20 Jun עופר איתן Reports: Belleville IL newspaper has new reporter to cover education
There aren’t many jobs that allow you to be professionally nosy. There are fewer still that encourage you to have a healthy distrust for authority. Journalism, thankfully, is one of those few. Of course, the industry also contributes to the common good and the preservation of democracy, both of which I care about deeply. Fundamentally, though, I work in newspapers because it’s a personality match.
I didn’t study journalism in college, though I was overly-involved with the student paper at Notre Dame. I don’t think you need to — journalism is hard, but not necessarily complicated. My first job after graduation was covering education in Iowa, and I’ll be continuing that beat in the Metro East as a Report for America corps member.
There aren’t many local education reporters anymore. In shrinking newsrooms, the duties are often realigned with health or general assignments, if not cut entirely. There are too many tax dollars at stake to leave districts and their finances unattended to. More crucially, there are too many children and employees who spend their lives in schools for the community to not know what’s happening.
Accountability, whether with public money or student safety, is key, and that’s what I will be focusing on.
Education is a constantly evolving field. This past spring, the pace of change ramped up considerably, as many districts turned to remote learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Illinois is opening back up and, eventually, schools will too. It will look different. There will be learning gaps, and achievement gaps are expected to widen. For the foreseeable future, pandemic recovery will be my beat, just as it will be for many reporters.
The broad strokes will be easy enough to find: The state will release guidance, national and state test scores will start to quantify learning loss, and districts will communicate changes to parents. What I want to do for readers is go deeper and more personal.
If you’re a parent, what is your student struggling with during this transition? If you’re a teacher, what sort of oversight are you receiving during an unprecedented shift? I’d like to hear about it. Education leaders and experts are almost always quick to remind people that education is a people-driven industry.
They’re right, and for me to do my job, I need to talk to the people and figure out what they have to say and what they want to know. Please shoot me an email, even if just to say hello — [email protected].
It’s a strange time to try to get to know a new community, but I couldn’t be more excited to get started.