October 25, 2021

News, tips and advice from Quill and Scroll
By Lauren White, Q&S Communications Coordinator

The Lede

Young children and the Jab

U.S. close to vaccinating 5- to 11-year olds; U.S. donates 200 million to other countries

The Food and Drug Administration will review information this week about a study conducted by Pfizer that indicates a 91 percent effectiveness rate for the COVID vaccine among children 5 to 11 years old.

Obviously, that age range means just about every child in elementary schools around the U.S., which also might mean some contentious school board meetings if you live in one of the many districts where that has become a rallying point for anti-vaccination forces. This tweet is from earlier this month:

The White House announced Thursday that it has donated over 200 million vaccines to 100 countries as the pandemic continues to rage internationally. This is all part of a program headed by the World Health Organization called COVAX, which aims to provide equitable global access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The White House’s vaccine plan comes after harsh attacks from health advocacy groups which criticized the distribution of booster shots in the U.S. before other countries have even received the vaccine.

Here’s what you can do:

Pandemic stories are still important, and it’s necessary that we as journalists continue to investigate the effect COVID has had on our local communities but also on other countries’ mortality rates and their economic and labor markets as well. We’re all connected, whether it’s through our personal backgrounds or through economic interdependence.

  • Keep an eye on the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and the decision to approve vaccinations for elementary children. How will your district respond? Will it mandate a COVID vaccine? After all, it likely requires several vaccinations for all children to enter school? Why would this be different?
  • Keep it local. Find local experts and make sure that your reporting is scientifically accurate. People depend on your reporting to keep them informed and up to date on these issues — make sure to fact-check as much as possible and use reputable sources.

Meghan pens for paid family leave

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wrote a letter to Congress calling for paid family leave

The Duchess wrote an open letter to top Democrats on Wednesday asking them not to “compromise or negotiate” when it comes paid family leave.

Her letter comes as progressive House and Senate Democrats are pushing back against a preliminary decision to slash funding for a national paid family leave program in a scaled-back version of the bill.

Lawmakers added that there is considerable bipartisan support for such a program, with 84 percent of voters — including 74 percent of Republicans — in favor of a national paid family leave policy.

Meghan’s letter characterized the paid leave decision not as right or left but “right or wrong.”

Here’s what you can do: 

This story asks an interesting question that readers might have: What weight do celebrities and other figureheads have in policymaking?

Because they have such large platforms and can be so influential, do you think celebrities have an obligation to speak out about politics? Or is it more responsible for them to remain silent and leave politics to those with more policy experience and knowledge? Why? Ask community members and local politicians for their stance on the argument?

Taking to politicians isn’t scary, I promise. They like talking about themselves and what they do. You just need to know what questions to ask.

In an essay in The Guardian, Katharine Murphy delves into the complexities of being a politics reporter.

Murphy said that political reporting today requires nuance, skepticism, and most importantly — truth seekers.

The new national emergency

Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

Experts say that rates of childhood mental health concerns were already steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.

Teenage girls are particularly at risk. From February to March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The declaration calls for policymakers on the local and federal levels to fund and improve mental health care for children when it comes to screening, diagnosing and treatment.

Here’s what you can do: 

Mental health is far too often misunderstood and misrepresented by the media. Despite advances in treatment, reporters too often fall back stereotypes and distort the nature of illnesses and recovery.

These are reason why mental health experts and journalists convene twice a year for the WHYY Behavioral Health Journalism Workshop Series.

Here are some of the tips from the workshop for navigating mental health reporting:

  • Watch your language and tropes.
  • Report on solutions not just problems.
  • Look for new angles.
  • Find and use data.
  • Talk to the right sources — professionals in the field and people with their own stories to tell.

It’s An Honor

Walker Watson

A Friend in SoCal

Student-journalist Walker Watson embodies Q&S’s principle of friendship

This year’s first episode of “THE SOURCE: Quill and Scroll’s Podcast” features Mira Costa High School senior Walker Watson and his outreach project to local elementary school children in Southern California.

