is just another way of saying “try harder.”

Students in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, are enforcing their right to know by suing their school under the Minnesota open-records law for the chance to see a hallway security video that shows a potential assault on a Muslim student. The student reported that a classmate ripped the hijab off her head, but the classmate – a popular athlete – denied the accusation and went unpunished. The video is the public’s only way of knowing whether the school covered up wrongdoing. But the school insists the footage is confidential.

As I write this column, SPLC attorney volunteers are helping two editors in Santa Rosa County, California, go to court to enforce their right to inspect the court files of a lawsuit against their high school. The judge in the case sealed the entire file – even his own order explaining why the file is sealed – so the public has no idea how the lawsuit turned out.

To respond to the growing demand for help getting access to information about schools and colleges, the SPLC launched a service in July to help non-experts take cases to court more easily.

Volunteers from major law firms are working with SPLC attorneys to come up with step-by-step instructions for enforcing state public-records laws. Find them on the SPLC website. The project is only about half done, with 26 states and the District of Columbia covered, but by 2018, guides should be finished for every state.    

I know just how important public records can be for journalists – I was one of them. Before becoming a lawyer, I chased stories about corrupt and incompetent government officials with the help of freedom-of-information laws. Those laws helped me prove that a candidate for governor cheated on his income taxes and paid nothing. They helped me prove that hospitals were misusing money meant to provide free healthcare for poor people, spending it on unnecessary luxury items like bonuses for doctors.

I believe so strongly in the public’s right to information that, starting in August, I agreed to move south and take on a job where I can devote myself full time to improving the laws that allow Americans (especially journalists) to keep watch over government agencies. I’ll be working directly with lawyers, journalists and legislators across the country on making public-access laws actually work better as director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, which is based at the University of Florida.

That doesn’t mean I’m “checking out” of the student-rights movement. I’ll stay on as volunteer co-chair of New Voices USA, a nationwide campaign to pass state laws – 13 so far, with three added in 2017 alone – to guarantee student journalists and their advisers that they can safely bring news and opinions to their communities without fear of being silenced or punished.

And it doesn’t mean students will be left without a full-time advocate protecting their rights. The SPLC has hired an internationally known legal expert and educator Hadar Harris to take over as executive director, and she brings a lifelong commitment to protecting the rights of the less-powerful against abuse.

Harris has worked in law schools in California and Washington, D.C., for the past 15 years, supervising law students as they provided legal help to people who couldn’t afford to hire their own lawyers. That is a proven track record of caring public service that makes Harris the ideal leader to take the SPLC soaring to new heights.

Professional news organizations are having a difficult time. Their audiences are shrinking, their advertisers have left for Facebook and Google, and public distrust is reaching all-time highs. But student journalism has never been better – and now students have the best human-rights lawyer in the country on their side. I’m honestly a bit envious that Hadar Harris will be the leader of the SPLC as legalized censorship in schools becomes a thing of the past – and no one will cheer louder than me on the day she finally makes it official.

Attorney Frank LoMonte became director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications in August 2017, after nine years as executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

The Weekly Scroll for Friday, Sept. 15, 2017

News, tips and advice from the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society.
Compiled and written by Marni Wax, Allison Wunder and Emily LaGrange.

The Lede:

Need background information for stories on DACA?
For those that are unfamiliar with DACA, President Barack Obama created a program through executive order in June 2012. The program simply provides a course in order to gain citizenship. Just this past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began phasing out a program that gives undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children a two-year reprieve from deportation.

On Wednesday night, Congressional Democrats said President Trump agreed to support legislation protecting DACA. That angered Trump’s supporters on the far right. Who knows where the fight is headed, but it’s certain this is a topic of interest to your school and in your community.

Click here to sift through the advice Journalist’s Resource offers when talking about this topic.

How far would you go when fighting for your rights?
Learn about Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman, who was arrested in West Virginia four months ago after he aggressively questioned Tom Price, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The charges against Heyman have been dropped, as of last week. “In a joint statement released by the Kanawha County prosecutor’s office and Mr. Heyman’s legal team said that the State had determined ‘after a careful review’ that Mr. Heyman had not acted unlawfully.”

So basically, you are entitled to your rights, people. Fight for ‘em!

Where do you get your news?
There has been an increase in numbers since 2016, when 62 percent of U.S. adults reported getting news from social media. (Coincidence that this was during an election year? Probably not.) We can attribute this growth to Americans who are older and less educated (aka it’s easier to get news this way…stay educated folks!)  This study is based on a survey conducted in August this year, with U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.

