EWA Reporting Fellowship Projects Need To Stand Out

A new set of EWA-supported education stories are coming out this fall and winter, according to a recent conversation with EWA Public Editor Emily Richmond. The hope is that the stories will be deeper and more diverse than otherwise would be possible.

As you may recall from February, EWA (the Education Writers Association) announced seven teams of education reporters would receive up to $8,000.

[See: New Opportunities – & New Challenges – For 7 Education Journalism Teams]

Some of the topics being covered include Hispanic student achievement in Appalachia, what happens to KIPP students after they leave high school, and the impact of personalized learning on students and teachers. Some of the outlets participating include the Baltimore Sun, NOLA, and the Detroit Free Press.

You can see the full list here.

Now in its first year, the fellowship program was something EWA had been talking about for several years, according to Richmond. “Reporters attending our events often came up with great ideas, but there simply weren’t the resources to carry them out,” says Richmond.

So EWA asked reporters what they might need – a coach, freelance help, specialized training? “In some cases it’s just a question of time,” according to Richmond. In other cases it was money to pay for trips, photographers, and the like.

The fellowship is funded by a mix of funders including the Gates Foundation and Nellie Mae (who sponsored a deep look into student-centered learning, according to Richmond).*

The advantage of fellowship programs like these is that they are a way to increase the quality and quantity of education stories coming out of mainstream newsrooms, for relatively little cost.

Other approaches include paying for full-time newsroom positions (at NPR, or the LA Times), funding nonprofit news outlets (like Hechinger Report or Chalkbeat or Education Week), or funding year-long fellowship/sabbaticals (as in Knight, Nieman, or Spencer).

One big challenge will be for the EWA-sponsored pieces to distinguish themselves from other similar stories and similar programs that are already running, including Renaissance Journalism’s Equity Reporting Project and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Without a unifying programmatic focus or other distinguishing aspects (storytelling strategies, distribution, data visualization), it may be hard for the EWA-funded stories to stand out in the current environment.

EWA hopes to be able to fund additional rounds of fellowships going forward, says Richmond.

*The original version mis-stated the focus of the Nellie Mae sponsorship as college- and career-readiness.

Related posts:
Fellowship Program Recruits Journalists With Hardship Experience
Journalism Fellowships For Everyone!?
New Spencer Fellows To Dive Into Big Data, Refugee Education, & Gentrification

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.