Quill and Scroll Executive Director Jeff Browne interviews Walker and adviser Michael Hernandez to tell Walker’s story of “friendship,” the eighth founding principle of our society. Enjoy.

Results by December

Yearbook Excellence Contest entries are in judges’ hands

Over 1,500 entries spread across 30 categories have been sent out to judges for the 2021 Yearbook Excellence Contest. They will be returned to us in a month and we will get results back to each and everyone one of you in early December. Phew — The hard part is over. Well done, everyone.

Blue and Gold Awards will be given out for Staff Excellence, Writing Excellence, Design Excellence, and Photo Excellence. Writing, Design, and Photo will designate both a Class A school and a Class B school for those awards, and we will rank the top three overall in each class for the Blue and Gold Staff Excellence Award. All winning individuals will be able to apply for Quill and Scroll Scholarships in the fall.

Get ready for NHSJC

National journalism conference is virtual again this fall

Quill and Scroll urges you to register online for the virtual fall National High School Journalism Conference hosted by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

There are many excellent sessions, and we strongly encourage you to dial up a session hosted by Q&S Executive Director Jeff Browne and featuring two Q&S Student Advisory Board members, Emma Diehl of J.W. Mitchell High School in Florida and Kathleen Ortiz of Kingwood Park High School in Texas, both editors-in-chief for the school news publications. Joining them are Jill Johnson, the president of Class Intercom, a social media company for schools, and adviser Jonathan Rogers of Iowa City High School.

Here’s the session description:

B-Positive: Social media best practices
Quill and Scroll’s seventh founding principle is friendship, but in this fractured world social media seems to be the last place to create bonds to build community. Learn from this diverse panel about how you can use social media to create positive messaging for your student media and for your school, while at the same time practicing great journalism.

Fall Membership Orders

It’s never too early to think about expanding your chapter

Don’t forget! Quill and Scroll Membership orders are open year around and it’s never too early to order your graduation cords. In fact, earlier is better in order to ensure supply chain issues do not affect your order or its contents.

What’s Viral?

Trump and Truth?

Trump plans a new social media platform that ‘encourages open, free, and honest’ conversation. 

After months of being banned from all major social media sites, former President Donald Trump has decided to just make his own called TRUTH Social.

The announcement came on Oct. 20 from a press release that said the site plans to launch in November of 2021.

“I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech. We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable. I am excited to send out my first TRUTH on TRUTH Social very soon,” Trump’s team wrote.

Trump was banned from social media platforms following the Jan. 6 insurrection for spreading violence and lies. So obviously the next logical step would be for him to create his own platform called TRUTH.

At Quill and Scroll — who’s founding principles are topped by “truth” — we remain skeptical.

Here’s what you can do: 

Because not everyone who lies on the internet will get banned, it’s important to be vessel for truth that people need.

At the heart of the SPJ Code of Ethics and the Quill and Scroll’s mission is the call for journalists to seek truth and report it, and that’s why writers need to fact-check before writing their stories and within their stories.

Journalists are the watchdogs of society — we have a duty to inform the public on situations we did not have in-depth or prior knowledge of.

Now, when people lie, that doesn’t mean the lie is necessarily no longer a part of the story because, if the lie is relevant (said by someone substantial or being passed around frequently), you still put it in the story but clearly state that it’s false and tell readers what the truth really is.

Public Data Lab released a field guide in 2018 to help detect and investigate fake news and other misinformation.

So, as soon as Trump posts for the first time on TRUTH, use that as an opportunity to get your spy glasses out and test your knowledge on fake news.

A meme a day keeps the doctor away

Study: Memes create higher positivity during the pandemic

Researchers with Pennsylvania State University and the University of California at Santa Barbara found that memes helped people cope with life during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published this week in the Psychology of Popular Media journal.

