Nicole Avery Nichols Named Editor-in-Chief of Chalkbeat

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Today Chalkbeat CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Green announced that Nicole Avery Nichols will be the next editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization reporting on education across America. Avery Nichols will ensure that Chalkbeat’s journalists serve the organization’s great ambition — to drive real-world impact by reporting for and with communities. She joins Chalkbeat from the Detroit Free Press, where she served as Senior News Director.

In her nearly 20 years as an editor at the Free Press, Avery Nichols oversaw the paper’s reporting on courts, corruption, immigration, race, gender, public health, pop culture, and politics. She led the newspaper’s pivotal coverage of the opioid crisis, the #metoo movement, separation of immigrant children, the Jamaican resort sexual assault scandal, and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Launched in 2014, Chalkbeat is an award-winning nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education. To date, the organization has a national news desk and reports from and about eight locations: Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Indiana, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, and Tennessee. Chalkbeat’s reporting became even more crucial this year as it brought transparency to readers on how school districts and charter schools were navigating the challenges of COVID-19.

Chalkbeat serves as an example of how a vertical, nonprofit newsroom can be a model for preserving local news and the role it plays in preserving a healthy and well-functioning democracy. In six years, the newsroom grew from two to eight news bureau, in addition to a national news desk. The organization, which publishes more than 200 stories per month, is a go-to source for education news in all of its local markets and has partnered with the Associated Press, ProPublica, and The New York Times.

Avery Nichols will be taking the reins of the Chalkbeat newsroom from Bene Cipolla, who announced in October that she will step into the publisher role at Chalkbeat.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created urgent questions for those of us who care deeply about public education," said Elizabeth Green, CEO and cofounder, Chalkbeat. ”At Chalkbeat, we have worked with our community to cover the challenges facing families, young people, and educators at a time when transparency and honest dialogue are more important than ever. We are humbled to welcome Nicole Avery Nichols to lead our newsroom during this critical period for American education.”

“I look forward to partnering with Nicole as she leads the newsroom into the next phase, with even more ambitious journalism that drives change on the ground and lifts up voices too often silenced in media and public discourse,” said Bene Cipolla, publisher, Chalkbeat.

“I am honored to be joining the journalists at Chalkbeat as editor-in-chief, particularly at such a critical time for American education,” said Nicole Avery Nichols, editor-in-chief, Chalkbeat. “Coronavirus has challenged students, parents, and educators in ways that could not have been previously imagined. It is now even more vital to amplify the stories that emerge at the intersection of education, equity, policy and culture. I’m excited to lead a team that is committed to documenting and analyzing the news that will inevitably shape future generations.”

“I will always cherish my experiences working at the Detroit Free Press,” Nicole Avery Nichols continued. “I have worked with and learned from some of the most talented and dedicated journalists in the business. In all the ways that matter, Detroit has helped prepare me for whatever comes next.”

Avery Nichols is an award-winning reporter and editor who is passionate about the stories of everyday people. She started her career as a weekend reporter at the Observer-Dispatch in upstate New York more than 20 years ago. Avery Nichols then served the Detroit Free Press in various roles for over 20 years. In 2020, she was honored with the Spirit of Diversity Award from Wayne State University. She attributes her ancestors for bestowing her with the ability to tell the stories of underrepresented people. From the start, and throughout her work at several newspapers and magazines, she has been committed to creating space for under-represented people within the realm of mainstream media. And, as she often says, “ain’t nothing changed.”

Avery Nichols is a native New Yorker who has lived in metro Detroit for more than two decades. She received graduate and undergraduate degrees from Syracuse University and Tuskegee University, respectively.

Avery Nichols’s appointment is effective March 1. For more on Chalkbeat’s mission and values, visit chalkbeat.org/pages/about.

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