A prominent national education news and commentary website is taking control of a respected local site that covers the nation’s second-largest school district.
The deal involves The 74, the national education news and commentary site co-founded last year by former TV journalist Campbell Brown, and the LA School Report, a three-year-old site that closely covers the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“All of us at The 74 and LA School Report firmly believe there is a real opportunity to expand coverage throughout Los Angeles and the West Coast and put an even greater spotlight on the system,” Brown said in a statement on both sites. “We will bring the same kind of aggressive and substantive coverage that has defined our reporting since we launched to an even greater audience.”
Jamie Alter Lynton, the founder of LA School Report and herself a former TV reporter, said on her site that “with The 74 roster of smart, veteran journalists, we are ready to expand our reach and deepen our coverage.”
Lynton, who couldn’t be reached for comment, told the Los Angeles Times that she had little choice but to find a partner if the School Report was to survive. Until now, she has put up the money herself, she said. The Times said no money was changing hands in the deal. Lynton will join the board of The 74 as part of the deal.
Both sites announced that Laura Greanias, a journalist who has worked at the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News, will become the new executive editor of LA School Report and the West Coast bureau chief of The 74.
Greanias wrote on the LA School Report site that in her most recent job, as city editor of the Daily News, “I found myself turning often to LA School Report for its news updates, analysis and commentary. I read as an editor, wanting to stay on top of the LA school beat; I read as a mother of two boys enrolled in both traditional and charter public schools.”
The hiring of Greanias led LA School Report managing editor Michael Janofsky to step down, the Times said.
The 74, based in New York City, has brought something of an ideological bent to its coverage in favor of school choice and charter schools and skepticism of teachers’ unions. It is backed by philanthropies that have supported charter schools and what some have called corporate-style education reform, including the Walton Family Foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. (The Walton Family Foundation supports coverage of parental involvement in Education Week and on edweek.org.)
Brown, a former CNN anchorwoman, has independently been an activist against teacher tenure in New York state, leading to criticism of The 74 from teachers’ unions and others.
The 74 has focused attention on education as an issue in the presidential campaign, holding candidate forums in which several Republicans have appeared, while the Democratic candidates have declined the opportunity.
Lynton, in her post about the partnership, says she has been motivated to offer stronger education journalism “because the Los Angeles public school system—which ranks among the worst in the country—is profoundly failing the vast majority of students, especially those who are not white and middle class. At the same time the district’s sheer size and diversity make it a national player. If this district can turn itself around, the whole country will benefit.”
The L.A. Times report quoted Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, criticizing the deal and raising questions about what it will mean for a controversial plan to boost charter schools in Los Angeles.
The 74 and the LA School Report are part of a national trend of education news websites in the past three years, which I reported on for Education Week last year.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.