The study concluded that those who viewed memes that specifically referenced the pandemic felt less stress than those who viewed non-pandemic-related memes. They also felt more capable of coping with the COVID-19 crisis and were better at processing information, according to the study. And they were also less likely to be stressed about the pandemic than those who didn’t view memes related to COVID-19 at all.

Here’s what you can do: 

Many of us had never experienced anything quite like COVID-19 before, so we all had to find a way to make it work. For some that meant picking up a new art form and for others — much like myself — it meant scrolling through social media.

Quarantine and pandemic was a chance for growth, it was also a chance for people to do things that they just enjoy. While scrolling through twitter looking at memes may feel like a waste of time, it was exactly what we needed.

With a possible light at the end of the tunnel, what did your community do to help cope with the sadness and stress brought on by the pandemic?

The CDC says that the best ways to cope with stress is by taking care of your body, taking time to unwind, and connecting with others. Tell the story of how your city survived the pandemic because everyone did it differently.

A matinee with Chalamet

This weekend, theaters will present a Timothee Chalamet double-feature. 

Everyone’s favorite victorian-era-esque actor was featured in two new blockbusters this weekend with “Dune” and “The French Dispatch,” Mr. Timothee Chalamet is featured as two vastly different characters. 

Don’t know which Timothee will be better on the big screen and only have the time and money for one outing to the movie theater? Take this quiz to find out which Timmy is right for you.

For many of us, seeing one of these movies may mean going to the movie theater for the first time since the pandemic hit and frankly, I’m not sure anyone knows how to behave in a movie theater anymore. 

Experts recommend purchasing tickets online in advance, pre-ordering food, and masking up in order to have the safest movie theater experience you can. 

Here’s what you can do: 

Cinemas across the world were hit hard by the pandemic, and online streaming services skyrocketed. What are the pros and cons to both? 

Ask your community what style of movie viewing they prefer — the iconic big screen or the functional streaming service — and talk to your local movie theater to find out how the pandemic affected them. What do they plan to do to recover and re-energize patrons who may prefer streaming services? 

While it may seem like everything about the pandemic has been reported and readers may be tired of hearing about it, there are still stories to be told

In order to maintain a level of interest in a pandemic-related story, keep an eye on the future and reinforce the positives. Of course, you need to tell their story from beginning to end including the struggles endured during the pandemic, but highlight goals and aspirations. COVID-19 will forever be a part of our history and our stories about it help us to make sense of our place in that history. 

Just a Thought

Meet Q&S: Student staff introduction

Student staff member Erin McRae introduces herself to Quill & Scroll members.

My name is Erin McRae, and I am the newest student staff member here at Quill and Scroll. I’m a freshman at the University of Iowa where I’m double majoring in Creative Writing and Cinema.

I’m originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa, the daughter of a special education teacher and a speech language pathologist. I have three siblings as well. One is a senior here at the University of Iowa, another a senior at the University of Northern Iowa, and the youngest a junior at Cedar Falls High School.

Throughout high school, my favorite class of the day was always journalism. I had a wonderful teacher who made the class fun and feel like an actual newsroom rather than just a classroom. I participated in the program every single year I was in high school, and eventually became the editor in chief by my senior year.

My favorite experience in my high school journalism years was getting to do a story with Iowa Watch my sophomore, where my fellow classmates and I did an investigative article into fishing regulations that was later published in the Des Moines Register and several other local papers around Iowa. That was my first time really writing an investigative level story, and it taught me a lot about learning to ask tough questions with an overarching objective.

That is why I am so excited to become a part of the team here. From what I’ve already seen, Quill and Scroll is an internationally regarded honor society that values students and their pursuits in the field of journalism.

As I approach my upcoming time here at Quill and Scroll, I’m eager to learn more about how to empower high school journalists and encourage their passion. I’m hopeful that my experiences here are a reflection of the values in our organization itself: purposeful, driven, and educational.