DENVER, COLORADO — Education News Colorado is an online-only news site devoted exclusively to in-depth coverage of Colorado state education news and policy. The site began operating in its present form in 2008, but can trace its roots back to Headfirst Colorado, a state-wide quarterly print magazine that, until current EdNews publisher Alan Gottlieb came aboard in 2006, would have been more accurately described as a policy journal than a journalistic entity. When he arrived as editor, Gottlieb began to steer the publication more towards original reporting. Headfirst was reorganized into an online-only publication in 2007; the savings from the move were used in part to sustain funding for a full-time position for Gottlieb as editor.
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Headfirst was rebranded as Education News Colorado in 2008, around the same time that the site began sending journalists to report on education issues in the state legislature. When the Rocky Mountain News folded in 2009, Gottlieb hired Nancy Mitchell, the Rocky’s education writer. It wasn’t until Mitchell’s hiring that EdNews became a full-blown news site with new content added almost every day. (Mitchell is the site’s news editor.)
EdNews covers the state policymaking apparatus in granular detail. Todd Engdahl, the site’s capitol editor, reports from the state capitol full-time during the legislative session, which runs from January to May each year. He follows all education related bills from conception to grave, or passage, and also reports on the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
“No one else provides this kind of coverage,” Gottlieb says. “Just the fact that someone is watching and reporting on this stuff has an impact.”
The website attracts about 24,000 monthly readers, and an average of 1500 - 2200 readers visit every day. Though Gottlieb’s duties are primarily those of a publisher and include fundraising and business development, he also edits the site’s opinion section. This section gets submissions from teachers, policymakers, and doctoral students; Gottlieb calls it “the only place people from different ideological perspectives come together to debate education issues.”
The vast majority of the content featured on EdNews is original, with only a few aggregated national stories included in the ‘Daily Churn’ section of the site. Gottlieb thinks of his audience as existing in concentric circles, where the inner circle is made up of “hardcore” readers who live and breath education policy, the next circle is teachers and principals, and the outer circle is parents and other readers who visit the site periodically to bring themselves up to date on the latest policy issues.
EdNews has gotten into the data journalism game in a big way. The site’s Data Center, which features interactive tools such as a database for individual school’s drug offense histories, provides extensive information for parents and hardcore policy types alike. Gottlieb says that stories linked to the Data Center are by far the most popular on the site.
Funding for EdNews is provided through Colorado-based foundations including the Piton Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, the Daniels Fund, and the Colorado Health Foundation, with additional support provided by national entities the Carson Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Given the relatively small size of the website, Gottlieb feels that online ad revenue isn’t a viable option, but hopes that corporate sponsorships might soon provide the site with a new income stream.
“We will always be a small site, and there will always be the question of whether to broaden our coverage,” Gottlieb says. “But we have made the deliberate decision overtime to be the best at what we do and only cover education news thoroughly…We truly have become the equivalent of the ‘newspaper of record’ on policymaking in Colorado.”
Education News Colorado Data
Name: Education News Colorado
Principal Staff: Alan Gottlieb, publisher; Todd Engdahl, capitol editor; Nancy Mitchell, news editor.
Affiliations: Funding: Piton Foundation; Donnell-Kay Foundation; Daniels Fund; Carson Foundation; Colorado Health Foundation; Walton Family Foundation.
CMS: WordPress 3.04 with the Advanced Newspaper theme from Gabfire.