The education reporter covers a critical, high-profile beat for the Observer – one that demands competitive, breaking news coverage as well as exclusive enterprise that helps our community understand and make sense of the educational challenges in this rapidly growing city.
The beat focuses on K-12 education – including traditional public schools, private schools and expanding charter schools – but also incorporates some coverage of the region’s colleges and universities.
A central part of the beat is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, one of America's 20 largest public school systems. The district encompasses a mix of urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods and a racially and economically diverse student body. Despite flattening enrollment and increasing competition, the district serves about three-quarters of the county's school-age children.
CMS has played a significant role in the nation's educational history, from its landmark desegregation efforts in the 1970s to its rapid resegregation in the early 2000s. Many who come here from other cities remark on how intensely engaged the Charlotte community is in education. The Observer has built a reputation as the prime source for news and analysis of education issues.
The beat involves breaking scoops, working sources, analyzing public databases, uncovering trends and talking to real people. The Observer’s education reporter also will work closely with our civic accountability reporters and other McClatchy education reporters in the Carolinas.
This beat has a major accountability component, through public records requests, data analysis and detailed sourcing and reporting. Stories need to go beyond press releases and school board meetings to explain to readers what is driving decisions, and how those decisions affect students, parents and educators.
The job requires the ability to understand our audience and frame stories in a way that highlights what is most important to them. This reporter needs to be adept at using tools such as analytics and social media to help understand the topics that appeal to our readers.
The education reporter will:
- Develop news and enterprise stories that are clear, accurate, engaging and of high interest and relevance to local readers.
- Build sources that go beyond officials and include people who will be impacted by decisions and policies.
- Be able to juggle daily, short-term enterprise and long-term enterprise stories.
- Work with editors to ensure that stories are complete, fair and in context.
- Handle deadline demands on breaking news.
- Use readership data to help determine which stories are resonating with readers and which are not.
- Use judgment in determining best digital tools for conveying news to readers in varying circumstances and formats.
- Use social networks to seek story ideas, report in real time and connect with the community.
- Collaborate with visual journalists to develop video and still photos that help tell stories effectively.
- College degree required.
- Prior internship in a daily newsroom required.
- Beat-reporting experience in a daily newsroom preferred.
This reporter will need to have:
- Commitment to accurate, ethical journalism.
- Command of grammar, spelling, Observer and AP style, as well as ability to write clearly.
- Strong news judgment.
- Ability to learn both the art and science of readership and engagement.
- Enthusiasm for learning new skills and technologies.
- Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate effectively.
- Comfort with a job that will be demanding, fast-paced and constantly evolving.
- Basic skills at developing source networks on a beat.
- Basic skills at writing well-organized news and enterprise stories.
- Knowledge in use of social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Ability to learn how to obtain, sort and analyze public documents, such as property records and court records.
- Fluency in Spanish is highly desirable.
To Apply: Include a cover letter, resume and writing samples or links to writing samples.