March 20, 2020

News, tips and advice from Quill and Scroll

The Lede

By Jeff Browne, Executive Director

Let Quill & Scroll be part of your community of spirit

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight

— From the poem “There is a Community of Spirit” by Rumi

Unless you’re living in one of the seven states that hasn’t done much of anything to stop large gatherings in public places, you’re likely seeing very few real live people these days.

Here at Quill and Scroll, our three student assistants have retreated to their homes in suburban Chicago and Cedar Rapids. Administrative Assistant Judy Hauge comes into the nearly empty Adler Journalism Building at the University of Iowa once a week to take care of some business that can’t be done from her home. Next door, journalists at The Daily Iowan continue to break news daily about COVID-19 and its impact on the university, the city, the state, the nation and the world.

And I cleared out my office at the UI and have retreated to my basement on the east side of Iowa City, where my dog, Marcel, and my wife keep me company. She’s home because, as an acupuncturist and massage therapist, her practice has dried up completely.

So that’s my immediate in-person community.

But as human beings in a digital world, we also have each other in ways that weren’t imaginable even just 18 1/2 years ago when 9/11 drove many of us indoors for a short time after.

Thursday morning, I jumped on my Peloton bike for a 30-minute “We’re all in this together” ride. I normally wouldn’t consider 11,000 strangers pedaling in far-off places my “family,” but Thursday it felt as if we were, even if we couldn’t see each other’s faces. (I’m a bit ticked that 9,633 of them pedaled faster than I did, but c’est la velodrome, eh?)

When I came down off the bike, cleaned up and trudged downstairs to start my work day, I logged on to Quill and Scroll to start this blog post.

Quickly I was reminded that I was part of this virtual community — more than 10,000 active members and hundreds of thousands of alumni and advisers who have been inducted into this society over the past 94 years, virtual siblings all dedicated to telling the truth, the first and founding principle of Quill and Scroll.

But in these Plague Days, I’m also reminded that one of our eight guiding principles is “friendship.” You’ve probably heard the bromide that says journalists should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Well, these days, we’re all likely afflicted — not all with the coronavirus, but with the loneliness and fear that comes with being isolated from our friends and having our comfortable routines and traditions ripped from us. Know that you have this virtual community to lean on, to draw comfort and inspiration from.

These past few weeks, we’ve been collecting biographies and short videos of Quill and Scroll scholarship winners from the past 60 years. The depth and breadth of talent and experience is staggering — Peabody and Pulitzer Award winners, sports reporters, children’s book authors, travel journalists, journalism professors, doctors, attorneys, parents, grandparents.

You’ll see one video pasted below from Dan Fellner, a world-renowned travel journalist who’s also on the journalism faculty at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He still cherishes that scholarship, the membership pin and the graduation cord from way back in 1977. He’s Quill and Scroll family.

Roger Thurow, 1975 Q&S scholarship winner

And so is Jia Tolentino, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of a best-selling collection of essays. She spoke with Quill and Scroll earlier this semester, and the interview is posted below this.

And so is Chris Barton, a successful children’s book author from Texas. And Roger Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who now is a senior fellow with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. And sports reporter Thomas George. And actress Cassandra Jungblut Schomer. And … well, you get the idea.

Over the next months, as you seek virtual communities while we’re all sheltering in place, understand that you have one here at Quill and Scroll. We’ll be offering options for virtual gatherings over the next several weeks, including virtual induction ceremonies for new members.

Please reach out to me via my email address if you’re interested in being a part of that. And look for more videos of Quill and Scroll alumni — your community now and forever.

It’s An Honor

WPM winners announced!

Iowa City West earned the Blue and Gold Award for Staff Excellence in the 2020 Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest. You can view all the Blue and Gold winners in the video below, and the link above will allow you to see those and well as scroll (get it?) down to see all the individual contest winners. Congrats to everyone who entered.

Some of the awards were not mailed prior to the University of Iowa shutting down mail service. Please let us know if that’s an inconvenience for you, and we’ll make arrangements to get them to you as soon as possible.

Chapter of the Year deadline approaching

April 10 is the deadline to enter the Q&S Chapter of the Year contest. The entries are free, and you can win memberships, cords and a spot on the Q&S national Student Advisory Board. Do it now!


Adviser scholarship applications are due April 15. You can earn $500 that you can apply to a program of study at a university or to a summer learning experience such as the JEA Advisers Institute.

Quill and Scroll members as well as seniors who earned a prize (including all honorable mentions) in Quill and Scroll contests over their high school careers are eligible to apply for student scholarships. The top prize this year is $1,500. You must plan to major in journalism or a related field in college. The application is free. Deadline is May 10.

Here’s 1977 winner Dan Fellner talking about the importance of his Q&S scholarship.

Student Advisory Board applications being accepted

We’re accepting applications for our Student Advisory Board for 2020-21. The SAB develops a project for the year, usually in conjunction with the Journalism Education Association for Scholastic Journalism Week, but you may also help Q&S by producing an episode of THE SOURCE podcast, a short video or a post for this blog.

We usually have an in-person (or virtual) meeting at the Fall National High School Journalism Convention, which is scheduled in mid-November in Orlando, Florida.

Summer Workshops

Quill and Scroll encourages students and advisers alike to expand their journalistic skills and knowledge by going to a summer institute this year. They’re fun and valuable. Check out our partners here.

What’s Hot?

Tell stories

We can’t blame any Quill and Scroll journalists out there for not practicing journalism, but for those of you who are, The Atlantic magazine has published a tip sheet about how to convince reluctant friends and family members to take the coronavirus threat seriously. These are also great tips for journalists who are trying to do the same for their audiences:

  • Remind people that it’s not all about them
  • Avoid numbers; tell stories
  • Don’t just ask people not to do something; ask them to do something else
  • Don’t forget to be nice
  • Don’t try to change people’s worldview
  • Consider your relationship with the listener
  • Share articles selectively
  • Know when to give up

This is serious

NBC News anchor Lester Holt has called the COVID-19 story the biggest he’s ever covered, and that’s probably true. The devastation that the disease has already brought to some countries and parts of the U.S. is just beginning here, both in terms of public health and our economy.

Below, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta is surprised at how unserious people are about COVID-19.

The Athletic’s NCAA tournament

This should be the first weekend of real NCAA men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments, but in lieu of the real thing, The Athletic has created its virtual March Madness. (Spoiler Alert: Nebraska’s still not in it. Dang.)

Just a Thought

Will more people begin to trust journalists?

One of the sad truths about the spread of the coronavirus and the disease COVID-19 is that so many people refused to believe the damage that it could cause. With the president, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News analysts dismissing the virus as recently as March 12 as a plot to take down the president, too many people weren’t sure whom to believe.

In this column, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams says that sowing doubt about mainstream journalism may end up killing people.

To their belated credit, Fox News commentators have finally started taking the threat seriously. See below.