September 23, 2021

The Lede

COVID death toll reaches numbers seen during 1918 flu

How history repeats itself

The coronavirus pandemic death toll has been creeping toward the totals seen from the 1918 flu pandemic. While devastating, it is important for readers to understand the magnitude of the pandemic. 

Some schools face a shortage of teachers and staff. 

It was estimated that about 500 million people were infected with the Spanish Flu in 1918, and about 50,000,000 people died. The COVID-19 death toll is currently at 4.7 million globally.  The Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused death rates to rise again for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Here’s what you can do:

Give your readers a history lesson!

Ask history teachers about the 1918 Spanish Flu and how it affected countries across the world. The global population was about a fourth of what it is today. That means the illness sliced through a much larger chunk of the population than COVID-19 has.  

Ask local doctors about what people can do to limit the spread of COVID in the age of the delta variant. Ask them what their feelings are about the increasing death toll and their experience working throughout the pandemic. 

September 22: the autumnal equinox

Say goodbye to tank tops and flip flops — at least in the northern U.S.

Take a look at your calendar. Sept. 22 was the mark of the first day of autumn — in the U.S. that is. Happy Spring, Southern Hemisphere! The autumnal equinox is when day and night fall into perfect balance. 

For some cities, that means a wrap up of pool or ice cream shop openings, and for others, it’s time for kids to start advertising their leaf-raking business. 

Here’s what you can do:

The beginning of a new season is a great time to take a break from hard news and look around your community to see what fun, fall events it might provide. Or does your city plan to start preparing for the colder weather now?

There are so many stories that can be done just because it’s fall. Talk to your neighbors, school administration, even local restaurant owners, and see what their plans are. You never know what conversations can lead you to a story. 

Trees — For more than climbing!

Tree loss and drought harm cities, suburbs, rural areas.

According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, trees play a big role in keeping our towns and cities cool because of the shade coverage they provide. This is only one reason why you, and your readers, should care that we are losing trees at an alarming rate. 

After all, famed anthropologist Jane Goodall does.

And California’s Joshua Tree has some new federal protections.

In addition, those of us who love fall colors may not see as many this year, not just because of tree loss, but because of drought.

There are many reasons for tree loss that are mostly out of our hands like hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects and disease: but the one thing that humans really can control is sensible development. 

We all know trees are important; but as journalists, it’s our job to tell the public why and how they should be saved. Wanting healthy and abundant trees around us is not a partisan debate.

Here’s what you can do:

Talk to your city’s urban planner about what they do to keep trees intact and abundant. This can be protecting green spaces and forested areas as well as planting new trees throughout the city. Ask a scientist about the reason why trees are dying or being torn down and what a lack of trees in a community can do to our health (No watching the Lorax isn’t exactly research). Go out and observe what areas in your community are lacking trees and other greenery and why. Would they benefit with more trees? And what areas provide a generous amount of tree coverage? This is a good opportunity to get good photos for a story or slideshow.

It’s An Honor

Apply for our Student Advisory Board!

Do you want to serve your fellow student journalists and Quill and Scroll members? Join the Q&S Student Advisory Board for 2021-22. The application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 30.

SAB members will work on projects including establishing a regular communications channel for editors and other student journalists to discuss problems, successes, and yearbook and news coverage; and working on seminars that can aid Quill and Scroll chapters.

Yearbook Excellence deadline is Oct. 10

It sure is. Thirty categories, including pandemic coverage, and two classes of schools highlight the 2021 Q&S Yearbook Excellence Contest. The deadline is more than a month away (Oct. 10), but what better way to have your students critique last year’s book than by choosing the best entries for the world’s premier yearbook contest? (Answer: There isn’t a better way.)

Q&S and NSPA agreement

Quill and Scroll and the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) will work together to promote scholastic journalism and membership in Quill and Scroll.

While working together on this project, NSPA will include the opportunity for advisers to induct members into Quill and Scroll while also filling out NSPA member forms.

Alumni Service

Have you ever wondered if there’s someone like Fred “Mr.” Rogers (Greater Latrobe HS, 1946) or Debra Messing (East Greenwich HS, 1983) among your school’s Quill and Scroll alumni? How about journalists, writers and teachers such as Ryan Foley, Barbara Tholen, Dan Fellner, and Chris Barton. 

Quill and Scroll has the names of every student ever inducted into your school’s Q&S chapter. Those names are easy to access from the period 2004-2021, but it takes a little longer to get those names between 1926 and 2003, when all memberships were recorded on cards that now reside in the basement of the Adler Journalism Building here at the University of Iowa.

If you’re interested in building a list of distinguished journalism alumni from your school, just contact [email protected] and use the phrase “Q&S ALUMNI LIST” in your subject line. 

For a cost of $50/hour, we’ll retrieve those names and sort them for you by year of induction and get them back to you in time for a fundraising dinner or a special ceremony celebrating student journalism at your school.

What’s Viral?

‘Montero’ champions queer voices

Lil Nas X welcomes new generation of Black, queer artists into the 21st century

It seems we can’t go a week without mentioning Lil Nas X… it’s a good thing he’s so great. The rap-pop star’s first album, self-entitled “MONTERO” released last week to major success (but lack of a no.1 spot, thanks to Drake’s CLB).

Montero Lamar Hill, known professionally as Lil Nas X, reached international fame in 2019 when his first ever single, “Old Town Road” reached super-stardom status and still holds the record for longest time on top of the Billboard charts (that’s 19 weeks). While his EP gained less success, “MONTERO” is proving to represent the artist well.

