February 28, 2022

The Lede

Russia invades Ukraine

Biden reacts as Russian troops act on Putin’s ‘war of choice’

After weeks of positioning troops all around Ukraine’s borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24 in an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government there and replace it with an authoritarian regime that favors Russian interests.

U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the nation shortly afterward on Thursday morning, saying, “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.” Some of the sanctions Biden and the rest of the free world have agreed upon include limiting exports, freezing assets on multiple Russian banks, and providing weapons and other war machinery.

Germany made news Saturday when it agreed to send grenade launchers it controls from the Netherlands to Ukraine, a shift that signals the democratic world stands together in trying to stop Russia’s naked aggression.

Here’s what you can do:

This is a chance to work with the experts in your school to help explain the situation in Ukraine now and to combat the disinformation coming out of pro-Russia media. Is Ukraine really full of Nazis, as Putin falsely claims?

Ask your history teachers and social studies teachers about the history of war in Europe, and if Putin’s aggression mirrors that of fascists such as Hitler in the 193os and 1940s or Mussolini during the same time. What is NATO and how did it come to be? If Ukraine isn’t in NATO, why are NATO nations so strongly supporting Ukraine? That’s a good geography and geopolitical lesson.

Here’s some good background from The Conversation.

It also would be instructive to look back at the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, who tried to hold up aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invented propaganda to smear Trump’s rival in the 2020 presidential campaign, now-President Biden.

And finally, do you have any Ukrainian neighbors or the descendants of Ukraine in your city or school? How do they feel? Are they as angry as the woman in this video?

Texas governor limits trans rights

Gov. Abbott asks residents to report parents of transgender children for child abuse

In a letter penned to the Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the department to investigate any “elective procedures for gender transitioning” among minors.

This letter came after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that medical treatments that affirm gender identity should be constituted as child abuse.

Abbott said that investigations should also look into “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”

Here’s what you can do:

This letter specifically targets teachers in addition to medical professionals who could face criminal penalties for not reporting this as “child abuse.”

Talk to the teachers in your school. How do they feel about this proposed penalty? Have they worked closely with trans students in the past, and do they constitute gender affirmation as child abuse in most cases?

How about parents of trans kids? How do they feel? And is your state planning a similar crusade against trans families?

Biden picks Supreme Court nominee

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to take Judge Stephen Breyer’s spot

President Joe Biden announced his pick Friday for the U.S. Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retiring Stephen Breyer. Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson is currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

If she is approved by the Senate, Jackson will become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Jackson holds two degrees from Harvard, and at age 51, would be the Supreme Court’s second-youngest justice ever. FWIW, she attended Palmetto High School in Miami and was on the speech and debate team.

Here’s what you can do:

Who is appointed to the Supreme Court dramatically affects the shape of our country. These justices have the ability to structurally change the way our nation works. What do the experts at your school — your social studies teachers and others who teach legal concepts — think about her appointment and her ability to shift the Court back toward the political center?

During his campaign two years ago, President Biden promised to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court if a vacancy occurred. Why did he do that? Why is it important to have a variety of voices and backgrounds on the court? Will Brown Jackson serve as an inspiration to other Black women? Can she also help repair the damage done by a justice system that historically has not treated persons of color fairly?

It’s An Honor

Critique forms available

News Media Evaluation is the best way to get objective feedback about your news operation

The Quill and Scroll News Media Evaluation provides news media staffs a one-of-a-kind assessment of your publication(s) with 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.

High schools and junior high/middle schools may enter their multimedia news operations, newspapers, news magazines and/or online news sites until June 15, 2022. Entries and ratings are returned in early September 2022. This service is open to non-member schools as well as member schools.

Here’s the web page with all the information about entering your publication.

Student Journalist Impact Award

Has your reporting made a difference in your community? Apply by March 15

The Student Journalist Impact Award recognizes a secondary school student (or a team of students who worked on the same entry) who, through the study and practice of journalism, has made a significant difference in his/her/their own life, the lives of others, the school he/she/they attends and/or the community in which he/she/they resides. (NOTE: This is not a scholarship competition. Do not send transcripts.)

This award is co-sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists. Quill and Scroll became a co-sponsor in 2018.

Benz Scholarship

Applications open for $500 adviser award

Quill and Scroll will award the $500 Lester G. Benz Scholarship to an adviser who undertakes a professional development activity over the summer or in the 2022-23 academic year.

The award can be used to attend a National High School Journalism Conference, to pay for tuition for a university course in a relevant subject area, or for a summer workshop, such as MediaNow, the JEA Summer Advisers Institute or a local summer workshop in your state, to name a few.

Applications are now being accepted. Deadline is April 15, 2022.

The award is named after former Quill and Scroll Executive Director Lester G. Benz.

Last year’s winner was Shari Chumley from Tupelo High School in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Student scholarship applications will open March 1, 2022.

WPM Contest Winners Announced in March

Announcement of winners will come March 25

Quill and Scroll received nearly 2,000 entries in the 2022 Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest, and we have sent the entires to our judges and they are hard at work picking the winners!

The announcement of school Blue and Gold winners as well as individual winners will be Friday, March 25 on this website and on our Twitter feed.

PSJA Journalism Contest Opens

Q&S and Private School Journalism Association set up portfolio contest

The PSJA Journalism Contest, co-sponsored by Quill and Scroll, seeks to honor the best journalism produced by private and independent school students. It is a “portfolio” contest, one that seeks not to reward single stories, but a pattern of excellence over the course of a year.

