Higher education reporter
The Role

The higher education reporter is a critical part of the newsroom's beat reporting team, which includes reporters focused on government, health, and economics. As the inaugural reporter on this beat, they will have the exciting opportunity to shape a beat that reflect community interests while producing daily scoops and new stories and ambitious features and accountability projects.

As the higher education reporter, you will tell the story of Indianapolis colleges and universities, prioritizing the issues the Indianapolis residents and students care most about. Your reporting will explore the impact of these institutions on local communities and development, and service journalism to help students and parents make crucial decisions. Higher education is central to economic opportunity and social mobility in Indianapolis. It’s a dynamic and diverse environment in which to cover this beat.

The higher education reporter job at the Initiative is made possible through a partnership with Open Campus, a national nonprofit news organization that‘s creating a network of local reporters dedicated to covering higher education. The reporter on this beat will have the opportunity to collaborate with editors with higher education expertise, and to work alongside a cohort of higher education reporters at local news outlets across the country.

The Newsroom
The decision to launch this yet-to-be-named Indianapolis newsroom followed an information needs assessment conducted by the American Journalism Project, which found that many Indiana residents do not feel they have adequate, relevant, and accessible information about their communities and the decisions that impact their daily lives.
The innovative 25-person Indianapolis news organization will fill these critical gaps by hiring experienced journalists with deep ties to Indianapolis communities, reporting on the local issues that residents care most about, including government, housing, jobs, education, health, and local arts and culture, with the highest standards of editorial integrity and independence, and distributed over a variety of platforms designed to broaden storytelling formats and engage a wide range of audiences.
The new organization’s top priority will be to earn the trust of the communities it serves through two-way relationships and an innovative community-led reporting model; these efforts will augment newsroom coverage and aid in story development. It will feature a community bureau, staffed by people experienced in journalism and community engagement, who will recruit, train, pay, and mentor residents to collaborate on gathering information for their communities. These community reporting efforts will help drive newsroom coverage, aid in story development, and hold the newsroom accountable for being responsive to community needs.
The newsroom will also provide information without barriers. Coverage will be distributed across multiple formats and platforms, without paywalls or subscription requirements, to broaden storytelling formats and engage a wide range of audiences, no matter their literacy level, language or Internet access.

Responsibilities & Priorities
  • Produce a steady stream of daily accountability reporting on higher education. Proactively identify high-impact stories that include investigations but also highlight solutions, actionable information and neighborhood-level trends.
  • Cover key stories relentlessly, regardless of whether news cycles have passed.
  • Produce a range of short- and long-term stories, and be willing to work in alternative story formats (including briefs, oral histories, slide shows, video reels) that will increase reach and accessibility to information.
  • Explain the public policies and political trends driving higher education policy, with a focus on the implications for Indianapolis residents.
  • Follow leads from Indianapolis residents and be responsive to their questions and inquiries, prioritizing their needs in story development.
  • Build and maintain relationships with key administrators, leaders, and other stakeholders  to stay informed about and receive tips on newsworthy events and trends.
  • Working with the editor, ensure beat priorities reflect community information needs and include diverse perspectives in the reporting.
  • Work with the Indy Documenters assignment editor to identify relevant public meetings or make other assignments that can help with reporting.
  • Have an urgency to be responsive to community information needs; and an ability to be first on breaking news.
  • Ability to connect with students and their families outside the classroom.
  • Ability to transition seamlessly from accountability journalism to writing features about higher ed.
  • Experience covering higher ed is a big plus, but not required. However, we’d like
  • to see a track record of building a beat and producing enterprise journalism
  • focused on accountability and elevating people’s stories.
  • Experience working with data is preferred but not required.
  • A dedication to broader team goals is a must.

You’re a good fit if you have some of these skill sets:

  • Demonstrated commitment to local, public service journalism
  • Strong understanding and knowledge of Indianapolis neighborhoods and communities and respect for the knowledge community members can bring to the newsroom
  • An ability to be a supportive part of a team of reporters
  • 2+ years reporting experience in local newsrooms
  • Stellar news judgment and editorial skills
  • Strong communication and writing skills
  • Experience telling stories on multiple platforms using audio, social media and/or video
  • Ability to work under deadline and prioritize work
  • Flexible and entrepreneurial spirit—you can thrive in a startup environment where you are expected to learn as you go and think outside the box
  • Ability to work evenings as needed
  • Interpersonal/communications skills - willing to negotiate and talk through issues in an honest and clear manner
  • Ability to maintain confidence when working with sensitive information
  • Ability to interact effectively with a diverse group of individuals internal and external to the newsroom
  • Team player - help others and is supportive
Compensation and Benefits
  • Full time role with benefits
  • Salary minimum: Starting $55,000, commensurate with experience

We’re committed to building an inclusive organization that represents the people and communities we serve. We encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, veterans, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities. The Indiana Local News Initiative is dedicated to equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. We encourage people of all races, colors, national origins, ancestries, creeds, religions, genders, ages, disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientations, and marital statuses to apply.

What to expect in the hiring process
We hope to fill this role as soon as possible, though the hiring process can typically take from a few weeks to a few months. We will do our best to communicate with you about timing expectations throughout the process.Candidates who advance to later rounds of this process can expect several interviews, including with a panel of community members. Semi-finalists will be asked to complete a written assignment designed to help us understand your thinking and approach to the role, and you will be offered an optional prep session to ask any questions that will help you put your best foot forward in this process. We aim to truly get to know you, to help you fully understand the role you’re applying for.

Apply using the form below