ICYMI: The Washington Post makes a big hire, mentorship in education newsrooms

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This week’s best education journalism is going to two standout stories. They’re each great in very different ways. I just couldn’t pick between them.

The first and most obvious standout is Eli Saslow’s Washington Post story (above) about Parkland school resource officer Scot Peterson’s life since the school shooting in February: Stoneman Douglas resource officer remains haunted by massacre.

This is a story that pretty much everyone in journalism wanted to get, and Saslow not only got access, he reported and wrote about about it beautifully: “Here he was, stammering over his words, the grief and self-doubt already beginning as he tried to make sense of why 17 people were dead and 17 were injured and the only dirt on his uniform was from where his back had been pressed against the wall.”

A second standout piece of education journalism that came out this week is Betrayed: Chicago schools fail to protect students from sexual abuse, by a team of folks at the Chicago Tribune including the paper’s education reporter (Juan Perez) and several members of the investigative team.

In essence, the series finds that Chicago public schools have failed to investigate, intervene, and report sexual assault in the schools, conducting “ineffective” background checks and failing to inform neighboring districts about credible evidence against former employees. Over a decade, police investigated more than 520 cases of juvenile sexual assault and abuse in Chicago’s public schools — “an average of one report each week.”


🏆 NY1: Parents slam de Blasio bid to scrap SHSAT
🏆 NY Post: Deputy mayor ‘pulled strings’ to get kid into top-tier school
🏆 PoliticoNY: Reform plan for specialized high schools signals new battle for de Blasio\
🏆 WSJ: New York City Mayor Alters Exam-School Admissions
🏆 Chalkbeat: How one Manhattan district has preserved its own set of elite high schools
🏆 The Bell: The Price of Specialized High Schools
🏆 WSJ: The Search for Diverse Schools That Perform

🏆 NYT: What Budget Cuts Mean for Third Graders in a Rural School
🏆 Washington Post: D.C. passes emergency law to allow chronically absent students to graduate
🏆 Baltimore Sun: Nearly 1 in 5 Maryland students is chronically absent. At some schools, the rate is more than 75 percent
🏆 The Atlantic: The Forgotten Girls Who Led the School-Desegregation Movement
🏆 Smithsonian: The Defiant Ones
🏆 The Marshall Project: Inside the Travis Hill High School at the New Orleans Jail [also featured in the newest episode of This American Life]

🏆 NYT: ‘Are We Going to Die Today?’ Inside a Parkland Classroom as Bullets Flew
🏆 Sun-Sentinel: Stoneman Douglas commission wants more answers on controversial Promise program
🏆 Miami Herald: Andrew Pollack resigns from state Parkland commission 
🏆 Sun-Sentinel: More medics kept asking to go in and rescue wounded at Stoneman Douglas. They kept being told no.
🏆 USA Today: Parkland school security monitor barred from school

🏆 NYT: Witnesses Demand Focus on Guns at First School Safety Commission Hearing
🏆 WNYC: City Council Demands School Metal Detector Data From NYPD
🏆 EdWeek: Ready for a Shooter? 1 in 5 School Police Say No
🏆 The Intercept: Face Recognition Is Now Being Used in Schools, But It Won’t Stop Mass Shootings
🏆 Boston Globe: ‘Jarring’ nursery rhyme at Somerville school teaches kindergartners about lockdowns

🏆 NYT: The Numbers That Explain Why Teachers Are in Revolt 
🏆 WashPost: From the classroom to the campaign trail: Emboldened teachers run for office
🏆 Texas Tribune: Texas teachers who weathered Hurricane Harvey look back on year filled with challenges
🏆 NYT: Puerto Rico’s Schools Are in Tumult, and Not Just Because of Hurricane Maria

🏆 NYT: A New Principal Pushes for Change. Then the Investigations Start
🏆 LA Times: In race for California schools chief, candidates are buoyed by big money from charter supporters and unions.
🏆 The 74: Education Issues, Control of the U.S. Senate Loom Large in Florida Senate Race 
🏆 EdSource: Where the two leading candidates for California superintendent stand on the issues
🏆 The Atlantic: Why do people sign yearbooks?


mentorship in education journalism

“Along the way at these corners that you turn in life, there are people, if you’re fortunate, who can nudge you in a direction, or urge you to be courageous,” the late Gwen Ifill once told an interviewer. “That, to me, is the essence of what mentoring is.”

For this week’s column, contributor Kristen Doerer asked education reporters to tell us stories about who mentored them and what advice and encouragement they received when they needed it most.