The weather might be unpredictable, but journalists can be a step ahead
And here it is! The time of year that all Floridians dread. Hurricane season in the U.S. generally runs from late spring to late fall. Between the weather catastrophes and need for evacuations, schools closing, clothing, and shelter, the public looks to news agencies to  identify key resources to assist in a rehabbing process. To help journalists cover this important topic, Journalist’s Resource has compiled a list of reports, tip sheets, research studies and other resources that should be useful to media professionals of various experience levels.

It’s an honor:

And the award goes to…Q&S Executive Director earns national award
Our executive director, Jeff Browne has earned the Pioneer award! The Pioneer is the highest honor NSPA awards to journalism educators. This award goes to individuals who make remarkable influences on high school journalism and scholastic journalism education, in contribution to their employment.

“This year’s class of winners truly recognizes the best journalism education has to offer,” NSPA Executive Director Laura Widmer said. “These educators possess not only great teaching skills and passion for student press rights, they also have gained great respect and admiration from their students and colleagues. These Pioneers represent the best of the best in the country.” (Student Press).

Way to go, Jeff! We couldn’t be more proud than we are to have you as our fearless leader.

Does he have a plan for Q&S?
Funny you should ask. Here it is.

What’s it like to be a part of something bigger than yourself?
Go to our Facebook page to learn how to share your testimony about what it means to be a member of Quill and Scroll.

What’s Viral:

How is math like journalism? How about these four easy steps to solving a problem?
As a mathematician, Pólya has worked on a variety problems, including the study of heuristics (which is a fancy word to say how to solve problems). When you read the book, “How to Solve It,” it feels like you’re walking through and developing your own understandings of Pólya’s mind as he describes his patterns of thinking. And metacognition is often the heart of problem solving. Here it is. So any journalists that say they can’t do math (including myself)…think again!

Fail with honor, or win by cheating?
ACT Inc., the maker of the United States’ most popular college entrance exam, said an exam was canceled this month at various international test centers because a leak of the test materials. ACT said it could not give specifics as to how the test materials were leaked because the incident was still under investigation. Click here to track their findings.

Just a Thought:

The name Papa can really be used for more than one figure
Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 was Grandparents Day. And, oh, how they should be celebrated! Many grandparents receive loving cards, calls and emails from their grandchildren. And others (over 2.9 million) went about their daily routines. They made their grandchildren breakfast, organized their activities and helped with homework in the evening. These grandparents are called, “custodial grandparents”, and have accepted the responsibility of raising their grandkids. What other day could be more fitting to discover what these remarkable grandparents do? Take a look!

Myth Buster: What it actually means to be a founder
The founders of The Skimm have realized many things about their jobs, as they have moved from the early stages to the later ones. They have learned any and all of the misconceptions about how successful the founders of companies are (well actually the myths of what people think). Click here and discover the brutal truth they learned – oh so quickly – about starting a company.

Quill and Scroll will honor past while looking to the future

My name is Jeff Browne, and it is my distinct honor to address you for the first time as the executive director of Quill and Scroll. I come to this role after 27 years spent as a journalism educator and adviser, from Smoky Hill High School to Colorado State University, the University of Kansas and the University of Colorado.

Jeff Browne

I look forward to serving you and building on the legacies of Quill and Scroll’s five previous executive directors: founder George Gallup (1926-1932), Edward Nell (1932-1957), Lester Benz (1957-1972), Dick Johns (1972-2007) and, most recently, Vanessa Shelton (2007-2017).

Judy Hauge

To my delight, Judy Hauge remains as Quill and Scroll’s administrative assistant and office manager. In addition, the University of Iowa continues to graciously host our organization and provide us with able journalism students who work as office assistants and content producers for our communications initiatives.

However, as with any organizational change, re-evaluation and, in some cases, re-booting programs is called for. And while we have chapters in more than 14,000 schools around the world, we love to hear individually from committed members and advisers about how our programs and services can be made even better.

