November 22, 2021

The Lede

One in a trillion

U.S. House passes Biden’s $2 trillion spending bill

The House of Representatives voted on near-party lines Friday morning to approve a roughly $2 trillion social and climate spending package, ending months of squabbles among Democrats over the details of the far-reaching measure.

The vote was 220-213, with one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, joining all Republicans in opposition.

The legislation is meant to fulfill many of President Biden’s promises during the 2020 campaign, including plans to address climate change and provide a stronger federal safety net for families and low-income workers.

 Here’s what you can do:

Now, the first thing to mention is that just because the House has passed it, the bill is not yet in affect. It still has to go to the Senate who will make adjustments and they also have to vote on it.

How did your local U.S. Representative vote? Why? Call their offices and ask for a statement about their vote. Do they know what kinds of projects will be prioritized in your district and in your state? What will they be?

Being educated and informed about the political process is a must for journalism. As obvious as that sounds, having that knowledge already makes you more credible because some readers may not have the slightest idea of how bills are passed.

Teaching your readers is one priority to keep in mind when writing this story. The other is to do you best to show how much $2 trillion actually is. Trying to conceptualize such a huge number can be difficult, but it helps to break it down.

You want to make sure to tell readers how much money is being allocated for different priorities and where the funds are coming from. Using visuals and graphics is a great way to do his because it can make huge numbers more pleasing and comprehensible.

One, two, tree, FORE: Deforestation

Deforestation in Brazil hits its worst level in 15 years

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest saw its highest annual rate of deforestation in over 15 years, the latest data shows, after a 22% climb from the previous year.

The country’s space research agency monitoring system showed that the region lost over 5,100 square miles of rainforest — comparable to about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut — between August 2020 to July 2021. That’s the worst annual loss since 2006, when the Brazilian Amazon shed more than 8,800 square miles.

About 1 million Indigenous people, and 3 million species of plants and animals, live in the Amazon, according to the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace.

Here’s what you can do:

While you may live outside of Brazil, you can still report on a major environmental attack.

What are your local governments doing to combat climate change? How about your school? What are your peers’ attitudes about climate change? Can you take a stand in an editorial or invite columnists to opine?

To report on the environment, you need to get all of the facts straight. Talk to experts in environmental fields to find out how deforestation, or other disasters, can affect livelihoods and what can be done to counteract it. Environmental Journalism is one of the best ways to raise awareness of climate change and environment disasters like this one.

As a society, environmental policies can only progress if people are aware about the health of the planet, sustainable development and the fight against climate change. That’s where environmental journalism plays a decisive role.

History being made in space

Jessica Watkins will be the first black woman to live and work on the International Space Station

For the first time, a Black woman will live and work on the International Space Station, starting in April 2022.

Watkins joined the ranks of NASA astronauts in 2017 and has worked in the space agency’s research centers, particularly on the Mars rover, Curiosity.

Watkins says she grew up admiring astronauts like Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. And she hopes her work aboard the ISS will inspire more kids of color to aspire to space travel.

Here’s what you can do:

Now this story news can be made into a story about the International Space Station itself, the history of POC’s work on space technologies or it can be an invitation to do a feature on someone in your community. This story is a mix of all three.

With so much hard, and sometimes brutal, news stories out there, it is always fun to write features on someone you find interesting. It is refreshing both as a journalist and a reader to find a story of people just doing cool things.

Creating a good feature means finding and verifying important or interesting information and then presenting it in a way that engages the audience. Good stories are part of what make journalism different, and more valuable, than other content in the media universe.

So, go out and find some cool people and tell their story to the world.

It’s An Honor

Yearbook results

The judges are finished with their work in the Q&S Yearbook Excellence Contest!

Our final judges have submitted the results for their categories and we’ll have results ready by Monday, Nov. 29, when everyone gets back from Thanksgiving break.

Stay tuned to our Twitter feed and this webpage to learn the results in all 30 categories and in both classes A and B.

Great work to all of the fantastic journalists who submitted entries in the contest!

Brokaw’s cache

History through the eyes of a journalist

Quill and Scroll board member, Patrick Johnson, worked alongside Tom Brokaw, now retired TV journalist, to create an interactive timeline to showcase historical events, Brokaw’s press passes for those events, and videos of the events.

You can check out the timeline here and experience history through your own computer.

Looking for student investigators

Q&S student board wants to read and promote your in-depth work

The Quill & Scroll Student Advisory Board is looking for samples of high-quality investigative pieces done by students journalists. These pieces may be posted on the Quill & Scroll website as examples for other aspiring investigative journalists in high school to follow.

