The Education Writers Association (EWA) is a nonprofit, professional organization of journalists and other writers who cover education. Established in 1947, today EWA has more than 3,000 members who participate in programs and services designed to improve their journalistic skills and their knowledge of the sector.
Leaders of the EWA Board of Directors and staff undertook a strategic planning process in Fall 2015 for a number of reasons, including:
- Their existing, high-level plan had run its course.
- They wanted to ensure that EWA remains relevant for its members, responds to the broadening universe of education news writers, and sustains its financial and organizational health.
- They wanted to clarify who they serve, how they can better serve their key constituencies and how to keep the organization healthy and relevant.
- They saw opportunities to better serve EWA members and the public at large.
- They were excited about working closely together to develop a new plan to address the dramatic shifts in EWA’s operating environment.
During the planning process, EWA’s Board defined a new vision, mission and set of values for the organization. These foundational elements focus on the ability of effective education journalism to help improve education and create a more informed and participatory society. EWA’s new five-year goals build on the success of current core programs and focus on deepening members’ engagement, advocating for more education journalism, and diversifying income streams.
Together, these goals will enable EWA to advance its mission to “strengthen the community of education writers and improve the quality of education coverage to better inform the public.”
Environment and Context
The planning process was informed by stakeholder interviews and surveys, trend analysis, and the State of the Education Beat (SOTB) report released in May 2016. Key information from those sources that underpin the new strategic plan include:
- Stakeholders think EWA is doing an excellent job achieving its mission, delivering high-quality programs, impacting the field, and employing strong, talented staff.
- EWA is well regarded for its success in creating a community. Stakeholders often cite EWA’s convening function and its strong network of education journalists as a key strength.
- EWA’s membership has grown exponentially since 2010.
- EWA has a solid financial cushion, with increasing net assets. It is well supported by an increasingly diverse funder base.
- The changing media landscape represents a top challenge for EWA and its members.
- Stakeholders believe the lack of investment in mainstream education journalism and the rise of the individual and the think tank journalist has led to a need to redefine/broaden EWA’s constituency. The most common future opportunities discussed by stakeholders were expanding and diversifying the membership.
- Young education journalists are confident about the field. SOTB reported that 79 percent of respondents say education is a career path they are committed to pursuing. Millennial education journalists have substantially higher confidence levels than their older peers, a finding that bodes well for the future of the field and the future of EWA.
- Education-focused news staffs are largely holding steady. SOTB revealed a mixed picture when it comes to the size of news staffs in education-focused outlets. Although 32 percent of respondents said their education news staffs had declined over the past two years, 27 percent report growth and 41 percent say the size didn’t change. Education-focused news outlets were more likely to indicate growth than general-interest media.
Setting Direction, 2016 and Beyond
Using the operating environment and current state as its guide, the Board established a fresh vision, an updated mission, and set of organizational values for EWA.
EWA’s long-term vision is shaped by its collective belief that:
- Excellent education journalism creates more informed citizens and leaders;
- Informed citizens and leaders make better decisions about our country’s education system;
- Better decisions lead to improved student outcomes and a more inclusive, informed, participatory society.
EWA believes high-quality education journalism plays a key role in helping to improve education. Excellence in education journalism relies on strengthening the knowledge and skills of education writers, supporting them in their work, and raising the prominence of the education beat.
High-quality journalism creates a more informed and participatory public, which strengthens education for all.
EWA’s mission is to strengthen the community of education writers and improve the quality of education coverage to better inform the public.
- EWA helps our members create the highest-quality coverage. This focus on quality is essential for the work to result in greater awareness and a more participatory public.
- EWA builds community by fostering connections among professionals covering education and encourages them to learn together, share different perspectives, and maintain the highest standards of journalism.
- EWA believes strongly in upholding professionalism in education journalism. This includes being fair, accurate, transparent, and independent in covering education issues.
- EWA embraces and advocates for a diversity of education writers, a diversity of issues, and a diversity of perspectives. We continue to strive to serve an increasingly diverse and broad range of education content generators.
Strategic Plan Overview
The Future: Ten Years Out
To launch the planning process, EWA Board members engaged in a creative visioning exercise in which they described the impact EWA could have by 2025. Ten years from now, they envisioned EWA as helping to inform a critical mass of high-quality journalism that acted as an “engine of improvement” for education. Journalism produced by EWA members was having a significant effect on the public because they were equipped with strong skills and a comprehensive body of information. Education decision-makers were more knowledgeable because they were armed with better data and information. Journalism influenced by EWA’s programs was setting the national agenda. EWA was playing a role in increasing equity and inclusion. Its awards were highly sought after. Board members were excited by the idea that EWA’s programs and members could not only help define the future of education journalism but also help improve education across the nation.
The Next Five Years: 2017 – 2021 Strategic Goals for EWA
The board and staff identified the following four strategic goals to move the organization toward the desired impacts envisioned by 2025. The goals are aligned with the new vision and mission statements, and informed by current internal and external conditions.
Over the next five years, EWA will:
- Increase the skills and knowledge of members to cover the education beat effectively.
- Attract new members and deepen membership engagement among key segments of education news content producers.
- Advocate for the importance of education journalism and increase the prominence and visibility of effective, high-quality coverage.
- Ensure organizational and financial health to sustain programs.