Chalkbeat Detroit is growing again — and we’d like you, our readers, to help our team cover the story of Detroit schools in new and exciting ways.
Koby Levin, a Detroit-area native who comes to us after a stint at a newspaper in Missouri, joined us as a reporter this week. He’ll be bringing you more of the in-depth coverage of Detroit schools that you’ve come to expect from Chalkbeat.
And, his arrival heralds the start of a new push we’re making here at Chalkbeat Detroit. We are making a more deliberate effort to engage with our readers and the communities we cover. That means Koby will be actively seeking out new ways to elevate the voices of educators, parents and students in our city. He’ll be out in Detroit neighborhoods, and will use social media and text messaging in sophisticated ways to make new connections. He’ll be taking the lead on a partnership we’ve begun with another local journalism start-up, Outlier Media, that finds new ways to deliver information to busy people.
Kimberly Hayes Taylor, who first joined us at the end of January, will continue to dive into critical issues facing Detroit schools and early childhood education, but she also will devote more time to making connections in the community. She’ll be planning events, finding ways to bring people together, and will be looking for stories about the people who work in our schools and rely on them.
Koby and Kim will both be working closely with me, Chalkbeat Detroit’s Bureau Chief, and with Julie Topping, our talented story editor. Please be in touch with all of us. You can find us on email, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Now, since Koby is the new guy, we thought we’d introduce him to readers with a quick interview.
Welcome to Chalkbeat. Let’s get right to it. Why are you interested in reporting on schools?
My mom taught middle school, and I seriously considered becoming an educator myself. I spent my summers in high school and college working with public school students, often in Detroit. If I wasn’t going to be a teacher, I was going to be a journalist. During the school year, I’d work for the student paper. So education reporting always seemed a natural fit.
Which Detroit communities are you planning to cover?
All of them. But since I’m bilingual in English and Spanish, I plan to use Spanish to highlight the issues facing English language learners in schools. I’m looking forward to living and reporting in the same place. I live in Southwest Detroit.
What is your philosophy about engaging readers in your reporting?
Engagement works two ways. Of course there’s the engagement that takes place after the reporting is done. We have to use every tool available to make sure Detroiters are getting the information they need about their schools, from social media to collaborations with other news outlets. But that’s only the tail end of the process. Strong, engaging stories involve readers all the way through. They are for readers, but also about them.
What’s cool is that the two kinds of engagement benefit each other. My goal is to erase the line between reader and community member.
Will your stories based on community input be different than other stories?
Well, yes. Those stories are richer than anything that was cooked up in an office. Above all, they matter more to the people we’re writing about. But also no. All of our stories should be based on community input.
How can I get in touch with you if i have a story idea or want to share information?
Let’s talk! As I get up to speed, I’ll be leaning on people who’ve been around much longer than I have to explain how we got here and where we’re going. Our goal at Chalkbeat is to spur change by shedding light on inequity, but that’s a community-wide project. Please, share what you know — and tell me what you’d like to see covered. I want to hear from you. Find me on Twitter.