Chalkbeat Year in Review 2020


A portrait of Chalkbeat Chief People Officer Jennifer Bramble.

Jennifer Bramble, Chief People Officer, joined Chalkbeat’s Leadership Team in January 2020.

Courtesy of Jennifer Bramble

Jennifer Bramble began her role as our very first chief people officer, further solidifying our commitment to being an antiracist organization. Over the year, Jennifer has worked to create a more inclusive culture at Chalkbeat, ensure that our staff receives ongoing training to address personal bias and, and has organized our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) task force.


Susan Gonzalez types on her laptop in this photo.

Susan Gonzalez, Social Media Strategist, joined Chalkbeat’s Engagement Team in February 2020.

Courtesy of Susan Gonzalez

We hired our first social media strategist, Susan Gonzalez, to be our newsroom’s go-to-guru for strategy and best practices on our social media platforms. She joined Chalkbeat’s growing engagement team, which has allowed us to boost our online presence, hold ourselves accountable to reporting for and with communities, and host more events than we ever have in the past.  


Student desks sit in an empty room at Senn High School, with bookshelves and windows in the background.

Classrooms across the country emptied as schools pivoted to remote learning in March 2020.

Max Herman for Chalkbeat

“Keep it coming. What you do is really important. Especially during COVID, Chalkbeat is one of the first things I read every morning.”

The news of the coronavirus pandemic forced us to act quickly and shut down all of our offices for the safety of our staff. Fortunately, our teams were already uniquely prepared for remote work as we have a dispersed workforce that is used to virtual collaboration. As parents and teachers grappled with school closures, Chalkbeat bureaus collaborated to paint a vivid picture of the immediate impact of school closures, chronicling what a day without school looked like for students and teachers across the nation. Other cross-team efforts included stories examining the impact on child care providers and students with disabilities, and one of the first stories in the country about what remote learning might look like. As a result of our coverage, we experienced record readership numbers — 3.1 million pageviews by the end of month, triple our original target.


Chalkbeat logo and Chorus by VoxMedia logo on a dark grey background.

We migrated our CMS to Chorus, Vox Media’s publishing tool, in April 2020.

Courtesy of Chorus

While many news organizations saw a return to normal traffic in April, our readers continued to look to us for up-to-the-minute information on how the pandemic was affecting their schools and what the remainder of the school year could possibly look like. We hit more than double our original target, with 2.5 million pageviews by the end of month. 

Additionally, our website’s migration to Chorus, Vox Media’s publishing tool, was officially completed in April after more than a year of preparation. The move to this content management system has allowed us to reach new audiences and markets, helped to maximize our revenue, and streamlined the reading experience for our readers. 


CTU members rallied in downtown Chicago on the first afternoon of their October 2019 strike.

Our Chicago bureau won best breaking news story for our coverage of the CTU strike, pictured here in October 2019.

Ariel Cheung / Chalkbeat

“I admire your commitment to education, readers and communities. Keep up the good work!”

Several of our reporters received well-deserved recognition for their work. Colorado reporter Ann Schimke was named an EWA fellow to lead a cross-bureau project on reading instruction in the early grades. The Chicago team landed two prizes in the Chicago Headline Club’s annual awards ceremony for outstanding journalism — best newsletter and best breaking news story for our strike coverage in their online category. The SPJ Indiana awards honored the team with first place in coverage of minority issues, education reporting, and government reporting. Reporter Dylan Peers McCoy’s series on the state’s hidden dropouts also won second place in investigative reporting. 


Screenshot of Chalkbeat employees during a virtual event discussing the state of public education in June 2020.

A screenshot from our first annual State of Chalkbeat and Public Education event. From left to right (top): Kary Perez, Senior Marketing Manager, Elizabeth Green, CEO, Laura Faith Kebede, Tennessee Reporter (bottom): Christina Veiga, New York Reporter, Erica Meltzer, Colorado Bureau Chief, and Sarah Darville, National Editor.

