New Hire Helps Settle Politico’s Education Coverage, Leaves AP’s Uncertain*

Congrats and condolences to Kimberly Hefling, the longtime AP staffer (and more recently education reporter) who’s replacing Stephanie Simon at Politico.

Politico has been widely described as a tough place to work, and the comings and goings on its education team indicate as much.  Founding member Simon departed in March.  Her editor, Mary Beth Marklein, also left (and has yet to be replaced).  Libby Nelson left for Vox. It’s a fast-paced and prominent place to work, compared to the long-established AP, but there are obviously going to be tradeoffs.

Substantively, the Hefling hire could mean that Politico’s features coverage will be a little steadier and more balanced than some (including me) thought Simon’s coverage tended to be.  Or perhaps she’ll have to modify her ways and her Politico stories won’t be as measured and non-speculative as I might want them to be. (More about speculative journalism in another post.) You can see a list of Hefling’s education pieces here (the last one, posted May 21, focuses on the rise in school shooter drills).

What next for AP?  Carole Feldman has been the team’s editor since 2011. During much of that time, the AP education team there has been up and down — like many other newsrooms and education teams.  Nancy Zuckerbrod left in 2008 or so.  Her replacement, Libby Quaid*, left the spot in 2010, according to her LinkedIn. Josh Lederman filled in for a hot minute in 2012 when Hefling was on maternity leave. Dorie Turner Nolt left in 2012 to work at the Georgia Department of education and then the USDE. Christine Armario writes about education from her new spot in LA. For a time there didn’t seem to be any national education reporter based in DC.

Meantime, Politico launched its education vertical in 2013, and the Washington Post has doubled down on national education coverage with Emma Brown and Lyndsey Layton. EdWeek has its two-personal blogging team, Lauren Camera and Alyson Klein. The competition for micro-scoops seems to be between EdWeek’s blogging team and Politico, but for deeper pieces you might have to look towards EdWeek’s print coverage, or ProPublica, or ….? The last time I can recall AP leading the way or getting any big kind of scoop was a few years ago when Armario dug out a bunch of state NCLB waivers.

I’m told by a knowledgeable insider who didn’t want to be named that Politico approached Hefling about the job, and that AP isn’t sure about the timing of a hire (internal or external). I’ve asked Hefling and Feldman if they want to talk about the move and will let you know if they respond with anything substantive. I’m apparently being blocked by Politico editor Shah right now so let’s assume we’re not going to have a friendly conversation about when they’re going to find and name a new education editor.

*Apologies: This was originally (and incorrectly) listed as Libby Nelson, when it’s really Libby Quaid.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.