May 16 — 11:19 am, 2012

Reflections from my year inside the Notebook

As a 2007 graduate of Philadelphia public schools and a fan of the Notebook, I was interested in knowing how this newspaper operated. I have been lucky to get an inside view.When I was accepted to be part of a one-year fellowship program offered through Haverford College, I was able to pick from a variety of nonprofit organizations and chose to apply at the Notebook. What I thought would be your typical job interview ended up being an hour-long discussion about the state of the Philadelphia public school system.

I walked out feeling like I had to be a part of the Notebook. Luckily I was chosen and started work in July 2011 as the outreach associate.    

From the moment I took my place on staff, I began to bear witness to this machine of nonprofit journalism. In fact, on my first day at the Notebook, a huge story on the statewide PSSA cheating scandal was published.  It was an unfortunate reminder for me about the state of Philadelphia public schools but also a realistic look at where things stood. 

It turned out to be quite a year. I witnessed more major news, like the exit of the controversial former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. When layoffs came down, many school staff were in the dark about whether they would have a job – many turned to the Notebook in the hopes of getting the information the District was not giving them.

Whether it was school closings, a superintendent buyout, or shakeup on the School Reform Commission, the Notebook covered it all, and I was a part of the team responsible for bringing it together for our readers.

Recently, I’ve had a front row seat to the Notebook‘s extensive coverage of the District’s transformation blueprint, which stands to dramatically alter the public school system. Tens of thousands of visitors have gone to to make sense of the changes at the District, and there’s been passionate dialogue on the blog.

One much needed resource I’ve been glad to contribute to is the Notebook‘s comprehensive guide to high schools – it’s where parents, guidance counselors, and students turn when they are preparing to navigate that selection process. As part of my job, I distributed the guide to targeted sites and at events around the city.

From all those conversations, I learned that many readers don’t know that the Notebook is a nonprofit organization, dependent on contributions for its survival. Things like the fall guide or the coverage of layoffs are all funded by donations from supporters who value this work – and by a handful of foundations. Advertising income covers only a small percentage of the Notebook‘s budget.

If the Notebook disappeared tomorrow, many people would feel the loss of a newspaper and website that provides information and a voice to those working to sustain public education. The Notebook is here to ask the tough questions you want answered. As we face more massive changes to the District, the Notebook is essential to keep parents, educators, and students up to date. 

I urge you all as readers to become members and contribute to the work of the Notebook so that this organization will be around for years to come. 

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