March 14, 2022

The Lede

Teachers on strike

Educators in Minneapolis walk out of school in protest

Minneapolis, Minnesota began a strike last Tuesday. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has been in negotiation with their district over a number of issues, including, but not limited to salary, mental health resources, hiring issues, and more.

This is the first time in 50 years that teachers in Minneapolis have gone on strike.

Classes were cancelled on Tuesday for Minneapolis public school, which left many parents scrambling to find childcare and accommodations for their children. More than 30,000 students were out of class as a result of the strike.

Greta Callahan, the president of The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, spoke at a news conference on Monday. “Those at the top of this district continue to hoard power — continue to do so much less with so much more. And if we don’t intervene, we believe that the Minneapolis Public Schools will cease to exist. We are in the fight for strong public schools for our city, for our students.”

Here’s what you can do:

The news is from Minnesota, but the conversation about teachers’ working conditions is a national topic. Rising concerns over working conditions, especially salaries and overwhelming workloads for teachers, have brought up questions on how our government treats its public employees.

Talk to teachers in your school. Is there a teachers union in your district? And if you’re in a private school, it’s likely your teachers aren’t union members. Do they share any concerns with the teachers in Minneapolis? What do they think needs to change for the profession?

Another angle on this story is the national teacher shortageHow is your district ensuring that they have enough staff? What should the government do to encourage the next generation of teachers?

Gas goes up

President Biden announces ban on Russian oil imports

While the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues, President Biden announced on Tuesday that the United States will ban all imports of Russian oil. President Biden said, “That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.”

The United States was not alone in this condemnation of Putin’s actions, and many other European countries followed suit.

Russian oil imports make up about 8 percent of the total gas imports in the United States. It is likely that with the new ban, gas prices will continue to go up.

Here’s what you can do:

While many people may feel like the conflict in Ukraine is far away, it has real local implementations for many, if not all Americans.

Make a survey at your school. How many students drive to school? Of those students, how many are responsible for paying for their own gas? How are they affording the rising prices? Will there be a greater push toward electric vehicles and away from gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs? Will students and faculty start carpooling?

Free lunch

Families anxiously await for Congress to extend lunch waivers

At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the United States Congress authorized waivers for free meals for public school children. This program is offered to everyone regardless of income, providing many with much needed nourishment.

Unfortunately, the waivers are scheduled to expire on June 30. The extension of this program is a part of a full-year spending package presented to Congress on March 9.

It has not yet been decided if Congress will continue this program or return to waivers only for low income households.

Many schools have implemented a grab-and-go system during the pandemic with virtual learning, where families are able to pick up multiple meals at a time for their children, without having to have a certain income bracket to qualify.

At the moment, around 30 million kids receive free meals at school.

Here’s what you can do:

Hunger in schools is an issue that could affect many of your classmates. Unfortunately, many people who are didn’t previously qualify for free lunches at school are still going hungry, often just missing the cutoff. Others might have parents who are unable or unwilling to fill out the necessary forms to qualify. 

This is a good opportunity to write an opinion piece, but start with correct data. How may students in your community and school are food insecure? How many qualify for free lunches even in regular times? What do you think of these waivers? Are they necessary? Why/why not? You could talk to students, teachers, and lunchroom staff as well.

It’s An Honor

WPM Contest Winners

Quill and Scroll will announce winners on 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.

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 this week!

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 May 1, 2022.

PSJA Journalism Contest Open

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.

What’s Viral?

News in the NFL

NFL Quarterback news even in during the offseason

Even in its offseason, the NFL is still making news.

Longtime Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is moving to the Denver Broncos. Football experts have been saying recently that Denver is just a great quarterback away from contending for a title and those who have analyzed his plays say that Russell Wilson certainly fits that great quarterback description, with nine Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl title in 2014.

The Broncos were originally seeking out Aaron Rodgers, whose status this offseason had been uncertain. However, the Packers announced that they would be keeping Rodgers — even though he has expressed frustration with the fact that he lacks control over the direction of the team.

Here’s what you can do:

Sports reporting is necessary all year round — even if your beat follows specific seasonal sports. With the constant development of the internet and social media, there are so many ways to provide instant sports news and follow games directly from the newsroom.

This article from St. Bonaventure University, describes how digital media has changed sports journalism. Not only does no one need to be present at games and events to get a play-by-play of the action, but readership can be more widespread as teams can have fans from anywhere.

