Media: Education News Network Expands To Indiana
News came out (on Twitter, naturally) a few days ago that Scott Elliott was going to head the Indiana outpost of the Education News Network, which is currently comprised of @ednews (Colorado) and @gothamschools (NYC) and headed by Alan Gottlieb and Elizabeth Green (pictured at a recent journalism event). The Network is also launching a Tennessee site based in Memphis.
Like the existing sites, Chalkbeat Indiana is going to be "non-profit, philanthropy-funded, non-ideological." Each location gets four full-time journalists, plus support from the network. According to EdSurge, funders include Walton, Arabella Advisors, and SeaChange Capital Partners. A quick Google search turns up a Lumina grant as well.
Below is a quick email interview with Elliott, in case you're curious about how he got involved and what the new site is going to look like. [He and I blogged together back in the day -- when blogging was new -- and is currently helping guide EWA. I once freelanced a project for Gottlieb when he was with the Piton Foundation and have proposed various writing projects to him and Green over the years.]
There are lots of niche nonprofit news outlets these days covering education, including EdSource Today (covering California), the Hechinger Report, and StateImpact.org -- along with traditional nonprofit efforts such as local public radio outlets and bigger operations like ProPublica. If your interests are broader, you can read about the small but growing field of nonprofit journalism: What’s Next for Nonprofit Journalism? (Pew); Two Years and $750,000 Covering One Story (Atlantic).
I've known Elizabeth Green for several years from the Education Writers Association board, which we joined at the same time. When I heard about the merger of Gotham Schools and EdNews Colorado, I thought that sounded really cool. As Elzabeth and I talked about what they were doing, I became more and more interested in the idea of a national network of local Web sites covering education. Eventually, I suggested they look at Indianapolis as an expansion site because Indiana has so much going on in terms of educational change. When they got a good funder response and it started looking like a real possibility, the conversation about me joining the team began.
What are your goals for coverage or depth, and who's your competition?
We're going to cover educational change with a focus on the Indianapolis Public School District and other schools across the city. At the state policy level, we'll cover the state board of education, the education department and the legislature. There will be a focus on key high impact issues. The issues that qualify for extra focus will evolve over time. I think having four journalists covering education exclusively here will make a big difference to the quality and quantity of reporting.
In terms of competition, we really don't view ourselves as media competitors. We aim to be collaborators with other media. For example, I hope to keep working in partnership with the Indianapolis Star. The Star has been very good to me and we've had some productive initial discussions about continuing to work together in new ways.
What are the big ed issues in Indianapolis and Indiana more broadly?
I recently tried to make myself a list of the biggest issues going on in the state right now. At last check, I think I had 15 issues on my list and I keep adding more. In short, there is a ton going on in Indiana. Some of the biggest headlines? Our three year old voucher program will be the biggest and most expansive in the country by next year. There is a major battle underway in the legislature over whether Indiana will stick with the Common Core. The mayor of Indianapolis' portfolio of charter schools will soon rival the biggest school districts in the state based on combined enrollment. And that's just the very top of my list. People may not realize it but Indianapolis is one of the most interesting cities for education in the country.
How will the site compare or differ from the NYC, Colorado, or Memphis sites?
They will be very similar in terms of design and philosophy but different in the sense that their coverage will be tailored to their local communities.
What's the timeframe for getting the site launched and fully funded/staffed?
Memphis is fully funded and hiring is underway. Indianapolis is a bit behind but we should be fully funded and staffed by early next year.
Did you have to bootstrap the entire thing yourself, or do you get a base/3 years from the network?
The network is responsible for fundraising for the local sites; it's one of the services the network provides. Most but not all of the funding for local sites comes from local funders and local earned revenue, but it is raised by the network.