When I came to work at Chalkbeat, I quickly volunteered to take on our community editor responsibilities alongside my work as a full-time reporter covering state education policy. It hasn’t been easy — this is full-time work all by itself — but it’s too important to let go.
I manage our bureau’s social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, and I also plan events, assist in network-wide audience research and our end-of-year fundraising campaign, and look for ways to ensure our stories are reaching the people who need them.
These are the projects I’m most proud of:
- Planning our 2015-16 community events, including a Back-to-School happy hour, trivia night and expert panel on how the state’s testing program is changing.
- Helping manage and carry out Chalkbeat’s first effort to translate stories, in this case, an award-winning project about English-Language learners into Spanish and Burmese. Find the series here, translations can be seen on each story page.
- Helping distribute that ELL series throughout the community by way of partnerships with local media, organizations and school events.
- An occasional series focused on bringing “real people” into our coverage in their own words, called “What’s your education story?”.
- A slew of quizzes to give readers a taste of what testing is like for 2015 state tests, 2016 state tests, teacher tests, Indiana education trivia and new testing technology.
Quite possibly the coolest, most cutting-edge work I’ve done in journalism was with the community outreach team at the Columbia Missourian. I really can’t say enough good things. The team formed in the fall of 2011 to serve as a way to better engage with the community and find out how we could better direct our coverage to community members and their interests or concerns. I joined the team in its inaugural semester that fall. I’ve helped lead the team since August 2013.
These were the projects I was most proud of:
- Analytics reports one and two
- Any Questions project
- Holocaust speaker package
- Interactive Homecoming map social media project
- Storify of SEC press conference
- Comment policy project and research for the Missourian
- Finished version of the comment policy project presented to our executive editor
- Suggestions of directions for our staff about interacting in the comments section
I’ve never been so challenged to break out of what I am familiar with. This class took what I think journalism should be, smashed it into pieces and reassembled it into something new, thought-provoking and outrageously effective and innovative. The work I and another team member did on the Missourian’s comments policy and social media policy has been particularly rewarding, as was coverage done in conjunction with the education beat on boundary line redrawing and informing the community about it.
I learned journalism isn’t all about me and my work and that traditional newsroom cultural practices can’t stay the same. One morning, for example, we were receiving all kinds of reports about snow chaos and school buses stalling. Instead of sitting on the information to wait for a brief to be assembled, I suggested to our faculty editor that we tweet what we knew, because we’ll have to update all day anyway. I won’t lie and say I didn’t consider waiting, but it didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that our readers would be better served if they knew what we knew at that time.
I’d go as far as saying that this class and team experience has done as much or more for me as journalist than any other class or training I’ve received. It taught me not only to plan and execute ideas in a non-traditional way, but also to always consider my audience when doing journalism. Anything that opens my mind and forces me to start thinking in new directions is about as exciting as it gets.