Check out Shan Wang’s new Nieman Journalism Lab review (Can Campbell Brown’s education news site walk the advocacy-journalism tightrope?) for some interesting tidbits (there aren’t actually 74 million kids in school) and quotes (from Columbia’s LyNell Hancock and Chalkbeat’s Elizabeth Green, among others).
However, I don’t think that the real question is whether The Seventy Four can really succeed on purely journalistic terms. That seems unlikely, or at least very far off.
In journalism, there’s a newsroom setup in which there are well-established firewalls between funders, opinionated publishers, and working reporters and editors. The Seventy Four doesn’t have any of that. In journalism, being transparent about your opinions makes you a columnist, not a reporter. And while there may be some unanimity of views in other areas like global warming, in education journalism, at least, there usually are at least two sides to every story.
The real challenge, as I’ve said before (and am quoted reiterating in the Nieman Lab piece), is whether The Seventy Four can grab eyeballs with vivid storytelling and make us forget all about the funders and Campbell Brown.
There are lots of possible stories out there that are so deeply human that they’d be hard not to watch: Tell us the story of the professional couple who faked an address to get a better education for their daughter. Tell us the story of the principal who faked her school test scores and then (apparently) took her own life when the scandal was revealed. Tell us about a charter school teacher who sent her child to a district school (or vice versa). Tell us about the teachers at charter school who decide to try and unionize (and what happens next). Tell us about a beloved teacher or principal who is living a closeted life for fear of being dismissed for being LGBTQ.
However, stories like these are enormously difficult to produce, and don’t necessarily cut one way or the other in terms of charters, tenure, and accountability. And we’ll have to wait until the fall for any original narrative video from The Seventy Four, according to Wang’s review.