2023 Beat Reporting (Education-Only Outlets) Winner

Linda Jacobson, The 74

About the Winner:

Veteran education journalist Linda Jacobson tackled some of the toughest assignments on the beat with characteristic nuance, doggedness and skill. From deadline writing to investigative projects, her work employed unique angles and showed consistent ambition. 

Linda put her ability to ferret out even the most elusive sources to good use in an often-unforgiving arena: the culture wars. Breaking through the noise that often surrounds such stories, she explored a deeper question: how Ryan Walters, a much-beloved, former small-town history teacher, quickly rose to become the most powerful school leader in Oklahoma. 

The article included many details — about his Christian education, for example, and the battles over inclusion at the high school where he taught — that had never been previously reported. The story was read by over 150,000 people, led the website Smart News and was republished by three Oklahoma news outlets, including its largest, The Oklahoman.

Comments From the Judges:

“A very strong submission. The submission contained thoroughly reported watchdog and enterprise work. I loved the story about ESA spending for items, such as a chicken coop for a science lesson, trampolines and horseback riding lessons. The piece about Oklahoma’s superintendent was well-told and balanced.”

“Great reporting and writing. Really interesting stories.The Zoom return for a new reason surprised as did the Oklahoma educator turned conservative [activist].”

Photo credits: Courtesy of Arkeria Wright; Memphis-Shelby County Schools/Facebook