Happy third birthday to Chalkbeat!

PHOTO: Will Clayton via Flikr

Three years ago Friday, Chalkbeat Indiana appeared on the Internet for the first time with a very simple (and temporary) website, one local journalist (me) and a daunting task ahead to try to make the state’s first nonprofit education news organization a permanent part of the Indiana media landscape.

The experiment is going well.

Today, thousands of educators, parents, students, community leaders and others rely on Chalkbeat for news and information about education in our state. Two outstanding reporters have joined our local team, and we have a recently redesigned website. If you’re one of our regular readers, thanks for helping us make Chalkbeat work!

Earlier this year, Chalkbeat and two partner organizations won one of Indiana’s top journalism prizes. This summer, a Chalkbeat-led series dove into the critical, but under-reported, story of school integration in Indianapolis and where it stands today. Chalkbeat also is the best source for information about how education connects to the 2016 election in Indiana.

If you are a regular reader, you probably know about our network by now, but in case you have recently discovered us, please check out our sister sites in New York, Tennessee and Colorado. (Plus, we have a pilot site now in Detroit!)

If you’re new to us, please sign up for our newsletter here.

Welcome aboard

Stacy-Marie Ishmael joins Chalkbeat’s Board of Directors

Chalkbeat is thrilled to announce the expansion of its Board of Directors with the appointment of Stacy-Marie Ishmael, a leader in digital media and the future of journalism. The addition strengthens a growing organization that is now reporting on education in five local communities, bolstering Chalkbeat’s ability to meet expanding need for local news about education.

Ishmael, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, joined the Chalkbeat board in September 2016.

“Our mission is to arm American communities with the information they need to build more equitable schools. We couldn’t have found a better leader to help us achieve our mission than Stacy-Marie,” said Chalkbeat board president and cofounder Sue Lehmann. “Her expertise in digital media, product, and news strategy will help Chalkbeat connect our award-winning, high-impact stories to broader audiences.”

Chalkbeat currently serves communities in four locations — New York, Colorado, Tennessee, and Indiana — and will launch in Detroit in January 2017. Chalkbeat’s reporting has spurred changes in education funding, legislation, policy, and practice and is regularly cited or republished in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Vox, the Commercial-Appeal, The Denver Post, The Detroit Free-Press, The Indianapolis Star, and more.

Ishmael joins a board that also includes Lehmann, cofounder and chief facilitator of the Student Success Network; Gideon Stein, the founder and CEO of LightSail Education; Jill Barkin, a vice president of board governance at Teach For America, and Kang-Xing Jin, a vice president of engineering at Facebook. Chalkbeat is led by cofounder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Elizabeth Green.

Ishmael, most recently managing editor for mobile at BuzzFeed News, is now researching mobile infrastructure for newsrooms at Stanford University as part of her JSK fellowship. At BuzzFeed News, Ishmael led the launch of and the editorial team for the BuzzFeed News apps on iOS and Android. She was also responsible for developing best practices for news on mobile across platforms.

Prior to BuzzFeed News, Ishmael worked at The Financial Times in various roles, including the first vice president for communities, where she created and led strategies to deepen meaningful relationships with global audiences.

Ishmael earned her undergraduate degree in international relations at the London School of Economics.

“At this pivotal moment in US history, strong schools and strong local journalism are more important than ever,” Ishmael said. “I’m proud to be able to join the board of an organization that is singularly focussed about a topic I care deeply about, and to help them build a sustainable path for journalism.”

“At Chalkbeat, we are determined to build a sustainable local news organization that can help steer the country toward stronger schools. We can’t do that without the strongest possible leaders,” said Elizabeth Green, Chalkbeat cofounder, CEO, and editor-in-chief. “Stacy-Marie brings us the vision and leadership we need to succeed.”

A previous addition to Chalkbeat’s board of directors was announced in December 2015.

About Chalkbeat:

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education. Founded in 2013, Chalkbeat has bureaus in New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana, and Detroit, with plans to expand to a number of new markets in the next five years. We believe that every child deserves an excellent education, and that a strong press is vital to making that happen. Our mission is to provide deep, unbiased, local coverage of education policy and practice to inform the decisions and actions that lead to better outcomes for children and families. Chalkbeat’s work has been written about by The Nieman Lab, USA Today, and The Columbia Journalism Review.

Measuring impact 101

Announcing the open source release of MORI, from Chalkbeat

In 2014, Chalkbeat developed and started using a WordPress plugin for tracking impact. We called it MORI — Measures of Our Reporting’s Influence. As we wrote then, MORI grew out of one of our key beliefs: Journalists can make a difference, but the ability to measure the difference we make can multiply our impact over time. If we can document how, why, when, and where we made a difference, we are more likely to repeat our success.

The quantitative data we track in MORI lets us see the big picture of how our work affects the world, beyond raw readership analytics; the qualitative narrative we record helps us tell the story. Our editorial teams can put important impacts in the hands of our fundraising team and others to turn around and share with the broader education community.

In recent months, Chalkbeat’s reporting on a questionable new graduation exam in New York pushed the state to review the test; in Tennessee, we drove a school district to be more transparent about school closure plans; and in Colorado, our updated database of immunization rates in local schools was republished across the state by five news organizations.

All of these impacts were tracked in MORI, and quickly made the transition from entries in a database to slides for presentations to our board and funders. These impacts have also helped inform our own teams in other locations about what’s working across the network, and the quantitative data on the different types of impact we’ve recorded will make an appearance in our end-of-year fundraising campaign.


The MORI Platform

MORI was conceived as a single killer app, a plugin with its own impact tracking and reporting system, but also with deep ties to Google Analytics, as well as its own built-in taxonomies for detailed story types and impact types.

As we used MORI over the next two years to track the impact of individual stories and themes, we realized that it would be more technically sustainable as a suite of tools, rather than a single plugin, at the center of a set of best practices for running an impact-driven newsroom.

Today we’re excited to announce the open source release of the first product in the MORI Platform: The MORI Impact Tracker, a WordPress plugin you can download, install, and start using right now.

We hope this release continues the public conversation around how news organizations can track and report impact, and look forward to working with developers from other organizations as we continue to develop the MORI Platform. The community of practice around impact tracking is already vibrant; we hope this release helps it grow and share knowledge.

For details on how to contribute to the MORI plugin, please see the repo on Github, or contact [email protected] for more.