Jan 10, 2022

The Lede

Polarizing Column

Suburban Denver school fires teachers after pro-choice column runs in student magazine

Regis Jesuit High School retracted the winter issue of its student magazine because it contained an op-ed from a student expressing pro-choice abortion views, and fired both of the magazine’s faculty advisors, according to Colorado Sentinel sources.

Elevate, a Regis Jesuit student magazine, publishes in print and online four times a year. In the Winter 2021 Edition, a student wrote an opinion piece titled, “The battle for our bodies: confronting abortion and human rights.”

The piece is written from a pro-choice point of view, and argues that making abortion illegal causes women to die from unsafe illegal procedures, and that there is a meaningful distinction between a fetus and a baby.

Editions of the magazine are printed and also hosted online on the publishing platform Issuu. In place of the winter edition, a letter signed by the school’s president and principal says that it has been retracted in its entirety due to the op-ed.

Here’s what you can do:

Private school students, as in Colorado, don’t have the same rights as public school students. If a Catholic school, such as Regis, feels that it needs to restrict student First Amendment rights, it can do so.

Further, while Colorado’s student free expression law now protects advisers, that’s again only at public schools.

But private schools don’t have to punish students and fire teachers, and even if they do, censored private school students have some recourse. Here’s a great summary by Mike Hiestand, a staff attorney for the Student Press Law Center, of what students at private schools can do if they feel they’ve been unlawfully censored.

Bottom line: either your state needs a New Voices Law that protects student expression in private schools, or you need to work with your private school administrators to set policy that would grant that freedom to students.

In any case, it’s time for you and your Quill and Scroll chapter to join the SPLC in its plans for Student Press Freedom Day, scheduled for Feb. 24. The theme is #unmuteyourself. It’s part of Scholastic Journalism Week, which is an initiative of the Journalism Education Association.

Be active and support student voices and freedom of expression in your school, public or private.

COVID cases spread rapidly

Teens and young adults are driving COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

An uptick in Covid among under-50s coincides with surge in cases among young children and the troubling increase in pediatric hospitalizations.

As the U.S. is seeing record numbers of daily coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, public health authorities nationwide have said that teens and younger adults are helping fuel this increase.

The U.S. seven-day average for pediatric hospitalizations increased 58%, to 334, from Dec. 21-27. The increase in hospitalizations for all age groups was about 19%. Less than 25% of U.S. children are vaccinated, Reuters reported.

Here’s what you can do:

The pandemic still rages on, and though it may seem boring we must continue to tell its story. This time students are the ones driving the rise of cases, which means we have to teach each other about the continued seriousness of the situation.

Have you been back in the school since the holiday break? What has attendance been like? How does it compare to early January 2021 or January 2020, right before the pandemic began to shut down many U.S. schools?

If you live in the U.S., does your community fit into the new statistics of increased cases and hospitalizations?

If you live outside of the U.S., what age group is driving up the cases in your country? What might your country be doing differently than the US in prevention and spread.

We need to have a conversation between young people about how we can do better.

Is personal responsibility enough or do governments need to intervene?

Desegregation in 2022

In a citywide overhaul, a beloved Minneapolis Black-majority high school was rezoned to include white students from a richer neighborhood. It has been hard for everyone.

Minneapolis, among the most segregated school districts in the country, with one of the widest racial academic gaps, is in the midst of a sweeping plan to overhaul and integrate its schools. And unlike previous desegregation efforts, which typically required children of color to travel to white schools, Minneapolis officials are asking white families to help do the integrating. It’s a newer approach being embraced by a small group of urban districts across the country.

Here’s what you can do:

Brown vs. Board of Education was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 70 years ago, and changes still need to be made.

As additional inclusion measures are made at schools across the country, pay attention to how communities react and what schools are moved to make similar decisions.

Has your school district made an effort to break down walls? Tell that story.

Jane Bannester, Ritenour High School Broadcast Journalism Teacher disclosed a few tips on reporting on race and racism in schools through the lens of a teacher. Here are some of those tips:

  • Check your own racial biases and beliefs
  • Use local city and school data — don’t rely on state and national numbers only
  • Allow youth voices to be your guide
  • Interview all sides and perspectives

Student voices matter!

Kentucky legislators propose to limit student voices on school decision-making panels

Two months ago, the state of Kentucky decided to allow non-voting high school students on School-Based Decision Making Councils (SBDMs), but with the introduction of Senate Bill 1 on Tuesday, that decision would be reversed.

