At the Intersection of Education and Journalism

By Deaamandamclarenatpostn’s Intern Amanda McLaren at The Washington Post

I was in a position I had found myself many times before: escaping the heat and humidity of a steamy New Orleans day with ice coffee and air conditioning, buried in papers and page views.

But, this time, instead of spending hours at a local coffee shop preparing lesson plans or grading tests, I found myself making dozens of phone calls to district courts across the South, each time beginning by saying, “Hi, my name is Mandy, and I’m from the Washington Post.”

To say the experience was surreal is an understatement.

As a Dean’s Intern at The Washington Post this semester, I’ve worked closely with the paper’s national education reporter on a long-term, investigative project about federal school desegregation cases dating back to the civil rights era.  But, before beginning AU’s graduate journalism program, I spent the past seven years as a teacher and administrator in New Orleans public schools.

Back in town last month for a friend’s wedding, I arranged to complete my internship hours remotely, and as I sat at that coffee shop just a mile away from where I used to teach, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between my reporting assignment and the experiences of my former students. New Orleans public schools, now entirely charter-run, do not reflect the diversity of the city itself. In fact, according to the Louisiana Department of Education, African American students made up nearly 90 percent of the city’s public school enrollment during the 2014-2015 school year.

As I continue my work at The Post, I’ve found that my previous experience has been beneficial to my understanding of school segregation and all its implications, and I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to investigate something I care so deeply about.