Family members streamed into the newsroom clutching pictures of their loved ones, hopeful they were either alive under the rubble of the World Trade Center or injured and dazed in a Manhattan emergency room. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was design editor at the Staten Island Advance, a daily newspaper in New York City’s smallest borough, just eight miles from ground zero.
Even if you don’t know Richard Drew’s name, you’ve no doubt seen his work. As an Associated Press photographer for 53 years, his lens has caught everything from foreign wars, international Olympics Games, U.S. political races and European royalty, to natural disasters, neighborhood fires, police chases and small-town heroes.
Many major news stories begin their journey to public consciousness via social media. Witness the cellphone video shot by a bystander showing the killing of George Floyd and the videos of the Capitol insurgency of Jan. 6, 2021. With its vast and growing palette of digital tools, such open source intelligence has become a forensic art, applying to both journalism and criminal investigations.
For more than a quarter of a century, suicide prevention experts have advised journalists against providing too many details about specific suicide methods, or presenting stories about suicide in a prominent way, due to the risk of copycat deaths. So a New York Times front page headline left me shocked: “Where the Despairing Learn Ways to Die.”
In 2020, many heavy issues and events were directly affecting African Americans, and not in a good way. Police or police wannabes killed unarmed Black citizens while a deadly contagion was spreading, disproportionally afflicting Black people. Nonetheless, hundreds of marches against police brutality and nervousness about a consequential presidential election drew scores of people outside, further putting Black Americans, in particular, at risk.
June 27th, 2023 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Saluting SPJ’s pioneering women
Helen Thomas quieted the crowd and began her keynote address with a candid but rhetorical question. “Where are all the women?” The legendary White House correspondent was dwarfed at the dais by two tiers of a mostly male board of directors in a ballroom filled with mostly male journalists at the SPJ annual convention in Atlanta 37 years ago.
In most circles, it’s considered unsophisticated, uncouth and uncultured — and all of the other shameful “un” words — to talk about the money you make and the way you make it. I don’t care. Let’s talk about it. As a freelancer, the matter of money involves a labyrinth of considerations, factors and variables, for which there is no universal solution that works for every writer or for every situation.
Taylor Lorenz’s road to becoming a technology reporter featured many twists and turns. She started out by blogging on Tumblr and rose to internet stardom, soon realizing she could turn her passion into a reporting gig — but editors didn’t agree.
April 14th, 2023 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Linking generations of journalists
John C. Long and Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez have never met. But they are linked to the same Kentucky newsroom and, like all SPJ members, are driven by a passion for the profession. Their paths to membership couldn’t be more diverse.
When it comes to using drones for newsgathering, Greg Agvent is the closest thing the industry has to a wisdom-filled graybeard. That’s because the concept of gathering pictures and video with small, remotely controlled aerial vehicles only caught on during the last decade.
February 3rd, 2023 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Wrestling with trust vs. attention when breaking news
In June 2022, new CNN CEO Chris Licht issued a memo to staffers to reduce the network’s usage of the “breaking news” graphic on air. “Something I have heard from both people inside and outside the organization is complaints we overuse the ‘Breaking News’ banner,” Licht wrote in a copy of the memo obtained by Variety.
Just a few weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, photojournalist Lynsey Addario captured a photo of a civilian casualty that spoke to the atrocity of the war. While located at an evacuation route in Irpin, she witnessed the death of a family killed by a mortar.
If there’s a line from a song that sums up MediaFest22, it’s got to be this one from the 1979 hit by R&B duo Peaches & Herb: Reunited and it feels so good … After two virtual conferences, more than 700 SPJ members gathered in the nation’s capital for three days of camaraderie, connections and collaboration.
After interviewing U.S. Sen. Rick Scott about the challenges of rebuilding areas of Florida decimated by deadly Hurricane Ian, Margaret Brennan, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” attempted to wrap up with an unrelated question about recent “disturbing rhetoric” from former President Donald Trump and U.S.
While we can’t look ahead five, ten or twenty years to see what the future looks like for the Society of Professional Journalists, I’m confident it will be bigger and stronger than ever. Why? Because I’ve seen the next generation of professionals coming out of dozens of SPJ student chapters around the country.
Note: The popularity of this story prompted us to treat it as a dynamic document, adding more reviews as appropriate movies are released or discovered. So what started as “110 Journalism Movies, Ranked” has morphed into “180 Journalism Movies Ranked.” And we have no intention of stopping.