Lauren Bryant / Chalkbeat

We hosted our first annual State of Chalkbeat and Public Education, an exclusive virtual event for Chalkbeat’s members. The event was moderated by Elizabeth Green and featured a panel discussion of our local and national reporters, who answered questions submitted by our readers about how Chalkbeat’s work had changed due to the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 on education, and what we expected to see in the following school year. 


An empty school hallway with beige walls and blue doors

Hallways remain empty across the country as schools navigate the complexities of reopening during a pandemic.

Gabriela Bhaskar for Chalkbeat

“Vital work in an extremely important time in the history of American education systems.”

Our managing editor for national news, Sarah Darville, co-published an analysis piece with the New York times on the complexities of reopening schools during the pandemic. The story expertly weighed parents’ reliance on schools and the services they provide against the risks of an unchecked pandemic and the lack of any federal guidance for schools.


Chalkbeat logo and The Notebook logo

Chalkbeat and The Philadelphia Public School Notebook partnered to launch Chalkbeat Philadelphia in August 2020.

Lauren Bryant / Chalkbeat

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a staple in the city since 1994, formalized their partnership with Chalkbeat to launch Chalkbeat Philadelphia. The Notebook’s Dale Mezzacappa joined Chalkbeat as the bureau’s senior reporter and former senior editor of The Philadelphia Tribune, Johann Calhoun, joined as the bureau chief.

Chalkbeat’s newsroom staff formed a union, the Chalkbeat Guild, with the Writers Guild of America, East. Read more about the Guild and how they will strengthen Chalkbeat’s journalism in their introductory letter here


(Left) Jalan Clemmons, a freshman at Hamilton High School, pulls up his Microsoft Teams portal at home during a virtual school day. (Right) A view of the Microsoft Teams chat window for Jalan Clemmons’s math class.

(Left) Jalan Clemmons, a freshman at Hamilton High School, pulls up his Microsoft Teams portal at home during a virtual school day. (Right) A view of the Microsoft Teams chat window for Jalan Clemmons’s math class.

Andrea Morales for Chalkbeat

We reached a major milestone with 1,000 Chalkbeat members! Our members enjoy exclusive benefits such as priority invitation to events, access to chat with our reporters and editors, the opportunity to weigh in on topics, and of course, cool Chalkbeat swag. 

This month we also launched the Freshman year, at a distance series, a cross-bureau collaboration that followed a handful of 9th-graders  as they attempted to navigate their first year of high school remotely, or socially distanced behind masks. 


Close up shot of red, white, and blue stickers that read “I VOTED.”

Chalkbeat launched Votebeat, a pop-up newsroom, in October 2020.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

We launched Votebeat, a pop-up newsroom that deployed reporters in key battleground states to cover election administration amidst the pandemic. Votebeat worked with the Institute for Nonprofit News and ProPublica’s Electionland to administer the project, and collaborated with local newsrooms such as SpotlightPA, WURD radio, Bridge Michigan, and CalMatters. 


Screenshot of a virtual event with David Epstein (left) and John Urschel (right).

Screenshot from our virtual event with David Epstein (left) and John Urschel (right).

Lauren Bryant / Chalkbeat

We held an exclusive event for Chalkbeat members with former NFL player and “Mind and Matter” author John Urschel. The event was hosted by New York Times bestselling author David Epstein, author of popular books “Range” and “The Sports Gene.”


Left: black socks patterned with the Chalkbeat logo resting on a bright blue blanket. Right: close up of a hand holding another pair of Chalkbeat socks.

Our end-of-year membership gift for 2020 was a pair of Chalkbeat branded socks.

(Left) Courtesy of Jin-Soo Huh. (Right) Courtesy of Robin Broshi.

We raised over $170,000 in our end-of-year membership campaign from just over 1,000 donors. (This was a massive increase from 2019, when we raised $56,000.) This year all donors who gave $100+ received Chalkbeat socks, becoming honorary members of our Sockbeat crew!

2020 Annual Report - Navigation v2