Andrew J. Rotherham, a pioneer in education blogging when his Eduwonk site debuted in 2004, is launching a new venture aimed at bringing a fresh approach to daily education journalism.
Real Clear Education, a site he says will offer the best aggregated education news and commentary from existing providers, along with original content, will launch this spring, Rotherham said in an interview this week.
The site will be in partnership with RealClearPolitics.com, a Chicago-based news aggregator that has expanded to about a dozen topical "verticals," or subject areas. The education site, though, will be RealClearPolitics' first partnership with an outside provider.
Rotherham's Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington-based nonprofit education consulting firm, and RealClearPolitics will jointly operate Real Clear Education.
"We think good information flow is important," says Rotherham. "Our goal is that every day there will be a curated set of links, morning and afternoon, offering facts and high-quality, informed opinion."
"If you want more of the regular food fight in education, we're not going to be the site for you," he adds. "When PISA [the international comparison test] comes out, were not going to post six different stories. We're going to figure out who has the most authoritative coverage."
Rotherham, 42, served as a White House domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, and has been a member of the Virginia state board of education. He started Eduwonk in 2004, offering sometimes strong opinions on education policy issues. Meanwhile, he helped start the policy firm Education Sector before leaving in 2010 to start Bellwether Education. He has also been prominent as the education columnist of Time magazine and through his writing in other outlets.
Bellwether does policy analysis and consults with school districts and other organizations, but doesn't lobby or engage in advocacy. In an era of blurring lines between traditional news organizations and other content providers, having a firm such as Bellwether be a key partner in an education news site doesn't seem unusual, though one could imagine pitfalls.
Tom Bevan, the co-founder and executive editor of RealClearPolitics, said in an interview that he doubts there will be any conflicts arising out of having a policy group as partner for the education site.
"We've become pretty comfortable with this shared vision," Bevan says. "I really don't foresee any grand conflicts arising."
That shared vision includes lots of references by both Bevan and Rotherham to concepts such as "intelligent aggregation" and "curation" of the best content out there on the Web.
"We actually go out and read everything and make editorial judgments," Bevan says. "There are no computer algorithms. We have editors, and they spend a lot of time reading articles and finding things the old-fashioned way. That's been the hallmark of our brand on politics and across these other industries."
Those other sites cover markets, defense, technology, energy, religion, and sports, among others.
Rotherham says Real Clear Education (I'm not sure if the words will eventually be scrunched together, but he didn't do so in his printed references to the education site) will start with himself as executive editor and with one dedicated editor. (He's planning to announce the hire shortly.)
The education site will be able to draw on the RealClearPolitics site's resources, such as copy editors. And it plans "original reporting, analysis, and programming," Rotherham promises.
Growth will "depend on how much advertising and sponsorship money we can bring in," Rotherham says. Like the other RealClear sites, the education site will be free to viewers, a contrast with such other upstarts as Politico Pro Education, which charges premium prices for some content.
Without specifying titles, Rotherham says there are plenty of other good education news sites and newsletters he looks at every day, but many of those are geared towards steering readers to their own content.
"No one does it soup to nuts," he says. "If I thought there was someone else doing this, I would put my time into something else."