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    Coffee with a Journalist: Emily Tate, EdSurge

    Our guest on the show today is Emily Tate, a senior reporter for EdSurge. Emily covers early childhood and K-12 education and often writes about workforce issues, social-emotional development, trauma and inclusive school models, among other topics. 

    During the episode, Emily tells us about the reason she saves pitches in her inbox, the autonomy she and her team have at EdSurge, why she is so passionate about telling stories surrounding education, and more.

    Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

    CWJ View Transcription CTA


    Her Work Inbox  

    [00:04:19] BB: Dang! You don't usually hear that. A private company that goes to a nonprofit that the nonprofit consumes. Wow! That's a good overview. I like the pivot you all are making, too. There's quite a lot to delve into with how learning is done and what the future of learning looks like in schools. Now, your inbox Emily, you're mostly focused on early childhood, K through 12. What does your inbox look like as it relates to pitches?

    [00:04:47] ET: At this exact moment, I have eight unread emails. I am an inbox zero persona.

    [00:04:53] BB: Oh, I was going to say. That’s pretty tight.

    “I mean, I think a second ping is appropriate. On a third, I'm like, “Alright.” Fourth and fifth – And then they're like, “This is the last time I'll try you.” It's like, “Yeah, I've seen all four other attempts. Thank you for letting me know you're not going to keep at this.” Sorry.”

    [00:04:56] ET: I am a bit of a control freak type A. So the idea of having dozens, much less hundreds or thousands unread emails, it’s truly something that would keep me up at night. Right now, I have definitely some pitches, but a lot of unread emails that I've kind of just like had sitting there that are about early childhood sources related to policy and just like the care economy that I am waiting to follow up with once we get some movement on this Build Back Better Bill, because that includes so many pieces that relate to early childhood, including the Universal Preschool, and Child Tax Credit, and all those things. But it's been sitting there for weeks, and we have not had a lot of action. That thing keeps stalling.


    Her Thoughts on Pitches

    [00:05:50] BB: Yeah. Does that happen? I haven't heard this often on the show where, okay, there's pitches and that relate to something that is unfortunately dangling in the air. What do you do with those pitches?

    [00:06:01] ET: My strategy is generally to just leave them unread. Or I think, right now, I've told a couple of these people, I am interested, I do want to set up the interview. But let's see what happens. Because right now, I think there's four weeks of paid parental leave in the bill that was passed by the House. But that's very unlikely to make it into a final version. So I don't want to do an interview about that in the ramifications on parents and children in the US if that's not even going to be passed into law. So kind of just like in a holding pattern right now.

    “I will see the underlined or hyperlinked company name. And then just like, ‘No, I don't really want you to promo your publishing product or whatever it is.'"

    [00:07:21] BB: Got it. Okay. Practitioners, mostly in the school, I would imagine, too, in school systems. Okay. Got it. All right. So you have to be held up by government perhaps. That's good. That's good. Emily, for the stories you do do, I'm looking just at your author bio. You have ed tech unicorn you're talking about. You have China's online tutoring industry, childcare staffing crisis. It's quite all encompassing. Where do you get the inspiration for stories? And/or do those ever come from pitches?

    [00:07:53] ET: Okay. So I'll answer the second question first. I would say pitches, I'm not often accepting a pitch. And it’s like, “Yes, I would like to cover that funding announcement.” That doesn't happen that often. Like recently, I'll say, because I have in the last couple of years expanded to cover not only K-12, but also early childhood, I got a pitch about an ed tech company that was expanding from – It's a very well-known global ed tech company that has a huge market in K-12. And they're expanding to launch an early childhood market or an early childhood product. I mean, I wouldn't cover that in itself. But I kind of like, I don't know, jogged my memory that I've seen a lot of that lately. And so I'm thinking are more ed tech companies and education companies expanding into early childhood, and why would that be? And so I've been reporting that for the last few weeks. And we'll have that story out next week. And I think the answer is yes. And so it's more – In that sense, yes, I did accept the pitch. And that pitch helped me come up with that story idea, and shape a more trend related piece. So in that sense, yes.


    How She Writes Stories

    [00:02:51] BB: There you go. There you go. Real quick before we get into your inbox. We're having more and more journalists on that are writing for trade outlets and more specific publications. Give us an overview of what EdSurge specifically focuses on.

    It's a little different with early childhood, because these are like pretty fundamental changes to the field. But otherwise, we're not really dealing with that many people in Washington, except for maybe like an expert level opinion.”

    [00:03:04] ET: Yeah. So EdSurge is a nonprofit newsroom covering national education issues. We’re about 10-years-old, fully digital. And I would say when we started about 10 years ago, we were more focused on the role of technology in education. How it was shaping the future of education, impact on students and educators. Now, that's kind of just diffused throughout all of education. It's a little bit more of something that underpins all of education. And that's obviously been fast forwarded during the pandemic. So we are now covering what we call the future of learning. And that can be a lot of things. That can, yes, be about technology and innovation, but it's a lot about equity. It's a lot about the workforce. It's a lot about the increasing focus on students’ social emotional development. So a little bit more like education broadly. And I should also say we are a nonprofit now, but that's because we were acquired by a nonprofit in late 2019. We were a venture-backed private company for the first eight years or so.

    [00:09:04] ET: And as far as how I come up with other stories. I mean, I think because we are expanding our focus, it's a little bit more – And we're a small team. There's a lot of autonomy in what we pursue for stories. And I think we're not so much the day-in and day-out covering every movement of every education issue. We kind of prefer more explanatory, or analytical, or feature journalism. And so I think the stories that get me really excited are the ones that are like this nexus of education, and equity, and innovation, which sounds super amorphous, I realized.

    But you mentioned the online tutoring stories that I've been doing the last few months. I think that is like one of the perfect examples of an EdSurge story and a story that I'm excited about, because there is this, or was, this massive online tutoring industry where companies in China were contracting with American educators or Americans with any sort of background education to tutor children in China one on one in English language lessons. And that whole industry was kind of propped up by the fact that a lot of American classroom teachers are not taking home enough from their brick and mortar job to be able to pay the bill. So they were looking for something else.

    I mean, there were over 100,000 Americans doing that job. And then the Chinese government over the summer, it passed a double reduction policy, as it's called, that basically forbids American – Foreigners from teaching kids in China in any capacity. So those companies, they folded. It’s pretty wild. Yeah. And it was really –




    Emily has no problem with receiving pitches as long as they’re informative and you get her name right. She meticulously checks her inbox and doesn’t see the need for receiving a follow up, however, you can send her a nudge if the pitch is relevant to what she covers.

    For more exclusive insights about journalists, you can’t find anywhere else, subscribe to the weekly Coffee with a Journalist podcast newsletter. Keep an eye out for our new video series featuring guests from the podcast!

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