You can submit a link OR pdf of the article here to nominate your work.

What’s Viral?

Sad girl Autumn is in full swing

Adele’s new album ’30’ will make you wish Adele never put out music — in the best way possible.

It’s been more than a decade since the singer/songwriter Adele released her epic breakup album 21, which became one of the most overwhelmingly successful records in history and transformed her from promising talent to indelible superstar.

The time since has brought with it more success — a nearly equally successful third album, 25, a James Bond theme song, sold-out worldwide tours (all of them) — as well as personal growth and struggle. Just like all of us.

In an interview with NPR, Adele said a lot of people tend to think that the person who leaves a relationship or leaves a marriage is fine, and that they’ve got the power of their choice., but that wasn’t her case at all. She said it was one of the biggest decisions she ever had to make.

The album is beautifully sad in all of the right ways and hopefully you don’t have many plans for Thanksgiving break, because if you decide to listen, you might have to stay in bed.

Here’s what you can do:

Music journalism comes in all shapes and sizes. You can do a reaction piece and talk to fans and casual listeners of Adele to see how they are reacting to the album. This ca also be an album review where you spatter listener response in. The choices are endless.

Another avenue you can go down would be talking to a music theory expert and breaking down the album into all of its parts. Someone who studies theory will be able to tell you why her sad songs are seriously devastating.

NPR is famous for their music journalism. Some of the writers there have given tips on how to break into the scene:

  • Reach out to as many people as you can — because what you know and who you know both matter.
  • Develop self discipline
  • Seize every opportunity to cultivate your own voice
  • Start and maintain a blog. People will start to trust your musical opinions and knowledge.

More than just a muppet

Sesame Street makes history with the debut of its first Asian-American muppet

At only 7 years old, Ji-Young is making history as the first Asian American muppet in the “Sesame Street” canon. She is Korean American and has two passions: rocking out on her electric guitar and skateboarding. The children’s TV program, which first aired 52 years ago this month, gave The Associated Press a first look at its adorable new occupant.

Ji-Young will formally be introduced in “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special.” Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka are among the celebrities appearing in the special, which will drop Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max, “Sesame Street” social media platforms and on local PBS stations.

Here’s what you can do with this:

Sesame Street is a 52 year-old program. It’s hard to have anything run on air for that long because times change and media has to change as well. However, the classic children’s show is able to stay relevant by adapting to the 21st century seamlessly.

Whether it be through diversifying their characters, or using social media to build their brand, kids and adults alike know the names of Elmo, Big Bird, and Bert.

Our own newsrooms need to be a little more like Sesame Street.

As shown in a study by PEW, newsroom employees are more likely to be white and male than U.S. workers overall. More than three-quarters of newsroom employees are non-Hispanic white people. That is true of 65% of U.S. workers in all occupations and industries combined.

There are signs that these demographics are changing ,though. Younger newsroom employees show greater racial, ethnic and gender diversity than their older colleagues, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

By implementing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative in your newsroom, our newspapers can begin to reflect the people we write for.

Britney’s free, so now what?

How Britney Spears got free, and what comes next

After a court decision on Friday, singer Britney Spears will be able to avail herself of rudimentary freedoms that most of us take for granted but that have been denied to her during the 13 years she lived under a probate conservatorship. She will be able to make her own medical decisions, sign her own contracts, and spend her own money.

She now faces a legal battle with those who once managed her life and money, including her father and former conservator, Jamie Spears, and her former business manager, Lou Taylor, who has, along with her company Tri Star, resisted efforts by Spears’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, to obtain her financial records.

Spears is still in a profoundly difficult position, despite, and perhaps because of, her new control of her life. If Spears acts in any way that could be construed as irresponsible, it could be taken, in legal battles to come, as proof that she can’t handle her own life.

The pop star’s case has illuminated the impossible bind that conservatees can sometimes find themselves in: once a person has been formally deemed incapacitated, she might lose the opportunity to ever prove her capacity.

Here’s what you can do with this:

Britney’s conservatorship has been in the media a lot and now that she’s free it opens the chance to talk about others who are struggling.

A conservatorship is granted by a court for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions, like those with dementia or other mental illnesses. While song may be in good spirit, other conservatorships are a means of manipulation.

This is a topic that may be sensitive so you want to proceed with caution and understanding.

But for now #FreeBritey is #BritneyIsFree.

Just A Thought

America, I Sing Back

A poem by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, a voice of mourning on Thanksgiving

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.