The Globe collaboration, supported by funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, will bring a solutions approach to the newspaper’s coverage of public education. Historically, discussion of education in Massachusetts, as in much of the nation, tends to be dominated by two issues: First, how do you help kids on the wrong side of the performance gap? And, how do you make all schools better – and, ultimately, competitive in a global context?
The Globe has chronicled these questions expertly for decades, with special focus on the challenges facing Boston’s public schools. Education reporter James Vaznis has covered the K-12 system for seven years, and higher education before that. He has authored hundreds of compelling stories focused on issues from absenteeism and graduation rates to charter schools to college admissions. The Globe has won praise and attention for investigative stories on troubled school principals, the problematic school assignment system in Boston, and racial inequities.
But The Globe believes that a deeper examination of Massachusetts schools, through a different prism, is needed. With SJN’s support, it will pursue a series of in-depth stories — backed by data and research, and augmented by a robust multimedia platform and public events — that examine concrete solutions to myriad problems in public education. The goal is to identify solutions that hold the greatest promise, and to assess how and why they seem to be working in ways that engage a broad range of audience and school constituents and catalyze a more productive public discourse. Ultimately, The Globe and SJN hope that these stories will spark better education policy decisions and new innovation in Massachusetts schools.
“We are thrilled to be able to expand our education coverage over the next year to dig more deeply into some of the most intransigent problems facing urban school districts in particular,” says Jennifer Peter, The Globe’s senior deputy managing editor for local news. “By helping us to expend our education team, the grant will allow our longstanding k-12 education reporter to invest much more time into what is already a primary focus of ours: identifying what’s working and what’s not in our city’s schools.”
The Free Press collaboration is a cornerstone of SJN’s initiative on violence prevention and reduction, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Images of violence dominate the news, reminding us of the prevalence of violence in American society and its debilitating effects, particularly in vulnerable communities. This reporting is vital to raise awareness and spur reform, but it often fails to inform society about what can be done – and what is working – to mitigate the effects of this great hidden health care challenge.
A Free Press team of reporters, editors, and visual journalists will take on this challenge, exploring the connections between violence in the city and childhood development issues, and focusing on emerging responses in Detroit and beyond. (Eventually, we anticipate that this violence initiative will include at least 10 other news organizations.)
The Free Press intends to look at violence, as it says, “through the arc of the life stages of children (pre-natal, infant, toddler, elementary school age & teen). We’ll examine the mental/science issues and how programs are helping kids throughout their lives.” The news organization will also weigh special mobile presentations for the kids themselves, plus community gatherings where people can convene to discuss solutions.
The goal: As in Boston, to change how the community thinks about and engage with an entrenched and seemingly intractable problem. Part of that is about making the problem itself more accessible, exposing readers to the challenge on a human, personal scale. But the solutions approach also means surfacing, describing, and assessing the responses to problems, making those equally accessible.
This shift, we believe, can help people to see education and violence, two of the most urgent social issues of our time, as solvable and move them from apathy or desperation to a stronger sense of self-efficacy. This more robust journalism can foster greater civic participation and innovation – leading, ultimately, to better schools and safer communities.