There Are No Simple Lessons About New Orleans Charter Schools After Katrina. Here’s How I Learned That.
In the field of journalism, “shoe-leather reporting” refers to on-the-ground reporting: stories that emanate from homes, streets, schools, corner stores, and casual conversations. “Parachute journalism,” by contrast, occurs when a reporter relatively unfamiliar to a place or issue swoops in for a story—sometimes with the speed and detachment of a military operation.
Both approaches have their time and place and merits. And they are not necessarily mutually exclusive: Great journalism has been done by those who parachute in to a community, and then literally wear out their shoes. (Amy Waldman’s thoughtful, comprehensive Atlantic piece on New Orleans schools comes to mind.) But there’s something distinctive about the story of New Orleans 10 years after Katrina—and by extension the story of the schools there—that to my mind calls for a hyperdose of locally based, shoe-leather reporting, coming from those who’ve tramped across the city time and again.