May 22, 2020

News, tips and advice from Quill and Scroll

The Lede

By Nichole Shaw, Q&S Communications Director

Restricted access to open records for students during COVID-19

SPLC highlights developing restrictions to student journalists trying to access public records and meetings


As journalists fight to serve the public by carrying out their essential duty as watchdogs of those in power and providing coverage of news that affects their neighbors and community at large, they are being met with a stonewall. Student journalists in particular are facing difficulties in obtaining access to important public records and entrance to what should be open meetings during this pandemic.

SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean said most calls to SPLC’s legal hotline in March and April regarded access issues in the context of COVID-19. Student journalists called about experiencing pushback from administrators and institutions when reporters asked questions to gain information about cases of the novel coronavirus, financials on where relief funds are going and more.

“Two-thirds of states have ordered state of emergency modifications to their Freedom of Information Act laws. Some states have increased the amount of time records holders have to respond to FOIA requests,” according to the SPLC’s interview with Dean.

As a student journalist, requests for public records is something I’ve experienced first-hand difficulty with. It often takes a while and requires a lot of vexatious reminders to administration and city officials. To have this process elongated even more—with student journalists facing repressive stonewalls in their fight to do their job by gaining the important and valuable information necessary to inform their audience—is an extreme disservice to the American public.

For those of you experiencing trouble accessing public records and meetings, reach out to SPLC or use their public records letter generator. Access to information is important now more than ever as journalism is serving to inform the public on matters of their public health every day to the best of their ability. It is a number one priority, as our loyalty is to the public.

It’s An Honor


Yearbook Contest is open for entries

The Quill and Scroll Yearbook Excellence Contest is ready to start taking your entries.

You may get started right here.

Please know that this is a digital contest (the third year in a row we’ve done it digitally), so all entries go into a cloud storage where judges around the country can access them.

Entries for the Theme Development category are $10, and all other categories are $5. There are no limits to the number of entries in the $5 categories. Schools compete in two classifications: Class A for schools with 750 or more students, and Class B for schools with 749 or fewer students in grades 9-12.

Student scholarship winners announcement on June 5

Quill and Scroll will announce its 2020 scholarship winners on Friday, June 5.

Here are the scholarships we will award this year:

  • George and Ophelia Gallup Scholarship ($1,500)
  • Edward J. Nell Memorial Scholarship ($500)
  • Edward J. Nell Memorial Scholarship ($500)
  • Richard P. Johns Scholarship ($500)

In the very near future, Quill and Scroll hopes to increase its top award to $5,000 per year, but we need to build our endowment before we can do that. If you’d like to help with that, please visit this page and think about a generous donation to our scholarship fund. It’s likely tax-deductible.

Summer workshops—are they still happening?

The answer is yes and no. For the summer workshops we’ve partnered with, all have transitioned to an online format, except for Indiana University and the Institute for Environmental Journalism, who have canceled due to the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Here’s a quick summary of the new online policies our partners have adopted in lieu of this global pandemic:

  • Media Now is still having their summer workshop, occurring from June 22 to June 25. Their workshop will be going live at MediaNow.Press. All materials will be accessible until Sept. 1, 2020. Course material will be uploaded via video so that you can work through it all on your own, at your own pace. They have also set certain live times for feedback and conversation throughout the week. Media Now Online will have one live daily large group session and a varying degree of opportunities to connect live with your instructor and classmates throughout the week. You will NOT be sitting in front of a computer all day, all week in the middle of summer. They’re also giving out a scholarship to cover the cost of one course. Learn more here.
  • Columbia Scholastic Press Association has switched to a virtual summer journalism workshop format as well. Their workshop will occur virtually from June 22 to July 31. That’s 8 different classes offered over the course of five weeks! The annual Summer Journalism Workshop offers sequences focused on either writing, editing, management or advanced design. Participants will choose one class for a particular week (Monday-Friday), virtually attending that same class each day (through Zoom). Students and advisers who choose to take an additional class during a different week are encouraged to do so and at a reduced rate. Learn more here.
  • Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop has also switched to a virtual configuration as a response to COVID-19. The online workshops will be held July 20-23, 2020. Sign on instructions will be provided to registered attendees in the week prior to the workshops. You’ll need a computer with web camera and internet connection. Online classes will commence at 9:00 am each morning in a large session for all workshop participantsOn the first day we will review ground rules for a successful workshop and then we have an exciting guest speaker. From there students will migrate to their topic specific workshop led by their instructor. Each day will conclude at 3:30. Faculty is available for coaching during office hours Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Find out more specifics here.

Other Deadlines

Q&S Student Advisory Board deadline has been extended to Sept. 1

Here’s your chance to take on an important leadership role and help make important contributions to a unified project released for nationwide engagement in the fall semester every year. To top it off, you’ll work directly with our director to help promote the ideas and importance of scholastic journalism. Plus, it looks great on a resume! The deadline this year was extended to Sept. 1, so mark your calendars and apply here!

News Media Evaluation Service is June 15

Our annual News Media Evaluation Service is open for submissions! The News Media Evaluation resource has proven to be one of the most beneficial resources for scholastic journalists and their advisers, as winners receive constructive comments and suggestions for improvement from qualified evaluators. Judges will provide a thorough analysis and rating to schools, and the evaluation exercise and feedback are instructive and developmental.

Judge’s comment: “The Crier is solidly issue-based, providing a great service for helping students make sense of the world. You show a great deal of compassion for your fellow students and a great deal of courage in addressing tough issues like consent.”

