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Network News: January 21 – 27

States Collaborate to Explain New Education Standards

Florida, Indiana and Ohio are among the 45 states that are implementing new national standards for K-12 academics, a process that will require new curricula, textbooks and tests. So, the “Common Core” was a natural topic for the StateImpact education states to focus on for 2013. And just as the standards themselves are a national-state partnership, our project’s six education reporters are collaborating with each other and the team at NPR to explain how the new policies will affect students, parents and educators.

Their first joint project is called “Core Questions,” an effort to engage these groups in our coverage by inviting them to send us their questions about the Common Core. The reporters have created Core Questions topic pages on StateImpact Florida, StateImpact Indiana and StateImpact Ohio, and are inviting questions through their sites’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. They’ll share the work of answering some questions to avoid duplicating effort. Continue reading

Network News: January 14 – 20

WHYY hosts StateImpact community event

WHYY StateImpact event

Jennifer Wheeler/WHYY

Chris Satullo takes questions from the audience at the WHYY StateImpact event with Susan Phillips and Scott Detrow.

About 150 people attended a program last Tuesday at WHYY in Philadelphia on StateImpact Pennsylvania’s reporting on natural gas drilling.

Reporters Scott Detrow and Susan Phillips played audio clips from some of their best stories and discussed what they learned while working on them. They also discussed the challenges of covering this beat, such as the difficulty in getting information from gas drillers and state regulators. The program was moderated by Chris Satullo, WHYY’s executive director of news and civic dialogue. He started with an overview of the StateImpact program and its mission, and then kept the program moving with questions from the audience. A reception for about 30 station donors was held just before the StateImpact event.

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Network News: January 7 – 13

Sunlight Shines on State Spending in Idaho

Becky Lettenberger / StateImpact

Emilie Ritter Saunders, Molly Messick and Sadie Babits of StateImpact Idaho.

Over the past year, the StateImpact Idaho team has worked tirelessly to shine a light on their state’s lack of transparency surrounding tax credits for businesses in their state.

But they were a bit forlorn last summer after rolling out a series of reports on the lack of transparency in the state. Reporter Molly Messick covered a scathing report by PIRG that gave the state an F on transparency. Emilie Ritter Saunders followed that up with a similar national assessment and a well-reported series on  just how much tax incentive information was kept under wraps.

The stories didn’t garner huge traffic bumps or lead to much public outcry. Continue reading

Network News: December 17 – January 7

More Presents for You!

Guess what, team? Good news! While you were away shoveling snow, opening gifts and eating cookies, little elves stayed busy adding all sorts of new tools to your Reporter’s Toolbox, including (but not limited to):

Have fun brushing up on these, and other tools and tricks, at your leisure. And stay tuned for even more additions, coming soon!

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Network News: November 19 – 25

Bloom Goes Public With Her Twitter Roster

StateImpact Ohio‘s Molly Bloom this week shared a list that she has been carefully curating for months, if not years–her roster of Ohio educators who tweet.

Smooth move, Bloom.

StateImpact Ohio

Molly Bloom

The post was a hit. In terms of traffic, it nipped at the heels of that state’s most highly-visited post (on football, mind you) all week long.

It was also a success in terms of relationship building. The post inspired several Ohioans to shoot back with suggested additions, thus expanding Bloom’s realm of contacts and sources. (She had enough to fill a second post, actually.) It also earned a mention on the Ohio Department of Education’s official weekly newsletter, putting the project on the radar of several new readers and listeners in our core communities.

Molly says she didn’t come up with the idea on her own.

“It was inspired partly by a post Kyle Stokes [of StateImpact Indiana] did earlier this year and partly by the fact that I felt like I was seeing more and more Ohio teachers, principals, et cetera on Twitter,” she tells us. “It seemed like a good time to tap into that.”

We look forward to hearing more from Ms. Bloom and other Twitter superstars this week during our upcoming StateImpact Twitter webinar. Be sure to mark your calendars and call in from 2 to 3 EST this Friday, November 30. Reporters and news directors, check your inbox for more details. And if anyone else is interested in joining us, please drop us a line.  Continue reading

Network News: November 12 – 18

On Air Highlights: Sarah Sits Down with Jeb Bush

Kudos to StateImpact Florida‘s Sarah Gonzalez on snagging an interview last week with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, an avid promoter of education reform.

Sarah Gonzalez, of StateImpact Florida, with Jeb Bush, education reformer and former Florida governor.

Sarah went into the meeting well-prepared and ready to asked tough questions–and it showed. Not only does her interview make for great radio, but Bush took note. After the interview, he called her and fellow reporter John O’Connor (who interviewed him earlier this year) “among the most informed education reporters to ever interview him,” she wrote.

“And we got it on tape!”

Part one of the interview aired today. Look for the second installment next week.

