P E R S O N A L   N E W S

Seriously, when did we start calling new job news “personal news” and why? It’s professional news. It’s just me, getting a new job. Personal news is “we adopted a dog” (we did!) or “we’re having another kid” (we’re not!) or maybe “we’re moving to New York” (also not happening!).

But other things *are* happening.

Personal News
I am excited to tell you that I have a new job starting next week.

I’m joining Chalkbeat to lead product and growth. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization that’s reimagining local news with a focus on issues of inequity in education. I’m grateful to be stepping into an amazing team in four cities, and I’m eager to help them grow and continue to build a sustainable model for nonprofit education news.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.24.28

In years past, I’ve said young people don’t care about local news until they buy a house and send their kids to public schools. Guess what? I care about local news these days! And I’m a two-issue local news consumer: 1) Full-day kindergarten, and 2) are we ever going to build the stadium for that NASL team we were promised? The first issue is more important. And it’s tied to issues of managing housing development in Loudoun County a little more consistently. This might be a first world educational issue in my corner of the county, for now, but I’m an engaged local news consumer.

When the opportunity came up to get involved with an organization dedicated to covering high-poverty schools across the country, I jumped at it.


I’m grateful to everyone at Gannett for the opportunities I’ve had there over the past five years. It’s been a privilege to work with local journalists and technologists on the biggest challenges facing the news business. My mission in journalism has always been to make a difference at scale, and Gannett was the perfect place to do so.

But now it’s time to move on, and I can’t wait for everything that comes next.

Any questions? I’ll start.

Q: Chartbeat? Cool, real-time analytics are totally addictive!
A: They sure are. Love that stuff. Not working for them, though. It’s Chalkbeat, like the chalkboard beat, like education news. If there’s one thing I know about education, it’s that repetition can be important. Chalkbeat. Education news. In context. Chalkbeat. Dot-Org.

Q: It looks like Chalkbeat is in New York. Are you moving to New York?
A: Chalkbeat’s leadership team is in New York, but there are also teams covering the Denver area, Indianapolis, and Memphis, too. It’s a distributed organization, like many nonprofits and startup news orgs these days, and I’m not moving anywhere. Ask me about my new home office, and the standing desk I’ve been building. And the walls I’ve been painting. And the bed and dresser I have up for sale on Craigslist. Please, ask me about the furniture. Bring a truck to ask me about it.

Q: So… [whispers] …are you hiring?
A: SO GLAD YOU ASKED! As a matter of fact, Chalkbeat is hiring a Full-Stack Engineer. This person will work directly with me on product development. WordPress is the core of the proverbial technology stack right now, but there’s amazing work to be done on measuring impact (read about Chalkbeat’s MORI here), as well as other big ideas around audience analytics. We’re going to be supercharging Chalkbeat’s already strong remote culture with inspiration from Vox Product, 18F, Fusion, and others, so although New York or DC-based candidates would be cool, remote would work for the right candidate, too. You should ask me more about this role. You’re probably right for it. Yes, you.

Q: What can I say, I’m inspired! How can I help?
A: First of all, if you have kids or family who teach in New York, Denver, Indianapolis, or Memphis, head directly to your local Chalkbeat and start reading today. Subscribe to an email newsletter. Follow Chalkbeat on Twitter. Like Chalkbeat on Facebook. You can do all of these things.

But also, you can make a donation today to support one of the few nonprofit news organizations in this space doing local reporting on some of the most critical issues facing schools in America’s poorest communities. Want to help tell this story? Help fund the important work they’re doing today.

Q: We know you’ve been listening to Hamilton a lot lately. Does this have anything to do with Hamilton?
A: I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, you forget yourself.

Q: Is there one more thing?
A: You know there is. It’s about finding a new job you love. You don’t find a job by obsessively refreshing LinkedIn, or Glassdoor, or searching Idealist and Media Bistro and Journalism Jobs multiple times a day. Nope. Doesn’t work. Good luck!

You find your new job on Twitter. Seriously. I should know better than to use any other method, but I first heard about this job listing in a tweet during ONA. I wasn’t even at ONA. I guess I was following the hashtag in Tweetdeck and happened to look up at the screen? Maybe? Or someone retweeted this. This:

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.20.10Thanks, Twitter. Thanks, Sarah!

A challenge for you: Community coworking space and Web worker job training

Right here, right now, I’m going to give you a great idea, for free. Enter it in the Knight News Challenge (deadline: Oct. 15), or perhaps more likely, the Community Information Needs challenge (next year). Or fund it yourself. Or bootstrap it. Or pitch it to a local nonprofit with stimulus money to spend on job training in your city.

The Pitch

  1. Open up a coworking space for the Web workers in your town.
  2. Partner with a local nonprofit organization tasked with providing the community with job skills training.
  3. Give the Web workers (your paying customers) a discount based on the number of classes or hours of one-on-one training they offer to the community.

If you live in a city with a vibrant community of Web workers, chances are you’ve heard of coworking. I’d hesitate to call it a movement exactly, but it’s a trend with a simple premise: Create a space for telecommuters and freelancers to do their thing in a collaborative office-like setting, where they can use whiteboards, conference rooms, and each other to sound out ideas and maybe have a cup of coffee or two along the way.  Users of this space pay a daily, weekly, monthly rate, using a variety of membership models, for benefits like a reserved spot, an assigned desk, or storage lockers.

So there you are with a posse of intelligent, hard-working, collaboration-minded Web workers doing their thing, having a good time, and generally feeling like the next big thing.

Now is the time to use that momentum for social good.

Open up your coworking space to the community.  Maybe you’re located in an urban area still behind on the revitalization curve.  Maybe you’re located in a university town with a serious digital divide issue.  Maybe you’re located in a suburb hit hard by the recession, with lots of unemployed folks looking around for their next career.

Open your doors to them, with at least two options for learning Web skills that could help them get their next job, a better job, or their first job:

  • Classes taught by one or two coworkers at a time, like an introduction to Photoshop, HTML/CSS basics, or blogging.
  • Office hours where coworkers with specific skills are available for one-on-one training for more advanced students.

Things you will need to make this work

  • Web worker friends interested in coworking.
  • A nonprofit organization as a partner.
  • Patience.
  • Funding: I mentioned the Knight Foundation earlier, but this doesn’t have to be about news.  There are millions of dollars flowing into communities and nonprofits from the federal government at the moment, and post-industrial job skills must be on the list of the sort of things that money should be paying to provide, right? Right.
  • A very serious entrepreneurial spirit.
  • A big smile.

I gave this idea some pretty serious thought a few months ago in Rochester, NY, before we moved to the DC area, and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t personally ready for the massive life-changing-ness that this sort of enterprise required … but maybe you are.

If you go for it, let me know.

Notes for news-oriented friends: Yes, your news organization could do something similar in a Newsroom Café setting, and at some point I thought this could be a way to train the community as citizen journalists to provide a context for learning Web worker job skills.  Maybe that would work.