While some of the dozen or so education reporters we contacted scratched their heads as they tried to come up with a particular moment or name a specific mentor, others were eager to credit journalists who had changed their careers.

Bracey Harris said a single conversation with New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones empowered her to raise her hand in the newsroom, strengthened her reporting, and may have helped her get a job. (To which Hannah-Jones replied, “Awww, @BraceyHarris 😍.”)

Adam Harris credited Kate Dailey for giving him a shot when she commissioned a second article from him while he was a freelancer and offered encouragement when he received rejection letters. “All the heart-eye emojis,” Dailey replied. “One day I will hire @AdamHSays and the circle will be complete.” “(Watch your back, @TheAtlantic).”

But mentoring doesn’t just help the mentee. “Being a mentor is enormously helpful, and that may sound strange in terms of your own personal development, [but] you get to see the next generation of reports that are coming up and what they care about and what’s important and what they’re seeing,” said Lauren Camera, who mentors new-to-the-beat reporters through EWA. “A lot of times, its different from what you’re seeing.”

So who are you mentoring? Read the column here to get inspired.


📰 CHALKBEAT GETS A LEG UP IN NYC: Kudos to Chalkbeat for getting an exclusive oped from Mayor Bill de Blasio on his belated efforts to reduce exam school segregation, which generated tons of mentions from other outlets. I’ve asked how that came to be. Clearly it came out well for them.

📰 VIDEO OF THE WEEK: From NY1’s Lindsey Christ: “A middle school student who has been studying for the specialized high school exam for years details his tutoring regimen. Says if the Mayor takes away the test after he’s put in all this work ‘that is the definition of unfair.’ Applause.”

📰 KATE SPADE (OVER)COVERAGE: The Ford Foundation’s Farai Chideya chimed in with helpful reminders about celebrity news coverage and privilege. First, she noted that the tragic suicide of Kate Spade seemed to get “more coverage than many big Puerto Rico stories.” She also noted that the NYT’s Spade coverage might have been particularly excessive and unaware. “The sense-of-belonging cues throughout the pieces on Spade do not just talk about her life. They are more about defining the reader-audience and setting up sense-of-belonging cues that definitely don’t include readers like me.”

📰 SO LONG, NPR ED BLOG: “The same stories will still be reported and posted. But readers will find them in different places, and the stories will no longer carry those blog labels,” according to NPR’s Elizabeth Jensen. So, for example, “NPR Ed is going away, but the Education topic page remains.” Via Current.

📰 NO CENTRAL EDUCATION DESK AT THE TIMES? A recent mention from Columbia Journalism school professor Nick Lemann that even the NYT no longer has an education desk prompted me to check with the paper about the current situation. And indeed, Lemann appears to be right. A spokesperson for the paper informed me that education is covered by various desks (National, Metro, Washington Bureau) throughout the newsroom. In the old days, if I understand correctly, the national education coverage would have been coordinated through a single editor. Also in the old days, FWIW, there was a weekly education column.

📰 OUCH: “Most education researchers, and educators generally, have a fairly standard, and justified, set of complaints about education journalism,” said Columbia Journalism School professor Nicholas Lemann in a recent speech. “We in the media have heard this before,” notes the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews. “Our headlines are slanted. Our stories omit important facts. Context is sacrificed in favor of some alleged disaster that will capture online attention.”

📰 PODCASTS NEED TRANSCRIPTS: There’s lots to like about the NYT’s ‘Charm City’ series from The Daily podcast, which focuses on one of the “seven young people from one high school in Baltimore who were killed in the spasm of violence that shook the city after the death of Freddie Gray.” Key among the podcast’s features, however, is its inclusion of a transcript, so that people can skim, refind, and share their favorite parts. So helpful. Should be standard practice.

📰 WHERE THE JOBS ARE: If I’m reading this CJR chart correctly, the number of reporter and correspondent jobs have plummeted nearly 50 percent in the last 13 years. The median salary for reporters is $34,000 (for editors it’s $49,000.) More than half the remaining jobs are located in just five major metro areas (NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA, and Washington, DC). Journalists in those locations plus a few other places (Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis) report a much higher median salary.

📰 DIVERSIFYING YOUR SOURCES: Former education reporter Alexandria Neason is leading CJR’s effort to compile “the beginnings of a public database of women, nonbinary & people of color who are experts on the media.” Why? Because they’re not getting quoted nearly enough. Neason also recommends NPR’s @SourceOfTheWeek.

