Letter from the editor: We’re strengthening our education reporting team and you can help

Readers may be familiar with the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Both of these service programs have a long history of infusing talented professionals and volunteers into areas that thrive on additional support.

In 2017, independent nonprofit Report for America launched a bold effort to reinvigorate local newsrooms with the same passion, to support journalism that makes a difference. For the past five years, Report for America has placed emerging journalists in newsrooms across the country. The nonprofit, which receives no government funding, pays nearly half of the journalist’s salary, with the newsroom paying or fundraising for the other half.

It’s a win-win. Journalists get a great newsroom experience and newsrooms get more punch. Journalists must apply for the program, and host news organizations also apply, outlining the work they hope to do to benefit the community.

The Oregonian/OregonLive was pleased to announce last month that he was among 70 newsrooms to have secured a Report for America reporter position for 2022. The reporter will begin in June and cover the education of early childhood.

Our newsroom is building an expanded statewide education reporting team with a strong focus on solutions-based coverage. The team will be led by longtime journalist and editor Betsy Hammond. We are currently looking for a reporter to cover K-12 education. Portland Public Schools reporter Eder Campuzano, whose latest project for The Oregonian/OregonLive is published this week, moved to Minneapolis to work for the Star-Tribune.

The Report for America corps member will be part of this reporting lab, along with – we hope – another grant-funded, higher-education-focused reporter.

Hammond is a strong advocate for educational journalism. She was the editor of award-winning work such as “Benefit of the Doubt,” a 2017 project that revealed many red flags about a longtime educator that were missed. This work has resulted in significant changes to ensure student safety. She was also editor-in-chief of Campuzano’s current project, “Left Behind,” and herself was the author of the groundbreaking 2014 series “Empty Desks,” which highlighted the lasting wounds of chronic absenteeism. .

This series focused in particular on the crucial importance of the first years of primary school. Now is the time for increased attention not only to K-2 literacy, but also to preschools and other programs to boost learning from birth to age 5. . Oregon is set to significantly expand taxpayer-funded programs to serve the state’s youngest learners. .

“Time and again, research has shown that no point on the education spectrum can do as much to increase a child’s chances of success throughout life as high-quality programs in the early years. said Hammond. “Our Newsroom’s new opportunity to highlight promising early childhood practices and local Oregon success stories is a real win for our state and our children.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive has published grant-funded journalism projects before (in fact, Campuzano’s series received a grant from the Education Writers Association), but this is our first foray into what we hope become a regular part of our editorial budget: philanthropy supporting local media journalism.

“This win with Report for America is so exciting, both for the essential momentum it helps provide, but also for other opportunities it helps us see,” said Laura Gunderson, director of the public interest and the responsibility of the newsroom. “Through this program and others, we can continue to look for new ways to expand our coverage and geographic reach.”

Basically, newsrooms know how to maintain journalistic independence even with financial support from outside foundations, corporations, and individuals. The Seattle Times, also private, like us, led the way in creating philanthropic support to cover education and other grassroots beats.

The editors of The Times are clear that editorial control remains, always, in the hands of journalists. It publishes the ground rules for all to see: “Funders have no influence over the reporting of stories or the specific content that will be produced with fund resources. Funders are unaware of the specific stories the Seattle Times Newsroom is working on and do not review them prior to publication. Funders do not have privileged access to journalists, and readers know who our funders are.

ProPublica is another highly respected newsroom that relies on philanthropic support. Our journalism will also remain independent.

We are fortunate to live in a time when generous funders understand that local journalism is a civic good worthy of support, but it is vitally important to us that the community knows that we are never beholden to outside interests. We exist to serve the public interest.

I hope you will join us and Report for America in supporting emerging journalists. We hope to raise at least $30,000 to help support this new reporting post. Contributions are tax-deductible through checks made out to Oregonian Publishing Co. Public Benefits Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

You can send your donation to Oregonians Federal Credit Union, Attn: The Oregonian Education Reporting Lab, 336 NE 20th Ave., Portland OR 97232.

Thank you to all our readers, subscribers and, now, donors.

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