Here’s a quick glance at what we’ve working been on since August:

  1. A cleaner logo, already in use for our publications and on social media, that incorporates the pithy “It’s an Honor” tagline.
  2. Our news aggregation initiative, The Weekly Scroll. In it, we provide Quill and Scroll members and their advisers with news about the journalism profession, scholastic journalism, and Quill and Scroll. It will be released every Thursday evening and ready for you for classes on Friday.
  3. A re-built website, one that has a more modern and useful template, making it easier for advisers and potential members to find our services.
  4. A monthly email newsletter for advisers that serves as an adjunct to — and possibly a replacement for — the printed Quill & Scroll magazine. We will gauge the response to both the magazine and to the newsletter as we move through the 2017-2018 school year to determine how best to communicate with you.
  5. A move to online submission for our contests, beginning with the International Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest and Blogging Competition in January 2018. Our hope is to move all contests online, including the Yearbook Excellence Contest in September 2018.
  6. A collaboration with the Journalism Education Association, the National Scholastic Press Association, the Student Television Network and state scholastic press associations to provide training for advisers and others who serve as critique judges. Attend one of our joint sessions at the JEA/NSPA convention in Dallas.

Here are some initiatives that will begin in the very near future and that you can be a part of:

  1. A capital campaign to fully fund Quill and Scroll scholarships. The Century Campaign will have a goal to raise $500,000 by the time the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary in April 2026.
  2. Partnerships with associations that promote diversity in the journalism profession.
  3. A retooling of our publications, especially the Quill and Scroll Stylebook.
  4. A celebration of Quill and Scroll alumni and their successes, not just in journalism but in other professions. After all, decades of research have shown us that journalism students do better at everything.
  5. A partnership with a investigative journalism source that would allow students to contribute to a nationwide crowdsourcing project on public school foundations.

Our mission statement reads: “Quill and Scroll seeks to encourage individual initiative in high school journalism . . . and recognize and reward the individual achievements of students engaged in journalistic activity.”

I welcome any and all feedback that helps us better adhere to that mission. And if you’d like to be a part of any of our initiatives — and even to serve on our Board of Directors in the near future — please don’t hesitate to reach me at jeffrey-browne@uiowa.edu or 319-335-3321.

The Q&S Q&A: Journalist Michael Kodas talks wildfires, environmental journalism

Wildfires are ravaging the American West, hurricanes are pounding the South, so there’s never been a more appropriate time for all journalists to produce useful stories about the environment — but those stories don’t all need to be treatises on the impact of climate change. There are good environmental stories out there for high school journalists to share with their communities.

Michael Kodas, author of “Megafire”

Michael Kodas is the deputy director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he also teaches journalism classes. His book “Megafire: The Race to Extinguish an Epidemic of Flame” was released in August 2017. He is also the author of “High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed.”

Quill and Scroll:  Tell us about “Megafire.” What is the goal of the book? What can student journalists learn?

Michael Kodas:  My goal is to get the general public to recognize their role and their relationship to wildfire and how we’ve contributed to the problem. We kind of have a vision of a huge fire or a really hot fire or a really fast fire, but a very small fire can also be very mega. The Yarnell Hill disaster in Arizona, which killed 19 hotshots, was actually a pretty small fire. So I end up measuring “mega” more by impact than by size or speed or heat generated. Student journalists can think in those terms as well — who is affected and how they’re affected.

Q&S: One of the things you did in preparing to report and write about wildfires was to train as a firefighter. Why did you do that?

MK: Working for the Forest Service gave me access and insights into that job that I wouldn’t have gotten had I just been a journalist showing up. I bonded with this crew, who then taught me how to use the tools and the proper terminology and the various challenges. It helped me tell a different story.

Q&S: What are the dangers inherent in participatory journalism?

MK: You must make sure that your loyalty remains with your reader. Our obligation is to the truth, and our loyalty is to our readers. At the end of my time as a forest firefighter, I got a tip and discovered that we were fighting a wildfire in an area where Dick Cheney had a fishing trip. The commander was saying, “Yeah, the only reason we’re on this fire is that the Vice President has a fishing trip planned in this area.”

I had a number of firefighters corner me very angrily saying, “You can’t report that because they’ll know you are part of our crew and we may not get as good a job the next time.” And you know, obviously I’m concerned. I don’t want to hurt their ability to have a livelihood and make a living fighting wildfires. On the other hand, what was going on was putting other firefighters at risk. So in that case my obligation to tell the truth to my readers and to inform them about how the system works won out.

Q&S:  You noted that our first duty is always to our readers, but what else do students need to keep in mind as they’re reporting on communities they’re a part of?

MK: We’re not doing journalism because we want people to like us. And in an academic or high school environment, you’re reporting on people that you might consider your friends or acquaintances. You can’t hold back just because you got that information about somebody you might be friendly with. And that’s a real challenge. So, you know, to kind of be able to step back and say, “Hey, I know you’re my buddy,” but you’re working as a reporter now, so you know you have an obligation to share what you would about people you know just like you would about people you don’t know.

