April 4. 2022

The Lede

The power of propaganda

Russian soldiers have been lied to by their government, and those lies are at the heart of the war in Ukraine

NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley, who is based in France and is now helping cover the war in Ukraine, posted this fascinating but frustrating tweet and thread Thursday:

Other tweets in the thread explain how Russian soldier have also been convinced to believe lies about how Russian-speaking Ukrainians (95 percent of the population speaks Russian) are being treated badly, and how military veterans have been spat upon. None of that is true, according to the mayor of Melitopol, who is featured in Beardsley’s tweets.

In other words, President Vladimir Putin’s policy of criminalizing independent truth-telling media in his country means that too many Russians believe the lies and propaganda propagated by Putin and his lackeys.

Here’s what you can do: 

Do we have a propaganda problem in the U.S.? A majority of Republicans in the U.S. still believe the lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, despite all evidence to the contrary. What other falsehoods exist in your school, among your classmates? Are there urban myths or legends you could check on? What is the impact of these lies and people’s belief in them? There’s a popular canard making the rounds that schools have installed litter boxes in bathrooms for students who “identify as cats.” How do these myths, lies and urban legends start? And why do they persist despite clear evidence to the contrary? Who’s your expert at school who can shed light on the persistence and power of propaganda? Find that person and interview them.

‘Almost back to normal’

Strong job growth may signal end of COVID economic disruptions

The U.S. Labor Department reported late last week that the country’s economy added 431,000 new jobs in March, signaling that the U.S. economy may finally be recovering from the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, which shut down many businesses starting in March 2020.

“Two years ago, every sector was at least disrupted if not completely shut down. But we’ve had such a quick recovery that things are almost back to normal,” Jane Oates, president of the employment-focused nonprofit WorkingNation and a former Labor Department official, told the Washington Post.

There are still 11.3 million for Americans wanting to work or for visiting workers to fill.

“Although today’s job report was a little softer than expected, it still paints a picture of a steaming labor market,” Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors told Fox Business News. “In fact, the final vestiges of COVID-19 are close to being fully eradicated from the economic data.”

Here’s what you can do: 

There should be a lot of summer jobs for high school students to fill, and there should be a better opportunity for your parents to find work — or better work — if they’re looking.

Are summer jobs still a thing for the students in your school? How many of your classmates will be looking for work? How many already work year-round or close to it? What are their reasons for doing so? How many need to work to support their families? What kind of work is available in your town? How can a high school student find summer work that might prepare them better for something they’d like to do for the rest of their lives? For example, does a local media company hire journalism interns? Would they consider a high school student?

It’s An Honor

PSJA Journalism Contest

Deadline for entries has been extended to April 8; awards ceremony May 16

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 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 16 to announce the winners. Additionally, the top placing school will win free memberships into Quill and Scroll.

A new partnership!

MediaNow and Quill and Scroll work together to help student journalists and advisers

Quill and Scroll is proud to partner with Media Now to help students and advisers with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century newsroom through summer camp and year-round online resources.

It’s a partnership we are officially announcing next week, but you all reading this are the first to get the breaking news because both organizations were just too excited to hold it in until then.

We are excited for Media Now for many reasons. Like us, they have high standards and are well respected in the journalism community. They have similar guiding principles to our own Eight Guiding Principles. And we both want to recognize and further the cause of scholastic journalism. In addition, if you’ve ever been part of a Media Now event, you know they deliver not only on quality of instruction, but in bringing the energy and making their events fun.

While we will have more to talk about next week in our official release, we wanted Scroll readers to be the first to know about this new partnership. For now, feel free to check out what they have available for on-demand training right now and what they’ve got for in-person training this summer.

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.

Scholarships for Advisers and Students

Adviser application deadline is April 15; student deadline is May 15

Quill and Scroll will award scholarships again this year to journalism advisers and their students who want to study and/or practice journalism in college.

The $500 Lester G. Benz Scholarship goes 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 are now open, and they’re for students who are Quill and Scroll members or for students who have won awards in any number of Quill and Scroll contests. Apply for the grants — which can pay up to $1,500 for your first year in college — before May 15.

WPM Contest winners!

McCallum wins its fourth Blue and Gold in five years

McCallum High School of Austin, Texas has won the 2021 Blue and Gold Award for Staff Excellence in the 2022 International Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest. This is the fourth time in five years McCallum has walked away with top honors – MHS previously won the award in 2018, 2019, and 2021.

