#COGIVESDAY

Now more than ever, it’s vital to support strong, local, independent journalism

Will you support our education reporting today?

The past few weeks have put an intense focus on the role of the media. In an age of fake news and claims by some that the truth doesn’t matter — that it doesn’t even exist anymore — what can a responsible citizen do?

I can tell you what we are doing at Chalkbeat: We are doing our work.

That meant, on Nov. 9, sending reporters to schools to capture stories of students showing up in tears, worried that their loved ones may be deported. It meant chasing every vote in a hard-fought State Board of Education race that will help determine Colorado’s course on education policy for years. It meant examining whether private school vouchers might fly here.

This work has a cost and to support it, we need your help. On Colorado Gives Day, will you stand up for the truth by helping us meet our goal of raising $5,000 from readers like you?

On social media and elsewhere, there has been a flood of support recently for large national news organizations, both in the form of donations and subscriptions. This is great to see. But I would argue that the most vital journalism happens at the local level. And it is local journalism that is most imperiled by the economic forces that have battered the news industry in recent years. You can see it in the diminished newsrooms of newspapers of all sizes and the decimated ranks of statehouse reporters.

Yet the decisions made closest to home are the ones that have the greatest impact on people’s lives. That’s why Chalkbeat journalists attend community meetings, school board work sessions and legislative committee hearings that run deep into the night.

Increasingly, we are partnering with news organizations that once would have been considered competitors. They are republishing our work, which allows them to focus their limited resources elsewhere.

Chalkbeat is committed to providing deep, smart, independent journalism in the community we call home. That mission includes documenting how events at the national level have an impact here in Colorado.

That word — impact— is important to us. We want to write stories that make a difference, that inform conversations, that inspire action.

Over the past year, we have done that.

We used public records and dogged reporting to shed new light on a Denver school board appointee, prompting a policy change that bought more transparency to the voting process and leading one board member to thank us for holding the board accountable.

Our reporting uncovered faulty data on school discipline, calling into question the credibility of a report that trumpeted an uptick in discipline rates and causing the state to make a correction in the case of one district.

We exposed a secret meeting of the Colorado State Board of Education at a posh private club, a story that led the state Department of Education to hold a training session for the board on open records and meetings law.

Now more than ever, we need your support to do this work. Will you make a tax-deductible donation today?

Eric Gorski is bureau chief of Chalkbeat Colorado

nota bene

Meet Bene Cipolla, who’s inaugurating a new Chalkbeat chapter as our first-ever executive editor

Bene Cipolla joined Chalkbeat today as our new executive editor. Photo by Yan Ruan.

Today the Chalkbeat team expanded one more time: We welcomed our first-ever executive editor, Bene Cipolla.

Executive editor is a position we were once too small to need, but now find ourselves too big to live without. And we’ve found the perfect person for the role in Bene, an experienced reporter, editor, team builder, and digital leader who cares as much about education and great journalism as we do.

Bene will lead our amazing team of editors and reporters, now in five locations, not to mention our new national team.

Her charge is to make sure Chalkbeat remains sharp, smart, and connected to the realities in schools. We are also asking Bene to help us get better. We want to cover a wider territory, take on more ambitious projects, and share more stories that haven’t yet been told. 

With experience editing at major magazines, writing and reporting for the world’s best newspapers, and leading editorial teams at fast-growing digital startups, Bene is the perfect person to push Chalkbeat forward.

Mandatory moment of nostalgia: We started this Chalkbeat adventure in 2008 with a few dozen readers sprinkled between two cities. Today we are one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit news operations, providing public-interest coverage in local communities where the news outlets that used to do that job have been gutted.

We take our responsibility seriously, and we know we have much more to do to keep this kind of journalism strong. We also know we can only succeed if we have the best possible team — of readers, of supporters, and of staff.

Bene is just the newest member of an amazing community that leaves us in awe every day.

Get to know her through this recent piece in the New York Times, which is personal and fascinating; this authoritative curtain-raiser on the 2008 U.S. papal visit (she covered religion for many years); and this magazine piece on Iraq war veterans. Or just send her an email to welcome her to the Chalkbeat community. Her brand-new-today email address is bcipolla@chalkbeat.org.

Story booth

A Detroit student speaks: ‘DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world.’

KrisTia Maxwell is a student at Detroit's Marcus Garvey Academy

When KrisTia Maxwell started in the Detroit Public Schools as a 5-year-old kindergartener, she was nervous and shy and “didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

Now, eight years later, she’s in middle school at Detroit’s Marcus Garvey Academy and says Detroit public schools (now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District) have helped make her the active, successful student she’s become.

“DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world,” she said.

Her years at Marcus Garvey have included involvement in the National Junior Honor Society, the Girl Scouts, and the cheer team and basketball teams, among other activities.

The school “has improved me in all sorts of subjects and … given me opportunities to express myself and be who I am,” she said.

KrisTia told her Detroit schools story in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event that was hosted in March by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers at the Charles H. Wright Museum.

The event brought educators, parents and students together to tell their stories on stage at the Wright but it also invited other Detroiters to share their stories in a booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

In her story, KrisTia said her school “is half of me. It’s an important part and I’m going to attempt to do whatever I can to accomplish getting my 4.0 GPA and just doing great and … making my mom proud.”

If you have a story to tell — or know someone who does — please let us know.

Watch KrisTia’s full story below:

KrisTia Maxwell from Chalkbeat on Vimeo.