The Kentucky Student Voice Team said that they strongly oppose SB1 as it will stifle the voices of Kentucky students as they make an effort to make Kentucky schools safer, more inclusive, and more engaging.

SBDMs currently govern student lives and experience in Kentucky schools, and the passing of SB1 would disempower the students on these councils.

Here’s what you can do:

Whether you live in Kentucky or elsewhere, pay attention to what education bills go through your state. January typically marks the beginning of the legislative session and this is when a ton of bills will be introduced at once.

Check this calendar to see when your state’s legislative session begins.

It can be overwhelming but if your school paper just focusses on education bills, or bills affecting you community, it can narrow down the process.

Most state legislative websites can be searched by keyword, so just searching “Education” can guide you to the bills your newspaper should cover.

Following up on these bills, and trying to attend committee meetings and chamber debates can help you to not only get the quotes needed for your story, but will help you to better understand the legislative process.

It’s An Honor

WPM Contest opens

Enter the 2022 Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest ASAP

You are now able to submit entries for one of our 35 Writing, Photo, and Multimedia Contest categories. This is a journalism contest, organized by journalists, administered by journalists and judged by journalists.

Last year saw more than 3,100 entries from the U.S., South Korea, Canada and China, and 320 students were honored. Here is the slideshow of the 2021 winners, including all first-, second- and third-place entries. Here are all the winners, including all the honorable mentions.

This year’s contest will also see a slight rise in the contest entry price. Entries in most writing, photo and design categories will cost $7, while more detailed categories (Multimedia Features Package, In-Depth Team Reporting, Documentary Film, for example) will cost $15 each.

The deadline for entries is Friday, Feb. 4. All entries must have been published online or in a publication, either school-based or professional.

NEW! PSJA Journalism Contest

New portfolio contest to highlight the best work done by private school journalists

The Private School Journalism Association has partnered with Quill and Scroll to honor the best journalism by private and independent school students. This “portfolio” contest looks to reward students for a pattern of excellence in journalistic work throughout an academic year.

With 12 potential entering categories, students can show off their chops from published news or yearbook material.

The deadline for entries is April 1, 2022. Students may submit work published between April 1 2021 and March 31 2022. A virtual awards ceremony will be held on May 15 to announce the winners. Additionally, the top placing school will win free memberships into Quill and Scroll.

Unmute Yourself

Register for Op-Ed Crash Course featuring veteran journalist Steve Holmes

The theme for this years Student Press Freedom Day is ‘Unmute Yourself’ and the Student Press Law Center, will be holding an Op-Ed Crash Course featuring  Steve Holmes – a veteran reporter and editor who’s worked at the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. Quill and Scroll is a partner.

The crash course will be on Thursday, Jan. 13th at 8 p.m. ET. You can register for the event here. 

You can also be paired with your very own coach. In this fun, free workshop, Steve will share tips and tricks about how to craft a compelling op-ed and get it published in local or national outlets.

What’s Viral?

The future is video games

How Montreal has become the ‘Hollywood of Video Games’ using subsidies

At first glance, this may seem a little odd. Montreal? Why not Tokyo or San Francisco or other cities that have traditionally dominated the tech industry? However, over the past few decades, Montreal has arisen as one of the most attractive cities for video game developers. So attractive that Montreal’s economic development agency, Montreal International, estimates that, as of 2021, more than 200 studios have set up shop there.

The secret to Montreal’s success is tax credits. The province of Quebec — Montreal is its largest city — attracts multimedia companies by offering them subsidies for employing people in the province. Quebec taxpayers pay a large percentage of the salaries of local multimedia workers. These subsidies have undoubtedly helped Montreal become a leading hub for video game development; however, Quebec may have created a system that will perpetually rely on taxpayer dollars to maintain this position.

With this ecosystem now thriving in Quebec, the natural question is whether the government can begin scaling back its generous subsidy program. Quebec tried to do this back in 2014, amid a broader effort to reduce spending and balance its budget. Policymakers wanted to cut the multimedia tax credit by 20%. But even this relatively modest proposal faced a swift backlash from gaming studios. Some studios — including Ubisoft — threatened they’d leave the city. Quebec ended up backing down.

Here’s what you can do:

The video game industry has been growing rapidly with the expansion of the internet and they became an important part of life during the pandemic. However, what does this really have to do with us?

Ever since the invention of video games, there have been players who dedicated much of their time to playing them.

And this has caused concern, especially among parents. But do video games really have an effect on how people live their lives?

Video games have honestly changed the way some people view media in general and understanding all forms of media is important for getting a better understanding of news as a facet.

