March 7. 2022

The Lede

Hazardous in more than one way

Climate change threatens nearly one-third of U.S. hazardous chemical facilities

According to a new analysis by the Government Accountability Office, one-third of the hazardous chemical facilities in the United States are at risk from climate-driven floods, storms and wildfires.

Over 10,000 factories and facilities that house hazardous products were analyzed to find that about 3,200 of them were located in places that face yearly damage from climate-change caused disasters.

The report finds that flooding is the most widespread danger for the facilities, and all 50 states house these facilities.

Here’s what you can do: 

If you live within the U.S., you should find out what facilities in your state are at risk. Talk to workers who go their daily and communities who surround the plants. Ask them if they are concerned and what their opinions on climate change are.

Reporting on climate change has never been more important, with so much misinformation out there, journalists need to make sure they are providing all of the facts.

In an essay from Sammy Roth in the LA Times, the climate journalist shares tips on how to be a great climate reporter. Roth said that getting personal about climate change, made him a better reporter.

One tip that Roth provides, is to not sugar coat the truth behind climate change. Readers will appreciate the honesty, no matter how scary it might be.

Finland and Sweden no longer neutral?

Neutral Finland and Sweden consider joining NATO

Through the Cold War and the decades since, nothing could persuade Finland and Sweden that they would be better off joining NATO — until now.

Because of Russia’s invasion of and war against Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are warming up to the idea of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

A Finnish poll found that over 50% of the country’s population supports joining NATO for the very first time. Similar results occurred in Sweden.

The attack on Ukraine prompted both Finland and Sweden to break with their policy of not providing arms to countries at war by sending assault rifles and anti-tank weapons to Kyiv. For Sweden, it’s the first time it’s offering military aid since 1939, when it assisted Finland against the Soviet Union.

As tension builds in Europe, only time will tell if the formally neutral countries will join NATO in an effort to control Russia.

Here’s what you can do: 

If you haven’t been keeping up with the Russia-Ukraine war, now is the time to catch up — same with the history of NATO and its importance to the U.S. and other Western European democracies.

Vox has a breakdown of the war and its complex details here.

Students all over the country have held protests and demonstrations for peace where they stand in unity with Ukraine on school grounds. What have students at your school done to educate themselves or show support?

It’s important for journalists to remain educated on foreign affairs issues because having a larger perspective of the word gives you much more insight into your coverage. Diplomats and your audience alike can learn from journalists and what important issues are going on worldwide.

The rise and fall of school-sanctioned sports

New bill targeting trans athletes signed into law

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law last week that prohibits transgender athletes, K-12 through college, from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The bill went into effect immediately, meaning lawsuits against the state on behalf of displaced student-athletes may be in the offing.

Iowa isn’t the only state to have enacted anti-trans laws recently. Texas, South Dakota, and Indiana have made similar legislative moves.

All states enacted laws that would prevent trans students from playing alongside their peers, or in some cases, penalizes parents for “allowing” their kids to transition.

Here’s what you can do: 

Wether you speak to an athlete or a parent of an athlete, give them a voice in your story. We need to know how these laws will be affecting the people in these states.

Trans rights have been increasingly in danger this legislative session, and now would be the time to ask your state senators and representatives why. Why do they choose to prioritize these more controversial bills? What affect do they hope these bills will have?

All of your state legislators have their phone numbers and emails on the legislative website. Give them multiple calls a day until they pick up (I know it can be scary but you get used to it), and be aggressive in your calling.

Kids all over the country will be affected by these bills. Tell their story.

It’s An Honor

Award Entry Period Extended

Class Intercom’s The Content Generation Award entry period has been extended

Class Intercom received so many great entries for The Content Generation Award that they decided to extend the entry period until this Friday, March 11 at 11:59 p.m. CST. They know that schools and their communities are telling the stories that make them remarkable, and they want to recognize the storytellers.

After a public round of voting, two students and two educators will be announced and receive:

  • Student Winner and Runner-up:
    • Class Intercom swag pack
    • Content calendar planner
    • Certificate of award
    • An exclusive invite to write a blog for Class Intercom
    • Graduation honor cord
    • Lifetime membership to Quill and Scroll
  • Educator Winner and Runner-up:
    • Mobile video bundle kit
    • Class Intercom swag
    • Certificate of award
    • An exclusive invite to write a blog for Class Intercom

Click here to enter the contest before it’s too late!

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.

WPM Contest winners announced soon

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.

What’s Viral?

Presidential Speech

Biden delivers State of the Union address 

President Joe Biden delivered his first ever State of the Union address last week, and Biden repeatedly focused on condemning Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of and war against the democratically elected government of Ukraine.

Biden also focused on inflation, COVID protocols, and economic concerns.

One of the big things that happened on Tuesday night was a rare show of bipartisanship. Many members of both parties stood to applaud Biden on a number of sentiments, a rarity for most SOTU addresses.

