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Update: What *Really* Happened At #EWA15 This Year? (According To Me)

I'll let the good folks at EWA tell you the official version of this week's goings-ons, and try to focus on the things that you won't find out about elsewhere.  

No, not the mundane stuff like my surreal Friday afternoon visit to Noble Street's new Speer campus on the Near West Side, how strangely intimidating I find EWA staffers though they're mostly very friendly, or my unexpected Monday night bunkmate (it's not as bad as it sounds).

I mean the good stuff.  You know -- newsroom changes, comings and goings, subtle trends and dynamics going on behind the scenes that folks might not have said out loud or tweeted but were (it seemed to me) going on.

Take a look, and then let me know what I missed or got wrong.  Send your tips (anonymous and otherwise) to me at alexanderrusso@gmail.com

COMINGS, GOINGS, & OTHER NEWSROOM CHANGES

*News is spreading that the Boston Globe is going to join the Seattle Times and BRIGHT in taking the "solutions" approach to education journalism, with funding from Gates and others.  That'll allow the newsroom to hire a second K-12 education reporter (not yet named) and let longtime Globe reporter James Vaznis to do more in-depth pieces.

*You may already have heard that Catalyst's Sarah Karp -- who broke the SUPES story two years ago -- is leaving to join the Better Government Association of Chicago, which is led by and staffed by a bunch of muckraking journalists. See my post about this here. (They're looking for a short-term replacement, and Philly's The Notebook is looking for a new publisher.)

*I heard from the three current Teacher Project journalists that a new batch or reporters are coming in for the second year of the Spencer-funded collaboration with Slate and other outlets, but one (Alex) is staying on.

*Hechinger's Lillian Mongeau is kicking ass on social media and so we decided that we were going to try and bury the hatchet between her organization and this blog. Or at least I think we did - at least one of us was over-served at the time this discussion took place. It's possible that I made things worse.)  Seriously, is there any publication out there who's not using Hechinger content? I thought that the NYT was the sole holdout, but LM told me otherwise.

*There are some other changes/comings and goings in the works but I want to confirm them before going public.

BLUE BADGES VS. WHITE BADGES - PLUS SPONSOR IMPACT

*I heard more than a few times about how the "blue badges" (worn by PR and advocacy folks, and sponsors) seemed to outnumber the "white badges" (working journalists), and how many former working journalists have now switched sides.  It's not particularly new, and I think that working journalists technically outnumbered community support members. But the news that two 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners -- including one who won for an education-related story -- had already left the newsroom -- cast a bit of a pall over the proceedings.

*The awards ceremony was substantially upgraded with videos and a separate program, among other things, thanks to funding from the Gould Foundation via Peg Tyre. See my writeup of the awards ceremony here

*Some of the other notable funders this year were the AFT and NEA, though their presence wasn't especially obvious or obnoxious. (The NEA's Kimberly Anderson gave a speech the first night, and the AFT's Randi Weingarten spoke on a panel or two.)

*Who rolled deep?  There were a lot of Hechinger Report folks there, it seemed, and a lot of Chalkbeat folks, too.  It's possible they outnumbered EdWeek attendees, which tells you how much has changed in five years.  Education Post folks seemed like they were everywhere, too, though it's a Chicago based organization so perhaps they were using EWA as an excuse for a retreat.  Compared to previous years, there weren't as many reform advocacy folks in attendance as I remember in the past (PIE, Stand, StudentsFirst, 50CAN), though I think they were all represented in some way.  Then again, there weren't as many reform critic types, either.  Anyway.

*I was really happy to hear that some of the education journalists of color (#edJOC) were connecting and meeting up at the event, and to see what seemed like more journalists of color in attendance this year.

FACE TO FACE IS BETTER

*What a pleasure to see, meet or catch up with all sorts of "new" people (however briefly) I'd never met or seen in person before, including the WSJ's Caroline Porter, the NYT's Motoko Rich, the newish UChicago UEI head Sarah Ray Stoelinga, as well as UC Boulder's Kevin Welner, Bob Schaeffer from FairTest, Jack Fleming at EdTrust, USC's Morgan Polikoff, and tons of others. It's always great to meet new people or meet folks I only know electronically. Thanks to everyone who came up and said hi (or tolerated my introducing myself and saying "Who are you?").

*It was also fun to see so many current and former (and about-to-be-former) Spencer Journalism Fellowship members, including Linda Lutton, Linda Shaw, Joy Resmovits, Peg Tyre, Greg Toppo, Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Erin Richards, etc.  Getting the fellowship is amazing, but getting off it and getting a project out of it is no easy task. It was only through a series of lucky breaks that I got to write my book.

*Great as always to see old friends and colleagues like PR guru Jamie Horwitz, former Duncan communications chief Peter Cunningham, Scholastic Administrator editor Wayne D'Orio (who sponsors this blog), current Duncan press secretary Dorie Turner Nolt (who took and posted her annual Alexander Lurking At EWA picture), current and former Broad folks Erica Lepping and Stephanie Germeraad, Peg Tyre, Catalyst's Linda Lenz and Melissa Sanchez, current and former Gatesians Jen Bluestein and Debbie Robinson, the Sun-Times' Lauren Fitzpatrick (who somehow found time to attend some events despite the breaking news), UofC's Cornelia Grumman and Tim Knowles, Joyce's Stephanie Banchero, NPR's Steve Drummond, the Washington Post's Michael Chandler, RCE's Emmeline Zao and Huffpost's Rebecca Klein, etc. In a perfect world, we'd get to all hang out all day all the time.

SOCIAL MEDIA OVERKILL

*I was relieved to find out from EdSurge's Ton Wan, a conference veteran, that nobody's figured out how to deal with the torrent of tweets going on at live events like these, which usually rely on a single hashtag.  Two days in, #EWA15 and #ArneDuncan had both trended and 14,000 Tweets had already been issued.  As a result, panelists and speakers looked out on audiences with their heads down, tweeting off mobile devices despite some knowledge that what they were writing had probably already been tweeted by someone else at the event.  The quantity was high.  The retweets were relatively few.  There's got to be a better way. But I couldn't stop myself.

*Who tweeted it best? I'm not sure I know.  I'm a sucker for Tweets with images or videos, so they got a lot of my attention, but I wished for fewer, more insightful observations (or juicy quotes) rather than play-by-play.  Resmovits and Rich both did some of this highly selected sharing. There must have been others.

TURNING EVIL INTO GOOD

*I had a great time talking social media and other modern-day forms of self-promotion (ie, survival) with Beth Hawkins and Mackenzie Ryan at the Unconferencing session on Tuesday (and really appreciated being asked by EWA to help out). 

*I learned a ton about social media analytics from the Wednesday morning session featuring Jana Rausch, Bob Farrace, Dakarai Aarons, and Devin Boyle. Clearly I need to be paying more attention to the real impact (or not) of my social media efforts, and have lots to improve on there.  EdWeek's Benjamin Herold also clued me in to some basic but helpful things I could do to monitor progress, etc.

*Kudos again to Toni Konz for #Periscoping the Duncan interview, and Rauner, too -- an education first, far as I know. 

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Great information guys, thanks....

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