In 2013, Chalkbeat was founded with the mission to help provide high-quality education for all children. The theory then, and now, was that independent news laser-focused on education issues was a prerequisite for thriving schools, and that since schools are inherently local, then the journalism must be local, too.
Fast forward almost 10 years, and Chalkbeat now serves eight communities with a team of 48 journalists that includes Pulitzer winners and Fulbright scholars — but more importantly journalists who live within the communities they cover, working with our readers as well as for them.
Today, we reach a new, exciting milestone: Chalkbeat is officially launching Votebeat as a permanent, year-round newsroom, with a team of eight journalists who will provide regular local coverage of voting and election administration in four states — Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. (You can learn more about the team at votebeat.org.)
Our work is staunchly nonpartisan, grounded in facts, not opinion — with a mission to help people understand our system of democracy so they can participate in strengthening it.
We are making history as the first news organization to focus on this topic, without attention on candidates or campaigns or the other traditional elements of election journalism. We know that election misinformation presents a threat to democracy, and Votebeat exists to address that threat. Read all about why and how we’re doing this journalism.
The journey to this moment began in fall 2020, when we launched Votebeat as a temporary pop-up newsroom covering voting access and elections administration. Reporters in eight states worked in partnership with Chalkbeat and local news organizations to better understand how local elections were run, as fears about fraud and misconduct spread across the political spectrum.
Since then, examples of impact abound:
- In Potter County, Texas, we spotlighted Republicans’ plans — ultimately reversed under public pressure — to run their own primary election separate from the county, introducing an increased risk of voter confusion and fraud.
- In Michigan, election officials regularly used our reporting and explainers to help answer the barrage of questions — fueled by misinformation — they were receiving each day.
- In Pennsylvania, our reporters spotlighted the burnout and attrition of local election officials, an emergency that was cited in a legislative committee meeting and in a New York Times article.
The original Votebeat pop-up was such a success that we decided this valuable resource for voters should continue as an established news organization, which brings us to our launch today.
Like Chalkbeat, Votebeat will make our stories available, at no cost, to all local and national news outlets, and we are launching with formal partnerships with Bridge Michigan, Spotlight PA, and The Texas Tribune — three nonprofit news organizations that were among Votebeat’s original partners during its 2020 pop-up phase. Votebeat shares an operational infrastructure with Chalkbeat, and will adapt Chalkbeat’s local-first business model to election administration.
Thank you to all for supporting Chalkbeat as we approach this important milestone. In an increasingly fractured environment, our great hope is that empathy and nuance can serve as an antidote to polarization and can bring communities together to solve our toughest challenges.
Alison Go is Chalkbeat’s chief strategy officer and a co-founder of Votebeat. Sign up for Votebeat’s newsletters at votebeat.org.