This is the best critique (in terms of specific things to work on and suggestions to keep on going) that my students have ever gotten, ever. My staff is STILL benefiting from that critique. It’s shaped much of our philosophy in coverage and some of design for this year! So, thank you so so much.

— Sarah-Anne Lanman, “The Crier” Adviser, Munster High School

To enter, high schools and junior highs may enter their multimedia news operations, newspapers, news magazines and/or online news sites until June 15, 2020.

We want to help make this process as easy as possible for you and still provide valuable services to those who enter. Thus, PDFs of print publications may be submitted because of the extraordinary situation we’re all experiencing right now. Find further instructions on how to enter and details here.


Simplified order forms and online inductions

For the most part, Quill and Scroll has moved off campus, but we go in every few days to fulfill and ship orders for induction materials and other Quill and Scroll schwag.

We published this update earlier this spring. It includes a simplified order form for schools and advisers willing to pay via credit card, and an offer to host an online induction ceremony for your students.

A reminder about cords

Students MUST HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE INDUCTED into the Society to earn the honor to wear an Honor Cord (GHC) or Honor Cord with Insignia (GCI). If you order cords for non-members, please choose the Non-Member Cord Option (NCD). Quill and Scroll exists because of the special unifying bond brought about by membership and the lasting legacy of the induction ceremony.

And, as always, feel free to email [email protected] if you have any questions.

What’s Hot?

There is no parallel universe—sorry


While NASA researchers in Antartica detected signals and found some puzzling findings, there is no concrete evidence for a parallel universe where time runs backwards

Earlier this week, multiple publications claimed a study by NASA scientists showed the discovery of a parallel universe, one where time runs backwards. Unfortunately, this is not true, even though it sounds pretty cool.

Twitter ran with the headline, as to be expected, and created some pretty great memes:

However, one of the lead authors on the research paper that was published in January squashed these claims with his own post:

While researchers did detect some interesting findings in 2016, such as radio waves from high-energy neutrinos, there is no evidence of a parallel universe to ours that exists yet, that we know of at least. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a pretty comprehensive look at the project, its findings and why some publications might have jumped to conclusions about the parallel universe thing here.

Lana Del Rey posted about accusations that she ‘glamorizes abuse’

Social media was overrun by commentary from every music fan, critic, and consumer when Lana Del Rey made a post on Instagram about accusations from “female writers,” claiming LDR “glamorizes abuse.” Her call out resulted in widespread backlash with comments of double standards in the music industry:

The post brought forth dynamics that are important for us to understand as storytellers and journalists, especially music journalists. Read more about this developing story here.

Just a Thought

The staffs of The Latrobean yearbook, The High Post newspaper and news site, and WCAT-TV before the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic pushed their Quill and Scroll induction online.

Virtually Yours

Wherein the executive director visits Mr. Rogers’s old neighborhood and inducts new students into the society

By Jeff Browne, Executive Director

They brought their own candles Tuesday, but I lit mine anyway, just to make a point. I fear the point was lost, however, because I forgot to unmute myself.


Such are the vagaries of online meetings, and more specifically, online Quill and Scroll inductions.

On Tuesday, I met 22 students, three advisers and a couple of parents from Greater Latrobe High School in southwest Pennsylvania. One of their advisers, Renee Stallings, and I had planned a virtual induction ceremony for 26 news, yearbook and broadcast students who had met our standards for journalistic and academic excellence. (Four couldn’t attend the online ceremony.)

Thanks to Renee’s planning, the induction was conducted on time and with only one glitch — I forgot to unmute myself at the end to congratulate the students on joining our society and to pontificate on the importance of searching for truth, using the symbolic candle to shine light into those places where the powerful might not want us to look.

Being able to induct students from Greater Latrobe was especially nice because the school first got its Quill and Scroll charter in 1931, and it’s also the hometown and alma mater of children’s television icon Fred Rogers, who was inducted into Quill and Scroll and graduated from Greater Latrobe High School in 1946.

They were the third virtual induction so far this spring, following Blue Valley Schools in Kansas (more than 100 kids from five schools) and Iowa City High School (they brought their own dessert to the ceremony). A fourth induction, this one with La Salle Prep in California, followed on Thursday. Later this spring, we’ll do at least two more of these.

We’re all learning more about how to work in online environments, and my “Eureka” has come from these ceremonies.

I’ve conducted a few ceremonies in person over my three years, but the groups of students have all been a little distant, and understandably so to a stranger coming to their school to recite a few words and light a candle. But in a Zoom or Google meeting, I get to look straight into your faces, one at a time, as you recite that pledge to be true to the founding principles — truth the most central of those. Your good humor, your fresh faces and your muffled pride all help me see a more personal portrait of the 6,000 or more students whose names cross our desks as initiates every year.

Thank you to those schools and students who have let me be a small part of their school year, and the invitation remains for others who’d like to have me be in their ceremonies this spring. Just send me an email, and I’ll make the time, night or day.

One Iowa City parent posted on Twitter about her pride in her daughter’s induction. The daughter, humble to a fault, had said it was a “big deal.” After being a part of the induction, the mother properly included that it was a big deal. And we intend for it to be. So whether I’m there or not, I hope your school — in ceremonies both formal and informal — understands the importance of recognizing achievement and the value of Quill and Scroll members’ pledge.

  • I do pledge myself —
  • To do all in my power —
  • To work for the advancement of my community, —
  • To be loyal to the public —
  • To live up to the ideals of true journalism, —
  • And to be impartial in my interpretation of truth.

Important words for everyone to say — even if nobody hears you say them. D’oh.