Pitchfork critics are saying the album, “…fulfills the promise of a new kind of pop star: an out, Black rapper and singer who combines his omnivorous, genre-hopping music, forthright lyrics, and social media savvy to triumph in an industry that threatened his authenticity from the jump.”

From the extreme and unique marketing strategies for the album, to awards show performances, to relatable and humorous TikToks, Lil Nas X not only knows how to market himself, but does so in a way that reveals his personality and identity to fans (i.e. his pregnancy announcement, and filmed “birth,” of “MONTERO”).

Here’s what you can do:

Give “MONTERO” a listen. Analyze for yourself: how does it bridge barriers? How does it open doors for unknown voices? Contrastly, what about the album remains stagnant?

Examine the marketing strategies used to launch “MONTERO.” Is there such a thing as going, “too far” in artistic expression? Take a look at the numbers: did his strategy work? What about his listens – are people paying attention?

Johnny Depp on cancel culture

‘I believe that if you are armed with the truth, then that’s all you need…’

In a recent press conference before the Donostia Awards reception at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, Johnny Depp was asked for his thoughts on cancel culture.

Before we dive into his answer, it’s important to understand the context around this situation. Depp is no stranger to cancel culture – in 2018, his (now ex) wife published a tell-all in the Washington Post, alleging she had been involved in an abusive domestic relationship. Since then, Depp has sued the actress for defamation. Her article resulted in lost career opportunities for Depp.

While the press conference was meant for career-related questions only, one journalist hopped in to hear Depp’s thoughts on cancel culture.

Depp proceeded to say, “It’s so far out of hand now that I can promise you that no one is safe. Not one of you. Not one of you… as long as someone is willing to say one sentence. It takes just one sentence and there is no more ground. The carpet has been pulled.”

“It’s not just me this has happened to… It’s happened to a lot of people. This type of thing has happened to women, men and children who have suffered from various types of unpleasantries and they sadly, at a certain point, begin to think that it’s normal.”

From a Hollywood star who’s been at the helm of controversy and cancel culture, there are a few things to take to heart.

Here’s what you can do:

As journalists, it would be easy to jump into a story based off the opinions of others. Often, someone subject to cancel culture is involved in “scandalous” actions. We must remember to evaluate a situation before constructing a story based off a single statement.

While it’s incredibly important to recognize wrongdoings and evaluate someone’s “stardom,” it’s equally important to understand the truth of the matter. As Depp says above, “I believe that if you are armed with the truth, then that’s all you need…”

That sounds eerily familiar to Quill and Scroll’s principles, doesn’t it?

Dancing With The Stars history

JoJo Siwa becomes one-half of first same-sex couple on reality dance competition

Dancing With The Stars season 30 started with a bang Monday. 18-year-old “Dance Moms” alum, dancer, singer, and YouTube star JoJo Siwa and her partner Jenna Johnson became the first same-sex dance duo to compete on the television show since its inception.

While the show has had many openly queer stars, this is the first time a star was given the opportunity to dance with a pro of their sexual preference. Siwa recently came out in January of 2020 and later identified herself as Pansexual.

“It’s really special that not only now do I get to share with the world that you get to love who you want to love, but also you get a dance with whom you want to dance,” Siwa said.

Despite a slip-up in their routine, Siwa and Johnson walked away with the highest score of the night, a 29/40. However, Johnson injured her knee during the routine.

Here’s what you can do:

Even if you’re not a fan of the show, keep an eye on JoJo Siwa. Her work on children’s television programs and music puts her directly in the public eye – especially for the next generation.

Interview a few people from each age group: children, adolescents, young adults (ages 18-24), millenials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. Collect their thoughts not only on JoJo Siwa’s appearance on DWTS, but also her general work with children’s programming. You may find interesting trends on their feelings toward the star. If they are negative, ask why. If they’re positive, ask why. Create a conversation to discuss changes for children.

Just A Thought

Student-led journalism workshop

Adlai E. Stevenson HS journalist starts own organization, directs journalism classes

Hi! My name is Victoria Feng, and I’m a 17-year-old student from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois. Since seventh grade, I’ve covered local, state, and national news and engaged in a variety of journalism extracurriculars.

One competition I’ve entered is the 2021 Quill and Scroll International Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest, where I won two honorable mentions. I’m so thankful for the work Quill & Scroll does to empower student journalists, and getting the cute Gold Key was the cherry on top.

Last year, I founded Launch Student News, a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting journalism to tweens and teens nationwide. My programs are over Zoom, so if you’re interested in attending, you can login from anywhere. I’d love to see you there.

LSN’s newest workshop is in partnership with the Iowa City Public Library. I’ve enjoyed working with librarian Victoria Fernandez, and can’t wait to create more magic together.

LSN’s Director of Education and workshop co-instructor Malini Pillai and Director of Outreach Mariah Jaeck, also high school students, are invaluable team members and have helped make the program in Iowa City possible.

For our first session, participants were placed in breakout rooms to ask each other questions, gaining valuable interviewing experience. I ended the class with an introduction to news writing and asked participants to identify a timely event in their communities to cover.

Similar assignments will be given for features, opinions, and sports writing. Through writing articles, participants can become more engaged in their communities and connect with new people (interviewees and classmates).

By the end of the workshop, participants’ articles will be published in a class newspaper. This is one of my favorite parts of the program because it shows not only how participants have grown as reporters, but how they’ve become inspired to write about topics they’re passionate about.

Sign up here or stop by anytime during the six weeks at the Iowa City Public Library’s Koza Teen Center!