Last Week’s Reader Faves

Most visited stories last week, in raw numbers:

  1. Texas: Keystone XL Pipeline
  2. Florida: Researcher: Florida District Schools Outperform Charter Schools On Average
  3. Pennsylvania: Fracking
  4. Indiana: Can Glenda Ritz Work With A New, Pence-Appointed State Board?
  5. Ohio: HB 555: What the New Ohio School Report Cards Could Look Like

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Network News: November 5 – 11

Oklahoma’s Crowdsourced Election Coverage

Last week, we raved about your election coverage. Hope we didn’t embarrass you. We couldn’t help

Logan Layden and Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma.

ourselves. You played to your niches, focused on down-ballot state election questions and provided your audiences with information they were hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Your content was shared more widely on social media networks than anything else we’ve seen since StateImpact was born. It was awesome.

This week, Oklahoma closed the loop and incorporated some of that social media buzz into their reporting.

“We put question out there on Twitter and Facebook, asking how people voted,” reporter Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma, explained. They got many responses, including one particularly lengthy comment that that they thought illustrated an important point about a particular ballot measure. They used it as the basis for a blog post exploring why that ballot question ultimately failed.

Wertz’ reporting partner, Logan Layden, doesn’t usually play the Twitter game, but even he was inspired.

“It is great to see people respond to the work that you do,” he told us. “It makes you feel like it is worthwhile. And maybe by using this woman’s comment in a post, it will encourage more comments.”

“I’m gonna be playing the Twitter game a lot more often from now on,” he said.

Music to our ears.

Last Week’s Reader Faves

Most visited stories last week, in raw numbers:

  1. IdahoPropositions 1 2 3
  2. IndianaWhat Glenda Ritz’s Victory Over Tony Bennett Means For Indiana Schools Continue reading

Network News: October 29 – November 4

StateImpact Election Coverage Shoots And Scores

We saw our web traffic grow by more than 50 percent over the past month. That’s right: 50 percent. And a lot of that was because readers liked it and shared it with their friends. A whopping 64 percent more traffic came through social media in October than September–or just about any other month since our founding.

This can be attributed in part to interest in the election, yes. But it is also due in no small part to our reporters’ ability to keep their coverage tightly focused on state election questions.

Our strategy going into the election was to let NPR and others focus on the presidential race while we played to our niches. We set out to own selected down-ballot races. Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho and New Hampshire covered several key ballot measures; Ohio tackled state school board races and school levies; and Indiana focused on their state school superintendent race.

We followed the races closely tied to our beats and analyzed their implications. We set up explanatory topic pages related to each race or ballot measure. And we took care to make those pages SEO-friendly. Last week, as voters got Googling for information on their state-level races, it was these side-door topic pages where they found what they were looking for.  (See below for the week’s top traffic draws.)

The headline for this week is that we have largely succeeded in our goal to be the clearest source of information for state voters on these low-profile but important policy questions. For those who still haven’t made up their minds on the marquee races, there’s no shortage of places for them to go to educate themselves. But when it comes to SQ 766 in Oklahoma or Ohio’s District 5 State Board of Education race, we are it. We talk a lot about StateImpact “filing the void” that vanishing local outlets are leaving behind. That’s exactly what we are doing–and doing extremely well–with our election coverage. Nice job, folks! Continue reading

Network News: October 22-28

Adapting to a Sideways World

Analytics show that more and more readers are coming to our content sideways, increasingly through social media.

What does this mean?

It is time to be smarter about how we go about engaging with our core communities. To that end, we held an all-team teleconference last week to to discuss strategies for engaging our audiences and managing our workflow. We’ll be rolling out a series of trainings and webinars, starting next week, to help us develop and refine these techniques by:

  1. Defining our core communities.
  2. Learning more about how they get their news.
  3. Adjusting how we engage, and
  4. Adapting our workflow.

In the meantime, though, here are some things to start thinking about:

Remember that engaging with your core communities requires using multiple platforms and using a multi-directional approach.

  • Where do your core communities get news about your beat? Ask around when meeting with a source or influencer. Are there listservs you should be aware of? Twitter chats? Facebook groups? Maximize every interaction to make sure that we are getting plugged into the right networks.
  • If you aren’t doing it already, use social media for more than just content distribution. Share others’ good work. Cultivate sources. Report in real time with facts, quotes and images. Engage in and start conversations. You’ll be surprised how much it can help inform and enrich your efforts–and broaden your reach.

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Network News: October 15-21

A Go-To Source For State Election Explainers

We were thrilled to see a 30 percent spike in search traffic this week, compared to the week prior, thanks in large part to your clear, explanatory coverage of state-level elections and ballot measures. You have the appreciation of voters looking for a quick guide to the issues so that they can make intelligent decisions. To your team in DC, you are a source of pride and infinite joy.

As we inch closer to the elections (almost!), this type of coverage will only increase in value. So, be sure to keep your election explainers and accompanying coverage searchable by:

  1. Putting key search terms into topic pages and titles — not just in your tags.
  2. Edit the url before you publish to make sure that the key terms — including the name or number of the measure — in your url.
  3. Be sure to include an excerpt that lets searchers know why they should click on your link.

Continue reading