Veteran journalist to lead EdSourceFreedberg hiring suggests new directions
Signaling a desire for a higher profile, new directions, and an interest in reaching a larger audience, the board of directors of the research and policy organization EdSource has hired veteran California journalist Louis Freedberg as its new executive director.
Freedberg is the senior education reporter at California Watch, the foundation-funded online investigative reporting news site and blog that he co-founded. He has written extensively about education policy in that job and at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a columnist, education reporter, Washington correspondent, and editorial writer for more than a decade.
What stood out was Freedberg’s experience in building media partnerships at California Watch and at the California Media Collaborative, which he also founded, and in using new social media tools to expand impact, said Carl Cohn, a state Board of Education member and retired school superintendent who is EdSource’s board president. But what also impressed the board was Freedberg’s knowledge of immigration, criminal justice, health care, and other influences that have an impact on education. “I was very intrigued by his vast knowledge of other critical issues” that have been overlooked in recent years, Cohn said. “We should be having these discussions.”
“I’ve been thinking for a long time about how to reach Californians, to see what mobilizes people and readers,” said Freedberg. “One of the challenges is to show how issues affect them. With education financing and other aspects of education policy, so much has been at a high level of abstraction. We need to be smart in getting information to policy makers and the public” through interactive tools and collaborations beyond a single website.
Both Freedberg and Cohn said that EdSource will continue to do impartial, nonpartisan, unbiased research, its hallmark. But they also anticipate that EdSource will want to present reports and information that Freedberg described as “more aligned with the decision-making cycles in Sacramento so that it can have an impact on the debate.”
And when it reaches research-based recommendations, as it did in recent middle school studies, then it should make the case for them, Cohn said. “EdSource has the historical mission of not being an advocacy organization, but could it be edgier?”
“In my work as journalist, I relied on EdSource,” Freedberg said. “It has been invaluable to me. But how media presents information is also important now.”
Located in Mountain View, EdSource has about a dozen employees and has produced an impressive amount of research on education financing, charter schools, Common Core, STEM issues, and, more recently, community colleges. Its board is a cross section of Sacramento insiders (John Mockler; Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education; and Ken Hall, founder of School Services of California), Ed Coalition representatives and ed reformers (charter school funder Reed Hastings and Don Shalvey, vice president of the Gates Foundation). It is funded by the Hewlett, Irvine, Stuart, and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. foundations, Hastings, and the California Teachers Association.
Freedberg, who has a PhD in cultural anthropology from UC Berkeley, replaces Trish Williams, who’s retiring after running EdSource for the past 19 years. Williams, whom Gov. Jerry Brown has nominated to the State Board of Education, was the project lead in EdSource’s recent extensive middle school study. Freedberg starts his new job July 5.