Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization covering educational change efforts in the communities where improvement matters most, is seeking a seasoned journalist with management experience to serve as our first Chicago bureau chief.
Chicago is in the midst of sweeping changes with far-reaching consequences for students and families, educators, and communities.
Chicago is living an education paradox: Poverty, violence, and deep segregation present steep challenges for students, their families, and their schools. After a last-minute budget deal, the city school district remains on the brink of financial disaster. At the same time, Chicago boasts one of the fastest-improving big city school systems in the nation, a conclusion so unexpected that a Stanford researcher double-checked his work before confirming it.
Amid these highs and lows, Chicago’s public schools face a slew of changes at every level of the school system. In the K-12 system, school closures and bureaucratic overhauls have made a complicated system more confusing for many families. City officials also want to lead the country by dramatically growing the number of children enrolled in public prekindergarten, and, controversially, by not allowing students to graduate unless they have a plan for what to do next.
The bureau chief will lead our Chicago bureau’s coverage, with a focus on bottom-up reporting on the debate around how to create educational equity. This is a “player-coach” role, meaning you’ll be balancing both management of staff and your own reporting. You will oversee a growing team, starting with one reporter and adding others within a year, and be responsible for story budgets; readership growth; and impact, working with senior editors to help shape stories on the front end so they connect to the important story Chalkbeat is telling across the country. (You may pinch-hit on editing when one of our ace story editors is out, too.) You’ll also serve as Chalkbeat’s public face in Chicago, working with our experienced leadership to build a local community strategy and representing the organization at public events. Finally, you’ll oversee the bureau’s budget and office with support from Chalkbeat’s central network.
Who are you?
You are committed to local journalism and respect the transformative power a good story can wield. You find coaching reporters energizing, from helping them connect the dots across several incremental stories to instructing them in the fine art of source-building. You can balance quick news hits with enterprise work, and have experience planning longer-term investigative projects. While you love being on the ground and in the community, you’re also inspired by the idea of collaborating with colleagues across the Chalkbeat network to learn and share best practices and get the support you need to lead your team to greatness. You can serve as a guide for our readers—school personnel, education insiders, parents, students, and curious citizens—in explaining how the city works. And you’re not afraid to call its leaders to task when warranted.
What background and skills do you have?
- Strong track record in journalism, preferably in digital, with a focus on public policy issues
- Familiarity with Chicago and experience covering the news here
- Proven strategies for building an effective team and experience managing direct reports
- Experience managing budgets and other administrative duties preferred
- Experience working in a CMS, preferably WordPress
- Stellar news judgment
- Strong interpersonal skills with a knack for working with curious reporters and skeptical editors
- Passion for education is a must; knowledge of education is a strong plus, but not required
This is a full-time position with benefits. Chalkbeat offers a competitive salary, commensurate with experience, and a generous benefits package, including a week-long paid winter break.
Chalkbeat is the nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education. We are mission-driven journalists who believe that an independent local press is vital to ensuring that education improves. Currently in five locations and growing, we seek to provide deep local coverage of education policy and practice that informs decisions and actions, leading to better schools. Read more about our mission and values.
How to Apply
Please send links to five relevant clips, a PDF of your resume and a cover letter explaining your interest in the position and where you heard about it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “Chicago Bureau Chief” in the subject line. Chalkbeat is dedicated to equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. Chalkbeat encourages people of all races, colors, national origins, ancestries, creeds, religions, genders, ages, disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientations and marital statuses to apply.