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Why we’re creating an Education News Network and how to help

Updated March 3 to add some information in response to a reader’s questions.

As we hinted the other day in Remainders and have hinted in the past, we’ve got some personal GothamSchools news to share. We’re getting hitched! Actually, we already eloped.

This January, we formally left our incredible founding parent organization, OpenPlans, to create our own nonprofit home, one designed for the sole purpose of supporting the kind of work we do — in New York City and, over time, in other communities.

We’re calling it the Education News Network, or ENN if you’re being familiar. And we did it by joining forces with another nonprofit news site that is also focused exclusively on local public schools, EdNews Colorado.

We built ENN for a ton of reasons. Here are a few:

  1. Since each site launched, both (fortuitously!) in 2008, we’ve gotten regular requests from folks in communities around the country asking us how they can get something like GothamSchools or EdNews Colorado in their state or district. This makes sense; traditional news sources — especially local news sources — are dwindling, and the crisis coincides with one of the most active periods ever in American educational change.
  2. You have told us that what we’re doing is a valuable service, and we agree. We believe that quality information about education policy and practice is vital to improving schools, and so we want to keep this thing going for a long time. Like, permanently! We also want to keep getting better at keeping you informed and keeping the education conversation honest and productive. So we’ve been thinking really hard about the best way to make those things happen. And after a lot of thinking and talking to you and others, ENN seemed like an important next step.
  3. Related to (2), keeping a news organization afloat in 2013 is hard. Really hard. But it’s less so if your team is bigger and you can share resources, from business staff to operations support to a really cool website (TBD). We’ve learned this lesson firsthand by studying the progress of our New York colleagues at Streetsblog, who have counterparts in L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, and Capitol Hill.
  4. Updated March 3. As I added in a comment below after publishing this the first time, forming ENN also helps us protect our editorial independence. As I wrote, “By growing our organization, we have created the space for a business side that is operationally and functionally and humanly separate from our editorial team.”

For now, the signs of ENN’s hand will be only lightly visible at GothamSchools. When you make your annual contribution to our work, you’ll make it to ENN’s fiscal sponsor, which is based in Colorado. When you read EdNews Colorado, you’ll notice a familiar name: Maura Walz, one of our first reporter hires, will begin serving as the site’s managing editor — the same role Philissa plays here — this month. And when you call or email me, sometimes I will answer from Denver, where I’ll be hanging out with our team there. (My job is to oversee the editorial operations of ENN, while Alan Gottlieb, the founder of EdNews Colorado, is overseeing our business operations.)

Over time, though, the signs will become more public. You’ve already starting seeing more stories here about statewide issues like legislative maneuverings and the state education department, longtime offerings at EdNews Colorado; you will soon come to see even more of that in New York. In the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a new web platform for our stories that GothamSchools and EdNews Colorado will share. And by the end of the year, we may well be reporting to you that we’ve opened up our first outpost in another community.

Most relevant to you: We’re going to continue to call on our readers to help us figure out how to serve you guys the best as we move forward. That’s what this has always been about, and that’s not going to change. We’ll have some more formal requests soon, but for now, we’re always eager to hear how we can do better. Let us know in a comment?

Updated March 3: I’ve already responded to one question, about ENN’s funding sources, in the comments section. Leonie Haimson asked whether our grants, including one from the Walton Foundation mentioned in this news story about ENN, come with strings attached.  She also asked, “even if not, how will you insulate yourself from the fear of losing funding” if we write critically about causes the Walton Foundation supports?

I responded in this comment, explaining that, in brief, the answers are “No and Carefully.” The comment elaborates further so please read it if you are interested! And bring on more questions as you have them.