Other than Editorial Leadership, work produced for the contest should have been published in a news publication—in print and/or online—or yearbook between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Deadline for entries will be Friday, April 1, 2022. A virtual awards ceremony to announce the winners is planned for Monday, May 16, 2022 at 7 p.m. EDT.

For PSJA members, the cost for your school is $20 per entry. PSJA membership is free. To join, schools must enroll here to also receive the newsletter. Non-members pay $25 per entry. To become a member, email PSJA Director David Cutler ([email protected]) and sign up for the PSJA newsletter.

If you are interested in entering the contest, email PSJA Director David Cutler ([email protected]), who will send additional instructions and an entry form.

Social Media Awards!

New Q&S charter calls for students and educators using social media in creative ways

Quill and Scroll charter Class Intercom’s Content Generation Awards invites the public to recognize students and educators using social media channels to tell their schools’ stories in creative, collaborative, and meaningful ways.

The nomination period ends Friday, March 4, 2022 and will be followed by a public voting period before this year’s Content Generation Award winners are announced at the end of March.

Distributed by Class Intercom (a leading provider of social media management software for schools), the Content Generation Awards recognize students and educators enhancing creativity, critical thinking, communication, storytelling, and collaboration within their schools and communities through social media.

Nominations are open to students and educators at schools of all types, including K-12, secondary, post-secondary, public, private, religious, and parochial schools.

To learn more about the Content Generation Awards and view last year’s winners and runners up, visit

What’s Viral?

Facebook falls behind on climate change

Facebook has failed to flag climate change denial

Facebook promised in May 2021 that it would begin flagging content with “information labels” on posts containing climate change misinformation.

However, a new report finds that the platform had labelled only about half of the misleading content.

Watchdog groups say that all of the articles that were flagged were published after the May 19 promise from the company rather than looking into any pat articles or posts.

Many environmental advocates are calling for better regulation.

Here’s what you can do:

One of our roles as journalists is to deliver the truth, and part of that means battling misinformation online. Whether this is through fact-checking popular posts and viral articles, or by sharing things that are true to combat the misleading news, journalists can help to generate honest news.

One of our favorite sources for fact-checking is Checkology from the News Literacy Project.

In addition, the BBC’s trusted news initiative, helps journalists and the public to create more trustworthy sources.

The initiative offers tips for journalists to combat misinformation by getting good quality information to their audiences by clocking it and working with it.

Some of these tips include creating a community, focusing on storytelling, and reviewing the impact your stories have on others.

Kaepernick calls for transparency

A new autopsy initiative will provide free services to those killed by police violence

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has launched a new project designed to offer free autopsies to victims of police violence and provide results to the families.

The goal of the project is to eliminate any concerns from the originally given autopsy, ensuring that it was conducted without any biases or errors and that any evidence wasn’t manipulated — giving the victim’s family a clear picture of what happened.

Ever since the quarterback kneeled in peaceful protest six years ago, Kaepernick has used his platform to continue to fight against police brutality in the country.

Here’s what you can do:

Transparency is a virtue that all fields need to improve on. In a news publication, that means telling your audience where you get your information from and who your sources are. This can also mean disclosing information from the newsroom itself, like how much reporters are paid or how diverse the staff is.

The Society of Professional Journalists defines transparency as taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public. The Knight Foundation defined transparency as disclosing potential conflicts of interest and making additional reporting material available to readers.

Practicing transparency helps to build credibility for your newsroom and keeps readers coming back for more because they feel safe reading your stories.

Trump and Truth?

Trump launches his new social media platform, “Truth Social”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was banned from most social media platforms, however, last week he launched his own platform that he hopes will rival Twitter and engage his ever present supporters.

His Truth Social app was offered for download from the Apple App Store to a limited number of subscribers who had preordered. Others who were added to a waiting list are to be given access over the next 10 days.

The launch of his app further hints at another presidential run for the twice-impeached former president, who currently faces investigations in several jurisdictions, most notably in New York for potential fraud and in Georgia for election tampering.

Experts expect him to announce his candidacy for the 2024 Presidential race following the 2022 midterm elections.

Here’s what you can do:

Social media can be a journalist’s best friend. Twitter and Facebook are both great platforms for getting your own stories circulating and even finding pitch ideas.

Twitter has been praised as the top social site for breaking news, with lots of big stories breaking on the Twittersphere before reaching major cable stations.

Social media is instant and it allows everyday people to add color to local stories with their own images, videos and first-person accounts that wouldn’t have gotten coverage a decade ago.

This guide from Trint helps explain how journalists can up their social media game. They emphasize the use of hashtags, videos, and tone of voice.

No matter what platform you turn to as a journalist — Twitter, Facebook, or Truth Social — you can shut down misinformation, build an audience readership, and find new angles for a story; all from the comfort of your couch.

Just A Thought

Student Press Freedom Day!

Unmute Yourself

Last week was Scholastic Journalism Week across the United States. Thursday, Feb. 24, was Student Press Freedom Day.

This year’s Scholastic Journalism Week theme was “Amplifying Voices,” and that’s what this podcast — along with Episode 36 and Episode 37 — does. The voices we’ll amplify are those of the Quill and Scroll Student Advisory Board.

In this episode, you’ll hear from four young journalists who are working to make their communities a better place. They are McKenna Hudson from Saint Charles, Missouri; sisters Kasey and Riley Thompson of Harrisonburg, Virginia; and Melissa Liu of Johns Creek, Georgia.

You’ll hear them talk of the important stories they’re working on and their Quill and Scroll projects, both in their own communities and as part of the national Student Advisory Board.

In addition, they’ll address Student Press Freedom Day and its theme — Unmute Yourself.