Allison Kowalski of Education Writers Association interviewed Wall Street Journal education bureau chief Chastity Pratt about her job.
Here is an excerpt:
I was talking to another EWA member about this, and they referenced how often education reporters write to the audience of adults. The reality is, obviously, third graders are not going to be reading The Wall Street Journal, but there are going to be younger people who are looking to see themselves reflected in coverage or as a historical record, and it’s important for reporters to understand that context of: Not all young people are going to see themselves as having these awful, fated futures because of this.
Sort of to that point, but sort of tangential, it helps that I am not a Wall Street Journal lifer. I’m bringing new eyes, new perspectives to the newsroom. All newsrooms have a culture and way of doing things. And when I come into that newsroom, I’ve not been steeped in that culture. I say, hey, how about this? Have you ever thought about that? Do this story differently. To give you an example, I’m probably one of the only African American managers on my desk. I don’t know everybody, but I think there might be three of us out of, like, a billion. But, you know, I bring those perspectives from poverty in Detroit. And that means that our coverage reflects that.
Last week, we did an audio story where we had high school kids in New York City talking about what it’s like inside the schools now that schools just reopened. We heard their actual voices, and the emotion is different from a regular print story. And I thought that it was important for people to hear from the kids, not just see the pictures or read, but to actually hear in their voice what they’re going through.
And these were Black kids, brown kids, white kids, all the spectrum of children, young adults, actually, in New York talking about school. I’m not sure that story would have been done that way if I weren’t there to say, look, let’s do it this way, right? One of the most-read news stories of the week was about anti-racism. The gist of it was the racial reckoning has come to school. Would that story have happened if I hadn’t worked there? Maybe, but I really, really pushed hard for it. We’re doing a lot of different topics. The Journal has not always been a place that would take on these tough racial topics. It’s a business paper. People don’t look at the Journal as a place for social discourse. But now that these issues are at the forefront, the Journal recognizes that we have to cover them — cover them in a Wall Street Journal quality, data-driven [way]. So we’re starting to do that. And I’m pushing as much as I can for that.
Read more here.