The Society of Professional Journalists is a strong organization in part because of our chapters, where local journalists often turn for support when challenged, attacked or even put in danger doing their jobs. Here are just a few examples of how our chapter leaders have stepped in to defend and protect journalists.
Every 10 years since 1982, researchers for “The American Journalist” survey a representative sample of journalists throughout the United States to understand who makes up the profession and their attitudes toward it. Leading the survey this year is Lars Willnat, the John Ben Snow Endowed Research Professor in the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Since becoming president of the Society of Professional Journalists, I’ve constantly talked about #SPJStrong. We are a strong organization in part because we have two communities that bring journalists together for a common cause. If you’re a freelancer looking to expand your network, find a job lead or join a supportive group, all you have to do is turn to the SPJ Freelance Community.
Racking your brain for the right word is particularly grueling on deadline. Are paramedics attempting to stanch the bleeding after a mass shooting? Or should that be staunch? And was the lawyer riffling through her notes, or rifling? Did the defense refute or rebut the arguments?
Violations of journalism ethics come in a variety of types, many of which were committed in 2021. Some happen because of bad judgment, some are committed by journalists who know they are wrong and some come from maintaining the status quo without question.
You may recognize Apoorva Mandavilli’s name due to the sheer number of COVID-19 stories bylined by The New York Times health and science reporter. Her background in both science and reporting on other infectious diseases truly prepared her for this moment.
On May 13, 2021, the British Antarctic Survey observed a massive chunk of ice breaking off Antarctica. A generation ago, journalists would have had very little specific information to write about such an event. But in this case, we almost knew immediately that the iceberg A-76 measured around 4,320 square kilometers (about 1,668 square miles) in size, making it the largest berg in the world at that point.
SPJ professional and student chapters are the backbone of our organization. Often the “boots on the ground” for our local journalists, student journalists and journalism educators, they play a big part in the strength of SPJ. That’s why I’m devoting my Quill columns to our chapters, whether they are standing up for the rights of journalists, raising scholarship money or giving students a place to grow their network on campus.
I’ve been posting fact-checking tools to Journalist’s Toolbox for more than a quarter of a century. Verification is at the core of what we do as journalists, and having good resources at our fingertips. Here are a few of my “quick-and-dirty” tools I’ve been using to fact-check stories, photos and video: The Google Fact Check Explorer tracks if a story has been fact-checked by an independent source.
A few years ago at a training at the University of Cincinnati, a participant asked me about sizing social media images. Her problem: How can the social media desk properly size an image to fit in a Facebook header, Twitter feed and Instagram in just a few minutes.
Now a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, journalist Clarence Page has covered the news for over 50 years, beginning his career in his high school newsroom and working for local Ohio publications including the Middletown Journal. Landing at the Tribune, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist’s coverage is now a staple in households across America.
Google MyMaps is the perfect tool for mapping small datasets for dayturn stories and projects. Have a dataset of pothole repairs in your city? Map it. Tracking crime in certain neighborhoods? Load a spreadsheet from your police department into MyMaps. There are thousands of stories to be found in datasets on your city, county, state and federal data portals.
October 8th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Hicks: Colorado fabrication further erodes trust in journalism
There are countless reasons why many Americans do not trust information reported by journalists, and no one change will turn that around. But each reporting infraction pushes the trust meter in the wrong direction, even if incrementally. The latest breach occurred in Boulder, Colorado, at the Daily Camera, where the newspaper published a nearly 900-word retraction on Page 1 pointing out an extensive list of problems with a story, including numerous false quotations.
For almost four decades, Maria Hinojosa has shared the stories of marginalized communities through work that celebrates the diversity of the American experience. In 1992, she helped launch the Peabody Award–winning “Latino USA” — one of the earliest public-radio shows devoted to Latino issues — and is its host and executive producer.
Barbara Walters, who would become one of 20th century television journalism’s most well-known faces, almost didn’t enter the field. TV was in its infancy when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951, and her personal background hardly pointed toward a career in the new medium.
With the school year underway, let’s explore how to implement Journalist’s Toolbox into a classroom rather than focus on a single tool this month. College professors and high school journalism teachers have used the site for more than 25 years, mainly for research purposes.