Four hundred seems to be the magic number. It’s how many posts I have written on the Educated Reporter blog since I started it a year and a half ago, and how many journalists have come to me for one-on-one help in the three years I have been EWA’s public editor. (Many of them several times!)
The idea of having a coach-at-large to work with reporters for free—the idea of being that coach—is very cool. I don’t know of an analogue in any other beat. It was the brainchild of our board president at the time, Richard Whitmire. The idea was that journalists covering education, veterans and novices, could benefit from more help than they were getting at work. Maybe they needed national context for local issues, maybe they found the research around education impossible to sift through, maybe their editors didn’t have time to improve their copy, maybe they needed advice on dealing with a secretive school board. The board and our director at the time, Lisa Walker, hired me for the job, and I started in February 2008.
It was a slow beginning. I was five months pregnant, I was commuting from Baltimore to New York one day a week to teach at Columbia’s journalism school, and I had to make people beyond the EWA community aware of the service we offered. There is no truly thorough, up-to-date list of journalists on the K-12 and higher education beats, much less a list of people who dip into the topic occasionally and therefore might be even more eager for advice.
Eventually, word spread. The amount of requests I got for help each month doubled, and then doubled again.
Each time, I was honored that a journalist I respected—and education journalists are great group, deserving of your respect too—thought he or she could benefit from what I had to offer. I love helping colleagues get to the nub of a particular issue. I loved looking through their data and offering what I thought was the best story therein. I loved listening to them bitch about their editors, and I loved to come up with approaches that I thought might keep everyone happy and sane. I loved helping them see the bigger picture, and the smaller picture.
Here is where I tritely offer that the people I was helping were really helping me, too. But it’s true! I learned so much from hearing about my colleagues’ challenges, their great ideas, their unique ways of looking at well-trod topics. For three years I have been in on what hundreds of journalists were thinking about and working on, and I hold that privilege dear.
I am leaving to pursue my own editing and writing opportunities; they are exciting, but I am afraid I will have to remain vague for now. I’ll be blogging here for two more weeks, with plenty of last-minute thoughts both formative and summative, and then I will let you know where to find my musings, which I will continue to share. (Try shoving that genie back into the bottle.) Twitter and/or Facebook me if you want to stay posted.
“The Educated Reporter” itself conveys to my successor; if you know someone who would be right for the role, point them here.
Of course, we’ll stay in touch, won’t we?