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Archive for December 4th, 2007

What does an education reporter do over winter break?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I’m about to head into the hardest part of my job as an education reporter so far: winter break.

Now, at first, I thought summer break would be horrid. I was sure I’d never find stories, and I’d be constantly at a loss for things to cover when the schools were out. But it turns out, schools around here are hardly out, and some of the most important work of the year actually occurs over the summer. I did more enterprise over the summer than I could have hoped. It kind of rocked.

Somehow, I don’t think the two weeks stretch of winter break I’m heading into is going to have the same effect.

Today, we got e-mails from our local editor and the projects editor asking for some enterprise ideas. My ed is looking for ideas to see us through the end of the year, including that two week stretch. (We have a daily A1 enterprise list, so that every day at least one more in-depth local story is reported and planned to run out front.) The projects editor wanted ideas for long-term Sunday packages next year. I have a few ideas for projects. For my editor though? I have several ideas, but all of them sort of require people to be around to accomplish. :/ So I can see him through the next two weeks. After that, until at least New Years, I’m really thinking, well, I’m pretty well screwed.

The other reporters also were saying they have nothing coming up for their enterprise list, that “so and so is on vacation,” or “I have no meetings” (which sounds like heaven to me, but I digress). But really, nobody else’s beat entirely shuts down for two weeks.

I asked for some pointers on where I should be looking for these ideas/what I should aim for. One thing to look into is maintenance, what are they doing over break? I know at my school, we always came back to a brightly polished gym floor. I’m also going to talk to some of the technology people, because I remember over spring break they discarded/replaced a ton of “obsolete” computers.

Other than that, I remember graduation rates came out the week I was hired but before I started here. I believe it was either the very end of December or very beginning of January. So that’s a given, and I’m trying to pre-report as much of that as I can swing. And ISTEP results (our standardized tests) are due out in the coming weeks, so possibly something there. But both of those still require people who are hard enough to track down when they aren’t gallivanting (and rightfully so) around on vacation. So there’s that.

I do have a few other non-education stories I’ve been saving. Normally, I’d just forward them on to the features reporter or my editor to assign out. But I figure since I don’t have a ton of education stuff to keep me busy, I can maybe do a few things off my beat for fun.

I also need to check and make sure I don’t have a schools page those weeks. Somehow, I don’t think they’ve thought that through. But I did. And it’ll never happen.

But really, what does an education reporter do over winter break?! Any tips or suggestions?