The article highlights the importance of data and visualizations to help your story to be more well rounded.

Also, keep in mind that college and professional sports already have a plethora of reporters and columnists writing about them. The best service a scholastic sports journalist can provide is news and opinion about their teams. Nobody knows your school’s sports like you do.

And finally, it’s always good to remember the variety of sports stories out there:

  • Game previews (advances) with sources from both teams (multiple teams in the case of a track meet or similar events)
  • Game stories with sources from both teams
  • Profile features (current athletes, coaches, alumi)
  • Issue features (head injuries, trans athletes, etc.)
  • Breaking news (coaching changes, rule changes, etc.)
  • Historical features
  • Data analysis
  • Interviews (Q&S in print form, edited podcast)
  • Columns and other opinion pieces about scholastic sports

Climate Chaos in the Amazon

Amazon near tipping point of shifting from rainforest to savannah

The Amazon Rainforest is nearing a point of drought where it may no longer be considered a rainforest — it will be a savannah.

Scientists say that about three-quarters of the rainforest is showing signs of “resilience loss” — a reduced ability to recover from extreme conditions like droughts, logging and fires. This decreasing resilience since the early 2000s is a warning sign of irreversible decline, the authors said.
While it isn’t possible to tell exactly when the transition from rainforest to savannah might happen, once it was obvious, it would be too late to stop.
The Amazon is so important to the health of the planet because it is home to unique plant and animal life, and it strongly influences global weather patterns; losing it will be a defining feature of climate change.

Here’s what you can do:

As climate change starts to get more coverage and the general public has realized how necessary a change is, our reporting is more important than ever. We need to to continue to remind folks that it won’t go away, that “out of sight out of mind” does not apply to global warming.

Climate journalists have moved from questioning whether to cover climate change but instead how.

The Nation said that the best climate stories were ones that founded their reporting in science, humanized the situation, and showed the problem and solution to give the whole story. 

Show what people in your community have done to help their environment, from compost piles to research being done at a local university. As scary as climate change can be, we need to show that there are people who care.

Counting with their eyes closed

The 2020 census undercounts Black, Latino, and Native American people

According to estimates from a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people, Latinos and Native Americans were left out of the 2020 Census at alarming rates.

This report only provided a national-level look at the count’s accuracy, and the agency says it’s planning to release state-level metrics this summer.

The finding comes after a follow-up survey was conducted to check the accuracy of the Census headcount. Experts say that the coronavirus and interference by the Trump administration caused disruptions to the headcount.

This undercount matters because Census numbers are used to decide congressional seats, electoral votes, federal funding, and more. If minorities are being misrepresented in the Census count, they are more likely to be misrepresented in politics.

Here’s what you can do:

Census data is always interesting to look at, and this year makes it unique because it was released a year later than usual because of COVID-19.

One of the clearest stories that can be done when you find the census data for your state, is a story on population change. What cities in your state grew the most? Which ones decreased the most? Is there a reason why?

For example, many rural towns across the U.S. got smaller while many large cities grew as states move in the direction of increased urbanization.

Census results give you population demographics too. How well is your city represented in local and state government? Do you have an aging population? Numbers can really tell a story, but it’s your job to give the numbers context.

Just A Thought

Sharpening skills over spring break

A time for rest AND reporting

With spring break just around the corner for many schools, now would be a good time to think about how you want to spend that break.

Going on vacation? Cool! Spending seven days in bed, binge-watching Netflix? Cool!

If you are looking for something to during break, I suggest honing your investigative journalism skills. A break from school is the perfect time to work on a in-depth piece because you can focus solely on the project rather than balancing school and homework with your reporting.

Before break, pitch a project idea to your editor and make sure you have rounded out your story and you know exactly what it is you want to tell you audience. That way you won’t have to be stalled by questions or a need to go to the newsroom over break.

Using your break to spend time during the day making the necessary phone calls or trips to interviews will feel like a breeze compared to doing it during class time.

When you’ve spent the week generating a collection of sources, data, and research, you can show back up to the newsroom that Monday with a fully-fledged project ready to print and/or publish that week.

However, while it can be important to use the time to sharpen your skills, sometimes it’s even more important that you take a break. Sometimes spring break is the only time a student journalist can have a week to breath. Use this time to better yourself and come back ready for more.