Q&S: What environmental stories can students report?

Kodas: Wildfire is a great example. If you study the scientific literature, one of the areas that’s anticipated to have a huge increase in unwanted fires is actually the Great Plains states, where we don’t really think about wildfire. But we’ve seen a big increase in wildfires in Texas and in Oklahoma and in Kansas. So, just because it’s not happening in the big mountain forest and doesn’t produce those gigantic plains doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be a story for high school students.  

Half of the time fires are more beneficial to the landscape than they are detrimental to it. And so you know when we talk about fire on the landscape it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative story. We can talk about how important fire is to agricultural communities because of its ability to nourish the soil or to help cattle gain more weight because the grass is so much more nutritious after a fire, which is the case in Kansas.

In the bigger picture, the first thing that I think students should do is consider who their audience is. Is it students at your high school? Is it young people about your age but not necessarily just at your high school? Is it the public at large? Is it administrators at your high school with the parents? And think about who you’re writing for and then you can use that to kind of narrow your scope as to issues that you might look at.

For instance, if you’re a high school student and you’re writing for your high school paper, are there environmental hazards in your high school that you might want to look into. Does the football team play on artificial turf, and are there issues with the type of turf that’s used there?

Is there asbestos in your school? Those are all pretty basic environmental stories.

One thing that was incredibly under-reported until the last two years, and now suddenly everybody is doing stories on it, is lead in water supplies. The Flint, Michigan, situation was proved to be not only an environmental toxin story but a very significant environmental justice story. Stories like that are right for high school journalists to look into. If you really want to do something fun and exciting, get a sample of your water and have it tested and see what — lead, arsenic and other elements — are in it and then you can, go to the administration and ask, “Hey why is our water not as good as it could be?”

You can also think in terms of environmental justice stories. Are there students at your high school who are more impacted by environmental situations, say, a chemical plant or a landfill in the neighborhood? Other students may be involved in activist activities to try to change something in their community.

Q&S: Where do students find credible sources to tell environmental stories?

MK: Well, you know finding some experts to interview can be really helpful if you find the right experts who can really explain it to you in simple terminology. I’ve read, you know, by my last count well over 400 scientific papers on wildfire. I don’t necessarily recommend that to anybody, but some of the people who wrote those papers are actually really great communicators. And I realized after having read their paper and then calling them that boy, if I had just called you right off the bat, you would’ve explained it to me with a couple of really great quotes, and I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time in the weeds of all of this scientific jargon.

One thing to recognize in reporting on environmental stories is that you’re going to have a range of sources who are more neutral than others. So you know you may have a scientific expert from a federal laboratory or a university. They can talk to you about asbestos in schools or wildfire or lead in water. And you also have people working for organizations like Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy. People from those organizations aren’t necessarily bad sources but they’re often not what we would call honest brokers. And that’s not to say that they’re liars. It’s to say that they’ve got a dog in the fight and they have a particular point of view that they are promoting.

Q&S: How can students report on climate change in their own school districts, in their own communities?

MK: There are a variety of approaches that  would be the same for high school students as they would be for anybody covering another community. For instance, what is the school doing to deal with climate change? Are they promoting carpooling? Are they installing solar panels on their roofs so that they have less of a carbon footprint, maybe re-insulating the school, or doing other things to conserve energy which is definitely a positive thing to do?

Then you can start looking at your student population. What is the sense among the student population? Are there students there who are really active as far as say climate change or another environmental issues? Is there a debate within the school communities that is worth looking into? Do the students’ attitudes match the attitudes at large in the school district, the county, the state?

Another way of looking at it kind of gets back to what I talked to you about before, looking for impacts on the student body. So, do you have students in your school who come from an agricultural family who were being impacted by drought? Do you have students in your school who come from agricultural families who don’t think it’s affecting them?

Q&S: Is there anything else you want to say to several thousand high school journalists and their advisors?

MK: We’ve seen young reporters working at high schools and universities break some really significant stories from the last few years. And with high school journalists they might think, well, environmental reporting, it’s science based and there’s numbers and there’s all this stuff that, you know, I’m just not educated enough yet to understand. I would encourage them not to think that way. You can always find an expert to guide you through the topic with a phone call to a university or to a researcher or to a laboratory. The policymakers and corporate interests who are dealing with environmental issues owe a high school student an answer as much as they owe a reporter from the New York Times an answer. And very often they’re more willing to talk to high school students than a big-time reporter because they may underestimate you, and being underestimated as a reporter is very often to your advantage.

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