Video games have gone from being a derivative medium that took its cues from other media, such as books, films, and music, to being a form of media that other types derive new ideas from. Video games have also interacted with older forms of media to change them and create new means of entertainment and interaction.

What video games are popular in your school? Do parents approve of video game use? How has playing video games affected life and view of media? These are all questions to ask your community and explore in your story.

Elementary, my dear Watson

NYT invites students to a panel discussing investigative journalism

In 2017, The New York Times broke the story that Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, had for decades been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact. The article, written by the investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, was the first of many that exposed decades of abuse perpetrated by Mr. Weinstein, as well as the system in Hollywood that helped cover up his actions and silence the accusers.

Their groundbreaking reporting led to Mr. Weinstein’s ousting in Hollywood and eventual imprisonment, helped ignite the #MeToo movement, and inspired reporting on sexual abuse and cover-ups across many industries — including television, the tech industry and academia. Jodi and Megan, together with a team of colleagues, won the Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Now, the two reporters are holding a panel on Jan. 27 at 1pm, for student journalists to listen in on tips on investigative reporting, hear about their newest book, and even ask questions.

You can register for the panel here.

Here’s what you can do with this:

The goal of investigative journalism is to uncover what’s been hidden, to reveal injustice or other wrongdoing.

Young journalists can do investigative reporting as well. If you found that wealthy students were deploying test preparation and private counselors to an unfair advantage in college admissions, or that local elementary schools didn’t have air-conditioning in the hot summers, or that the football team was hazing new members in abusive ways — those stories could light up discussion in your community and perhaps spur action.

Think about the problems or injustices in your community or school. Consider questions you or others have about how local systems work — or how they don’t. Think about the big investigative pieces you have read in national news outlets and “localize” them: What does that same issue look like in your area?

The show must go on

One actress returns to Broadway after seven years — thanks to COVID-19

With the Covid-19 surge fueled by the Omicron variant disrupting numerous Broadway productions, one former Broadway actor recently stepped in to save the day.

Carla Stickler had been working as a software engineer in Chicago when she got the call last weekend to fill in for one of the lead roles in the musical “Wicked” — Elphaba. Though she had spent years performing on Broadway as an understudy in the role, she hadn’t done the show in seven years.
Stickler isn’t alone in having to pull off a last-minute performance. As Omicron spreads across New York, several Broadway actors have gotten infected with Covid-19 — meaning that understudies, swings and standbys have had to step in.

Here’s what you can do with this:

As the pandemic rages on, we have come to realize the importance of art and entertainment as it fueled us during quarantine. So why are fine arts struggling?

How many students at your school hope to go into arts sectors following graduation and why do so many say that it can be a waste of time?

You need to reach out to community to ask them about the importance of arts. I would start by talking to school art and theater teachers about what they hope the next generation can take from their education.

Talk to students and ask them their favorite art forms, and what the pandemic would have been like without their favorite music, TV shows, and books.

Just A Thought

Optics as a part of politics

It’s okay to write about women, fashion, and politics — but here’s how to do it better.

Optics is part of politics, which makes wardrobe choices fair game in many news stories, and not just in those featuring women. — Rahul Bhargava, Meg Heckman, and Emily Boardman for Nieman Lab.

With a record number of women in politics today, sexism can easily show in political reporting. Clothing as a point in journalism isn’t off the table, but it needs to have a point.

Rep. Liz Cheney’s “boxy jackets.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s penchant for sleeveless tops. The Vice President’s pearls. Just about everything AOC pulls out of her closet.

These are some recent examples of how female politicians’ clothing choices have made headlines, signaling what we see as a necessary but complex shift in the way journalists tackle fashion in the political arena. As more women seek elected office, many of them are using fashion to make statements about their biographies, their ideologies, and their place in history.

It’s clear journalists are struggling to find appropriate ways to frame political fashion choices, as evidenced by ongoing debates about what is (and isn’t) newsworthy.

In this essay for the Nieman Lab at Harvard, Bhargava, Heckman, and Boardman tell us the proper way to mix politics and fashion in reporting.

  • Approach coverage carefully, and with an eye toward the history of sexist news coverage of female political figures. 
  • Don’t solely focus on what women are wearing.
  • Sometimes, what a politician is wearing is making a statement — other times it’s not.
  • Be mindful of the volume of coverage focused on a certain fashion narrative.

Coming into another election year, journalists on the political beat should educate themselves about past pitfalls and, perhaps, connect with their colleagues on the fashion beat to understand how and when female politicians embrace fashion as a statement of power. Engage this historical context face-on.