Schools with the most winning entries receive Blue and Gold Awards for Writing, Visuals and Overall Excellence. We award the top three performing schools in each Award Category. Here are those winning schools (the link above has all the individual winners):

Blue and Gold Award (All categories)

McCallum High School, Austin, Texas

Writing Excellence (Writing categories)

  1. St. John’s School, Houston, Texas
  2. Kingwood Park High School, Kingwood Park, Texas
  3. (Tie) Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas(Tie) McCallum High School, Austin, Texas

Visual Excellence (Photo and Design categories)

  1. McCallum High School, Austin, Texas
  2. Ladue Horton Watkins High School, St. Louis, Missouri
  3. Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas

Multimedia Excellence (Multimedia categories)

  1. McCallum High School, Austin, Texas
  2. Maize Career Academy, Maize, Kansas
  3. (Tie) Wichita High School Southeast, Wichita, Kansas(Tie) Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas

What’s Viral?

Rock, paper, Smith

LAPD was ready to arrest Will Smith, but Chris Rock didn’t want to file the paperwork

So the #slappening has played out around the entertainment world this week, with people weighing in on violence in America, unfiltered jokes, movie-star privilege, alopecia and any number of other topics that fit into people’s personal political narratives.

Thursday night we found out that the Los Angeles Police Department was ready to arrest Will Smith for his slap of Chris Rock, who made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle, apparently not knowing that Jada Smith suffers from a hair-loss condition called “alopecia.” Rock refused to press charges.

Bottom line: Chris Rock made a joke he probably shouldn’t have, got slapped on television (which shouldn’t have happened), and is now seeing the ticket prices for his coming tour skyrocket on the secondary market.

Here’s what you can do: 

So a line was crossed. Somebody made a tasteless joke. Somebody else slapped the joker despite not being physically threatened himself, which is the definition of assault. The parties apparently have moved on.

So why should we care?

Here’s an interesting analysis from CNN about how kids watching the Oscars may have been affected and how parents can talk to them about it. The New York Times and the Washington Post also weighed in about the significance of the slappening.

Do the students at your school see this as a big deal, emblematic of greater societal issues about the lack of civility in current discourse? Or is it just a couple of celebrities caught in a private dispute?

Comedian Jerrod Carmichael provided some great perspective on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend.

Final Four news

Women’s Final Four ends on Sunday and the men’s game is Monday night

Last night in Minneapolis, South Carolina defeated Connecticut 64-49 to win the women’s national basketball championship. They did it in front of a packed house of more than 18,000 people in the Target Center and another 4 million on ESPN.

Tonight, the men play. Kansas versus North Carolina.

So I used to cover college basketball, including the Final Four. Back in 1989, the men’s Final Four was in Seattle, and I was working for a newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Sun-Sentinel. The teams in the Final Four — Duke, Seton Hall, Michigan and Illinois — had no connection to South Florida, but in those halcyon days of newspaper revenues, editors had no issue sending their primary reporter for a sport to the premier event in that sport.

On the very same weekend in 1989, the women’s Final Four was being played in Tacoma, Washington, just a 45-minute drive down Interstate 5 from Seattle. Of the four teams — Auburn, Tennessee, Maryland and Louisiana Tech — two played in the same conference as the University of Florida, and national champion Tennessee featured superstar Bridgette Gordon, a Florida native who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

Did I cover it? Uh, no. My editors didn’t even consider it, and I wasn’t about to do the extra work of driving down to Tacoma to double my workload.

My bad.

Here’s what you can do: 

Let’s talk about how far women’s sports have come since 1989. How many of the women on your staff remember the dark days when very few people paid attention to women’s sports? What were their experiences like as athletes and coaches in the 20th century? What progress do they feel still needs to be made? How do the current student athletes feel about the support their sports receive based on gender?

Just A Thought

Re-take the Pledge!

Join Q&S at the NHSJC award ceremonies and re-take the Q&S pledge

Are you headed to Los Angeles next week for the first in-person National High School Journalism Conference in more than two years?

We are, and we’re excited to see all your smiling faces at the Westin Bonaventure.

If you have questions about Quill and Scroll, look for Executive Director Jeff Browne in the vendors area, and he’ll help you figure out where you and your school stand with Quill and Scroll if you’re not sure.

If you’re already a member, we have a couple of treats for you. First, at check-in, make sure you get your blue and gold Quill and Scroll convention ribbon to adorn your name tag. Second, make sure you attend Saturday afternoon’s National Scholastic Press Association awards ceremony so you can stand and show your commitment to our ideals by reciting the membership pledge, led by Jeff Browne.

We’ll post the words for you on a screen, but here they are, just in case you want to practice. This is a version adopted by the King School in Connecticut:

I do pledge myself

To do all in my power

To work for the advancement of my community,

To be authentic,

To live up to the ideals of true journalism,

And to be impartial in my interpretation of truth.

See you in California!