📰 HOW WE’RE MISSING POVERTY STORIES: Poverty accounted for less than 1 percent of coverage from 2007 to 2012, yet for many Americans — 13 percent today — that’s their reality. “In a city where 1/3 of residents lived below poverty line, I was told the paper didn’t need a beat about poverty, homelessness or social services,” tweeted Jayme Fraser‏ linking to a story by CJR about how journalism got so out of touch with the people it covers. “We’re missing important stories.”

📰 WRITING ABOUT RESEARCH: “You can’t say, ‘Science says X,’ when actually science says X, Y and Z,” and that I’ve taken to heart. That is a good criticism.” That’s writer Malcolm Gladwell on lessons he’s learned about writing about research for a general interest audience.

📰 “FAVORITE” PITCHES: “My ‘favorite’ pitch goes like this,” writes EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk. “Hey I saw you wrote about this topic once but we’re also doing something similar, so why don’t you write the same story again!


🔥Big news from the Washington Post, who’s just hired 13-year WSJ alum Laura Meckler (above) to join the team at the end of the month as national education writer. “I am beyond grateful for the opportunities I had, the boatloads I learned and talented people I worked with at the Journal.”

🔥 Great news also that Post education reporter Moriah Balingit will continue “as a roving education reporter, roaming the country looking for great ed stories to tell.” Balingit was on WNYC’s The Takeaway on Thursday.

🔥 Starting June 18thMadina Toure will be covering education for Politico NY. “Go Madina!” responded Eliza Shapiro, who’s heading into a Spencer Journalism fellowship year. “Couldn’t be more excited to hand this beat over to such a thoughtful reporter and lovely person.”

🔥 In case you missed it (as I did), NPR’s Acacia Squires is no longer editing education stories. She’s now editing state governance coverage. I guess that’s why the station is looking for a new assistant editor to help on education.

🔥 This week’s EWA Radio interview is with Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Lauren Fitzpatrick. Host Emily RIchmond describes it as “a master class in beat reporting.”

🔥 Looking for a favorite new education writer? Try out Melinda Anderson, who’s latest for The Atlantic (about the “forgotten” girls who led the school desegregation movement) is here. Anderson might be due some EWA award recognition (if she hasn’t been recognized already). Erica Green and Stephen Sawchuk agree. “She is SO great, and has been for a long time,” tweets Green.

🔥 Emily Wilkins, who covers federal education policy for Bloomberg Government, just completed The National Press Institute’s Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship. “APPLY FOR PAUL MILLER,” Wilkins tweeted. The fellowship introduces young reporters to the city they’ve been assigned to cover with visits to the Pentagon, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol. Plus discussions with lawmakers. The deadline is July 6.


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⏰ Earlier this week in Houston, Texas Tribune education reporter Aliyya Swaby (above left) was joined by some of the folks in her recent story about budget cuts, storm damage after Hurricane Harvey, and classroom demands. “We really aren’t getting much help from the state,” a Jennifer Mann, the principal of Wharton ISD’s Wharton Elementary School, said. Read the recap and watch the event here.

⏰ “This fellowship changed my life, and it’s an amazing opportunity for young journalists. Apply/let us former fellows know if you have any questions!” tweeted Houston Chronicle’s Alejandra Matos. “I got a free master’s degree, a $30K stipend and the chance to work at @washingtonpost with the@AmericanU/@washingtonpost fellowship,” tweeted Moriah Balingit. “They’re looking for their next fellow. Apply!” You don’t need to tell us more. Check it out here.

⏰ Care about integrating schools in DC? Integrated Schools event on June 10 talking about how to work towards them. More information here.

⏰ There’s at least one education-related #IRE2018 panel: Behind the story: Schools without rules (Orlando Sentinel story). Check it out here. The conference runs June 14-17 in Orlando, Florida.

⏰ EWA has teamed up with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) to offer #ewaEnEspañol, an education-focused two-day bootcamp at National Association of Hispanic Journalists annual national conference. Speakers include Julia Keleher, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education. The bootcamp, which will be held in Spanish, runs July 20-21 in Miami. Apply here.


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Edutopia won Twitter this week with its post: “It’s the end of the school year. GIF your mood 👇,” which is currently at 1,700 responses, retweets, and likes.

This is the web archive version of the weekly newsletter, Best of the Week, which comes out on Fridays. Sign up here to get it first. 

Alexander Russo is founder and editor of The Grade, an award-winning effort to help improve media coverage of education issues. He's also a Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship winner and a book author. You can reach him at @alexanderrusso.

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