By: Nu Yang
Last year, Chalkbeat was formed after a merger between independent new nonprofits GothamSchools in New York City and Education News Colorado in Denver. According to its website (chalkbeat.org), Chalkbeat’s mission is to “inform the decisions and actions that lead to better outcomes for children and families by providing deep, local coverage of education policy and practice.” Chief executive officer and editor–in-chief Elizabeth Green, GothamSchools co-founder, created Chalkbeat along with Education News Colorado founder Alan Gottlieb.
Green previously wrote on education for The New York Sun and U.S. News and World Report. As a reporter, she realized how vast the beat was, covering everything from pre-kindergarten to higher education and with issues from political to school policies. She was also more interested in covering education on a more local level, which is why Chalkbeat reporters live and work in the communities they cover.
“Today, there are fewer education reporters at daily newspapers with fewer editors to guide them,” Green said. “Daily newspapers also tend to focus more on the affluent community. Our mission is to fill in the gap by covering low income schools.”
With more newsrooms seeing limited resources, Green said she wants Chalkbeat to become a collaborative opportunity with other news organizations.
After the launch, Green said she began to hear from other parts of the country about how their communities could incorporate Chalkbeat. As a result, the group recently launched two new bureaus in Indianapolis, Ind. and Memphis, Tenn., with their own bureau chiefs and team of reporters.
Green said these two cities were making “vibrant efforts on how to improve education.” Papers such as the Indianapolis Star have also picked up Chalkbeat stories.
According to Green, Chalkbeat receives its funding from a mixture of revenue sources, such as from donors and foundations. Their supporters have allowed them to maintain their editorial independence, she said.
Even the schools Chalkbeat reporters write about in their communities understand the benefits of the news site. “There’s usually a climate of fear from the schools when the press comes in, but we’ve developed a trust with the principals because we know they’re our most loyal readers,” Green said.
“Our readers represent teachers, parents, advocates, lawmakers, reporters and the general public,” she added. “We want to create richer journalism—knowledge-based journalism. We all want stories we can trust.”
Moving forward, Green said Chalkbeat is working on defining engagement with readers. “We want to continue to serve low income families and deliver stories that will serve them.