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One reporter’s journey: Thank you for supporting EducationNC

I joined EdNC as a reporting fellow in the summer following my graduation from UNC Chapel Hill’s journalism school. I could never have known then what a year and a half of working at EdNC would mean to me, personally or professionally.

I never anticipated the way we would think and rethink what it means to be a sustainable and innovative organization. As a small but growing nonprofit funded through donations and grants, we wrestle with hard questions about the values of journalism. What does independence mean and why does it matter? How can I be transparent about our work? How can I establish EdNC’s journalism as an objective, reliable source of information? I’m grateful for the ability to ask these questions and the way our team works together to try and answer them.

I also never imagined the new ways we would use policy research from the NC Center for Public Policy Research to strengthen our work. Or the creative and cutting-edge ways we would source stories and engage people through our Reach NC Voices initiative.

Our mission is to inform, but to achieve that goal, we must be attentive to the communities we serve. Your investment in our work is critical to that work.

I remember driving to Edgecombe County after Hurricane Matthew when I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get around without a boat. I spent the day with a family who had just lost their home to flooding. The story did not end that day — for the community or for my coverage.

A philanthropist saw these images from the flood and donated enough money to EdNC to allow me to return to Edgecombe County throughout the school year.

I chronicled our legislature’s response to the flood, the district’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity, and the community’s journey as it led families and children through a process of physical and emotional recovery. Because of my coverage, the Education Writers Association granted me the opportunity to have a nationally recognized education writer as a mentor in the “New to the Beat” fellowship program.

As a new reporter, I did not have all the answers. But thanks to generous support, I had the ability to stay with the story and to follow the advice of EdNC’s CEO Mebane Rash to “just go do your thing and great things will happen.”

“Doing my thing” even when it was outside of my comfort zone did lead to some of my most rewarding work. Families and community members opened up to me, and I chronicled their challenges in this video: 

I returned to Edgecombe County last week to witness students receiving gifts from the NC Foundation for Public School Children and the presentation of $10,000 to help Princeville rebuild. The value of our daily work really hit home when the Foundation’s director told me it was through our reporting that she knew of the ongoing struggles of the community.

Good journalism matters. Thoughtful policy research matters. Reaching new voices matters. Connecting communities matters. Please consider supporting our work through a tax-deductible gift.
 
Your generosity will allow me to continue to report on our students, schools, and state every day. Thank you and happy holidays!

Liz

P.S. One of the other exciting events this year was our Mountains to Coast bike journey. We met students and parents across the state. It almost wore me out! 

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.