Behind The Scenes At Politico’s Morning Education

6a00e54f8c25c988340192ac22c0fd970d-800wi

Now more than two years old, Politico’s education page has become a pretty well-accepted part of the daily education journalism ecosystem. And a big part of that endeavor is the morning news roundup/tipsheet, called Morning Education.

There’s some news, some spin, a sponsor or two (including the NEA), and a lot of links to reports, Politico Pro stories (subscription required), and news coverage from other media outlets at the bottom. It’s dense. It’s fast. It’s long. It’s like the FritzWire, RealClear Education, and all the other morning news roundups (including mine) rolled into one fat email.

Reported and assembled by Politico’s education team, the newsletter is honcho-ed by reporter Caitlin Emma [cemma@politico.com or @caitlinzemma]. Last week, Emma was kind enough to answer some questions about how she does her work and what some of the highs and lows have been (including shout-outs from Arne Duncan and Andy Smarick). She even agreed to send a headshot so we can recognize her at Starbucks (or wherever).

As I’ve said before, In a perfect world, someone would tweet out highlights every day so I don’t have to slog through it right when I’m coffee crashing, and Emma et al would link out to my things once in a while. In some sort of utopia, we’d all get the early version (not just the big-money subscribers). But otherwise there’s lots to like and not much to complain about. Read below for the inside scoop:


MeHow long have you been doing ME, and what’s your favorite part of the process?

CE: I’ve been writing Morning Education for more than a year and a half. My favorite part about the process is the interaction with readers, who range from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, to state education chiefs, congressional aides, union leaders, teachers, parents, policy wonks and others. It’s great when I get a note from someone saying that they read it every day or that they can’t get by without it. Or when I solicit dog pictures or travel tips in the greeting and get a huge response. It has just been a really cool way to communicate with people across the country who are passionate about education.

How long does it take you to do it every day, and when do you start?

CE: Throughout the day, I bookmark links and make notes about potential items, essentially coming up with an outline. I’ll start writing around 5 or 6 p.m. and spend a few hours putting together a mostly finished draft. Around midnight, I finish it up and file by 1 a.m. Some items are in the works days or even weeks in advance. There’s a lot of planning and thought put into each item and each newsletter as a whole.

How much of ME is reported vs. aggregated, and who figures out (and does) the work?

CE: I try to do as much original reporting as possible while featuring news from across the country. It’s an extremely collaborative process. Everyone on the team is really helpful and watches out for and contributes items that fall under their beats.

You put the headlines from other outlets at the bottom, not the top — what’s the thinking?

CE: This is the general format of all POLITICO policy newsletters and was established years ago.

Can you tell us how many folks get ME, paid or free?

CE: I don’t know the numbers but broadly, its readership numbers in the thousands.

Who’s your biggest reader/fan/retweeter?

CE: All of our readers are great and I hear from a lot of people consistently. When I found out that Education Secretary Arne Duncan was a reader, it was kind of a “whoa” moment for me – it really cemented the fact that people at the highest levels of influence in education policymaking are paying attention to Morning Education. That, and this one time, I sat down on the bus and noticed someone reading it next to me. (I did not want to admit to staring at their phone so I didn’t reveal that I was the author.) Bellwether Education Partners’ Andy Smarick is also a relentless critic of my musical tastes and the song I choose for the kicker. 

How do you decide whether to tweet at ME or as yourself?

CE: I tweet mostly as myself and then spend some time trying to highlight our reporting using the Morning Education Twitter account, which has its own and somewhat separate following.

What’s been ME’s biggest hit feature or scoop since you’ve been at it?

CE: This is a tough question! Morning Education has had a lot of hit features … I think the “No Candidate Left Behind” section, which features 2016 news and daily happenings, has been popular in recent months. The newsletter has been an awesome repository for big scoops and small scoops, too. For example, I recently found out that the Obama administration’s final teacher prep rule was delayed (again) and I think that generated some buzz. I also get a lot of feedback on the GIFs and the daily musings in the greeting section, which is always fun!

Some folks like RealClear Education do an afternoon roundup also — what do you think about that?

CE: I think it’s great that more outlets are devoting resources to education journalism! The more, the merrier.

Related posts: Early Reactions To Politico’s $8,000 / Year Education Page*Politico’s Education Page LaunchesWho Covered Yesterday’s House NCLB Markup Best?.

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.