Here’s what you can do: 

President Biden packed a lot of information into his speech.

How much do students at your school understand about some of the issues at hand? Is there bipartisan support of the U.S.’s effort to help Ukraine repel the Russian army from its country?

How about some of the more divisive topics? Biden took credit for record job-creation during his first year in office, while Republicans are focusing on inflation. Are students’ families feeling the effects of either or both? Meaning have their families been buoyed by the job growth over the past 13 months and/or have they been negatively affected by the rising cost of goods such as gasoline?

NFL ditches COVID protocols

The NFL announced it will no longer implement COVID safety precautions

In a memo sent to their teams on Thursday, the league announced it will no longer require any sort of mandatory testing or mask wearing for players.

The league cited, “current encouraging trends regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19, the evolving guidance from the CDC, changes to state law and the counsel of our respective experts” as their reasoning.

The league still encouraged players to follow state and local guidelines when possible, saying, “We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of players, coaches and staff, as we have throughout the pandemic.”

Here’s what you can do: 

As COVID protocols begin to lessen, many are starting to wonder if we are moving towards a post-pandemic world.

Find out how students and teachers in your community feel about this. Do they think we should continue to hold in person events? Do they feel comfortable without a mask? Find out how they feel.

Kanye causes controversy

The infamous rapper put social media into a frenzy once again

On Wednesday, the rapper “Ye”, known as Kanye West, posted a music video for the song “Eazy”. The video is in claymation, and depicts the rapper kidnapping SNL cast member Pete Davidson and burying him alive.

In one frame of the video there is text that reads, “Everybody lived happily ever after … except Skete you know who. JK he’s fine.”

Many took to twitter and instagram to express their disbelief over the graphic nature of the video.

This is not the first time Kanye West has caused outrage online. A couple of weeks ago the rapper took to instagram and attacked multiple celebrities in a series of bizarre posts including Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Pete Davidson, and more.

Here’s what you can do: 

While this story may seem like normal celebrity drama, there is a larger narrative at play here. In 2018, West revealed he had bipolar disorder.

It’s important as journalists to portray mental health issues in a sensitive manner, especially since it’s such a stigmatized topic in our society.

The Carter Center has a website devoted to mental health resources for journalists. This includes training websites, research initiatives, government policies, and more.

Just A Thought

Proportion and Seeking Solutions

Or “Is the parking situation at your school really THAT important?”

As we awaken to a new week and move toward spring, a humanitarian crisis is in full force in Ukraine as Russia’s war machine continues to shell Ukraine’s cities in an attempt to overthrow that country’s democratically elected government.

Thousands have died in Ukraine, including a purported 11,000 Russian soldiers, many of whom are barely older than high school students and who were drafted to fight Vladimir Putin’s war of choice. And 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country.

In the meantime, truckers in the U.S. are seeking to besiege America’s capitol again because — uh, yeah — they somehow think wearing a mask is akin to communism/authoritarianism/fascism at a time when most states are rescinding any and all mask policies and other public health regulations put in place to help save lives from the now 2-year-old COVID pandemic.

Certainly we don’t want to get in the way of anyone seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to protest governmental policies, but as journalists who would like to make our communities better places, we have to engage in a little proportional analysis about what issues are worthy of outrage and which aren’t.

Think about this familiar scene in high school and college newsrooms — one of your reporters gets a parking ticket or has to walk through the rain/snow/sleet from the student lot to the school building, traipsing past the much-closer faculty parking lot on the way.

OMG! The horror! Let’s write a series of investigative pieces and scalding editorials on the outrage of having to park more than 100 yards from school!

That’s when cooler, more thoughtful heads should prevail.

“OK, everybody. Let’s make a list of the problems we think we can help solve in our school that will make our students’ lives better, as well as those of our faculty, staff and community members.”

Once you take the time to do that, I’m pretty sure the distance from the parking lot to the school will seem pretty minor in comparison.

In closing, think about the basic premise of using something called “Solutions Journalism” as a template for the deeper pieces you report. This is from the Solutions Journalism Network’s website:

  1. A solutions story focuses on a RESPONSE to a social problem — and how that response has worked or why it hasn’t.
  2. The best solutions reporting distills the lessons that make the response relevant and accessible to others. In other words, it offers INSIGHT.
  3. Solutions journalism looks for EVIDENCE — data or qualitative results that show effectiveness (or lack thereof). Solutions stories are upfront with audiences about that evidence — what it tells us and what it doesn’t.
  4. Reporting on LIMITATIONS is essential. Solutions stories reveal a response’s shortcomings. No response is perfect, and something that works well for one community may fail in others.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, often the best journalism is that which takes the most time and effort, and this semester may yet have enough time in it to tackle a real solutions journalism project. If not, as you choose new editors for 2022-23, think about how you might designate a team of senior reporters to tackle a couple of solutions projects for the coming year.