We’ve added a lot of new people to our team here lately. I couldn’t be happier to tell you all about them!
First, a quick word on how we got here. Our hiring spree is brought to you partly by Chalkbeat’s expansion — hello, Chicago and Newark! — and partly because we’re beefing up the staff in existing bureaus.
Believe it or not (and some days I can’t), Chalkbeat is now one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the country, with a newsroom of 30+ and more joining every month. We are really proud of the coverage we are adding as the country’s newsrooms shrink (or vanish). We are also acutely aware that it’s not nearly enough, which is why we’re determined to make sure that 30 is just the beginning.
I’m more confident every day we can do it — not least of all because of the talented team members who joined us in the past few months. They are journalists at the top of their field, from a mix of newspapers, digital startups, and magazines. They’re smart, they know a lot about their communities, and a ton about education. And they care. A lot. They represent the perfect Chalkbeat mix. Let me introduce them.
First, our bureau chiefs:
Jacinthia Jones began this week as Tennessee’s new bureau chief. Jacinthia comes to us from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where she worked for 20 years as a reporter and editor and most recently oversaw a team of reporters including the education beat reporter. As a reporter, Jacinthia’s beats included City Hall, religion, social services, and education, and as an editor, she steered coverage of historic changes to the city’s schools. Jacinthia grew up in the Memphis suburbs, attended Shelby County schools, and knows the city inside and out. Jacinthia’s arrival means Marta Aldrich, who has led the bureau from Nashville, will now concentrate her firepower on covering the legislature and state issues as our senior statehouse correspondent.
We’re thrilled to announce Cassie Walker Burke as our founding Chicago bureau chief, starting early next month. Cassie is coming to us from Crain’s Chicago Business, where she has served on the senior leadership team as assistant managing editor. Before that, Cassie was a longtime editor at Chicago magazine, finishing her tenure there as executive editor. Cassie is a proven leader and strategic thinker who knows how to harness the potential of digital storytelling — and she knows how Chicago works. She began her career as an education reporter and is passionate about telling stories of how education policy plays out in neighborhoods and classrooms (read these stories for proof) and will bring no shortage of creative ideas to help us make an immediate impression in the city.
Jacinthia and Cassie join two other bureau chiefs who started at Chalkbeat this winter. In Colorado, Erica Meltzer came to us from the local digital startup Denverite and immediately began incorporating community engagement into our reporting practices. (This survey about Denver parents’ school choice experiences offers one example.) She’s also jumped into covering Colorado’s legislature.
In Indiana, Stephanie Wang joined our team from the Indianapolis Star, adding to our reporting power. She is helping our reporters explain the national context of Indiana’s embrace of public education options, as well as local insights into how schools and the city shape each other. She will also be reporting on the state’s expanding early childhood education efforts.
We made the exciting decision to bring on more editors so that bureau chiefs can invest their time in team leadership, community engagement, and reporting and writing stories of their own.
This spring, we’ve hired two top-tier story editors to join a team anchored by Julie Topping, the Detroit Free Press alumna who joined Chalkbeat in 2016 and now works with our reporters in Detroit and Tennessee.
Our journalists in Indiana and New York have already started working with Carrie Melago, whose first day at Chalkbeat coincided with New York City getting a new chancellor. Carrie joined our team from the Wall Street Journal, where she was most recently the newsroom training editor. Before working at the Journal, Carrie covered New York City schools (and other topics) for the New York Daily News as the partner-in-crime to Erin, and thorn-in-my-side to me, with a constant stream of scoops. (See this incredible “where are they now” story about a 1994 Harlem kindergarten class.)
Starting next month, Sharon Noguchi will work with our journalists in Chicago and Colorado. Sharon recently left the San Jose Mercury News, where she covered the education beat for years. (Here are some highlights.) Sharon also has extensive experience coaching up-and-coming reporters, including through leading a summer training program for high school journalists.
Finally Patrick Wall, our newly minted Newark correspondent, is working with Sara Mosle, an award-winning journalist with an education focus, as he launches our coverage there. Sara, who has taught in and reported about Newark, recently wrapped up a Spencer Fellowship and is also teaching at Columbia University’s journalism school while working with us part-time. She’s written about education for many publications, including the New York Times Magazine, where we recommend reading this 1997 profile of New York City’s chancellor for a reminder of how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, in the education world.
Impressed? Me too. Now guess what: you too can join this A-list roster, because we are still hiring. We are seeking a director of product, a New York bureau chief, a second national reporter, and reporters in Chicago. Check out — and please, liberally forward! — our open positions here.