Good morning, Tennessee! We are Chalkbeat, and this is the first of what we hope will be many dispatches from us to you, reporting on what’s going on in education.
Except this time, we’re not introducing you to a new education innovation or challenge. We’re introducing ourselves and what we plan to do.
Chalkbeat grew out of two news sites launched five years ago, GothamSchools in New York City and EdNews Colorado in Denver. Both sites offered daily, unbiased coverage of public education, focusing on K-12 schools and especially low-income communities. Their founders believed that a strong, independent press was vital to helping schools improve.
And pretty soon, both sites proved that was true, becoming important parts of their communities — resources that people relied on and contributed to.
In January of this year, the two sites decided to join forces. Alone, they struggled to keep their operations going. (Journalism is not the easiest resource to sustain these days.) But together they could share resources. Plus, over time, they got lots of request to bring their models to other communities — including ours.
That’s why I’m here, reporting for duty as the new bureau chief of Chalkbeat Tennessee.
I spent the first five years of my career working at newspapers, covering education. I believe in the importance of independent, contextualized education reporting. But at traditional newspapers, the kind of coverage I believe in is getting increasingly difficult to pull off.
I came to Chalkbeat because I think we have a better shot at doing the kind of journalism that education needs. We’re going to share success stories, hold officials accountable, point out nuance, and facilitate informed conversations.
(You can read more about our model and how it fits into the bigger picture of new journalism projects in this story in today’s USA Today.)
Today marks what is known as our “soft launch.” (Soon, we’ll get a more tricked-out website; this is like training wheels to get us going.) Starting now, we’re publishing stories, including the first one, Chalkbeat’s trademark morning rundown of everything you need to know about education here in Tennessee.
I hope you can follow along and participate. Introduce yourself. Send me story ideas, either directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, over Twitter at @ChalkbeatTN, or in the comments. Let us know what you think of the stories we publish as we get going. (A reporter, after all, is only as good as his sources.) Hold us accountable for staying true to the facts. And let your friends and colleagues know about Chalkbeat.
I’m excited for what we can do together.