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Los Angeles Times Launches Expanded Education Coverage

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[UPDATED 11:54 a.m., with more details.]

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday launched a project "rededicating itself to coverage of teaching and learning," as the newspaper's publisher put it.

"Education, it has been said, is the soul of society, and few institutions embody our hopes and dreams as much as our public schools," Austin Beutner, who is also the chief executive officer of the paper, said in a letter to readers. "Our goal is to provide an ongoing, wide-ranging report card on K-12 education in Los Angeles, California and the nation."

The effort is called Education Matters, and Beutner said it will involve an expanded team of reporters and a fresh approach to education coverage.

The project is being spearheaded by Beutner and S. Mitra Kalita, the managing editor for editorial strategy at the Times and a former reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal. 

"We will write, photograph, film and tweet accessibly and authoritatively, from locker-lined hallways of schools to the corridors of Sacramento to parent forums in coffee shops," Beutner and Kalita said in an internal letter. "In coming days, [we] will roll out interactive features and databases on topics including test scores and vaccination rates. Much of our work will be translated into Spanish, posted on our site and printed in our sister publication, Hoy."

The Times lured education reporter Joy Resmovits from the Huffington Post to be the new editor and reporter for Education Matters. 

I had asked Kalita about whether the initiative was meant to boost the Times' coverage of national education policy, and she told me via email today that "the question about national issues is a good one. We have the country's second largest school district in LA. So I am not too worried about our good work resonating widely. Much of Joy and the rest of the team's work is through the lens of California but it is impossible to tell that story without being cognizant of what's happening in Beijing or New York City, Puebla or New Orleans."

The paper has made two other hires for the project so far: Sonali Kohli, an education reporter with experience in data-driven projects; and Daniela Gerson, who as community engagement manager will be responsible for HS Insider, a digital platform launched by the Times for high school journalists.

Beutner said in his letter that the initiative is being supported by the California Endowment, the Wasserman Foundation and the Baxter Family Foundation. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles also are supporting the project, he said, with grants from the Broad Foundation.

The Education Matters page on the Times' website gathers a range of coverage, much of it stuff that was obviously being done irrespective of the new initiative. With Tuesday being the opening of school for the Los Angeles Unified School District, that day's Times includes a number of back-to-school news stories, plus an op-ed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"In the coming months, we will convene public forums to address topics such as education policy, saving for college, and talking to your child's teacher," Beutner says. "We intend these conversations to be both thoughtful and practical."

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