What do you typically cover?

My beat at the Statesman is education. Here in the Mid-Willamette Valley, that typically means covering PreK-12 schools in Marion and Polk counties, with an emphasis on Salem-Keizer Public Schools, the second-largest district in the state.

I also cover some higher ed institutions — including Western Oregon University, Chemeketa Community College, Willamette University and Corban University — and education-related policy at the Capitol.

What guides your coverage?

I am a watchdog and investigative reporter, so my goal is to hold education leaders accountable for the things they are required to do, as well as the promises they make to help students, educators and families succeed.

I work to ensure my stories are timely and pertinent to as many readers as possible, with an emphasis on issues of inequity. With every subject, I ask, “Who is being left out? Who benefits from this? Who is hurt by it?”

Who are your sources? 

Many of my sources are experts in their respective fields or have lived experience with the topic. I work with state officials, lawmakers, communication directors, teachers, parents or guardians, students, counselors and more.

Sources change for every story, but we work to consistently meet with people we have working relationships with so those lines of communication and trust stay strong.

It’s important to include as many new voices and perspectives as possible as well, including those with intimate knowledge about the topics in question.


We rarely use anonymous sources in stories. If we do, the story typically involves an extreme situation for the source/subject and we will state why we are not including the person’s name (i.e., a survivor of domestic violence). We also leave out the last names of minors or young adults in juvenile facilities who will be released.

We make sure to fact-check all claims by our sources, regardless of if they are on or off the record. We will explain in the story if someone’s name has been left out for a particular reason.

How do you vet sources?

We need to make sure our sources are credible. There are a number of ways we do this and the process can differ depending on the story. Vetting typically includes things like conducting background checks via public records, court documents and social media.

If someone is making a particular claim, we look for other sources and experts who can confirm or correct that information.

Does your newspaper use wire content?

We have partnerships with different wire services and publications that allow us to share content from outside our newsroom.

This includes articles from other USA Today properties, the Associated Press and more. Our editors and producers decide what content is appropriate for our site. We sometimes contribute additional, localized information to those stories before they are shared with our immediate readers.

How do you interview and write about minors?

This is very important and something I deal with regularly as an education reporter. Our crime/courts reporters deal with it frequently too.

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We make sure to communicate with the parents and/or guardians as much as possible, check photo/media release permissions with schools, etc., to make sure minors are safe and not put in harm’s way (physically, emotionally or professionally in the future) because of our coverage.

This is one instance where we may only use the child’s first name or omit their name entirely for their protection, depending on the topic of the story.

I work to ensure all people I interview, especially youth, feel comfortable and heard. I explain the process to them in advance, follow up with them often, and frequently add extra time to our interviews so they can take their time and ask questions as needed.

How do you balance stories?

Following the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and our Gannett Company policy, I work to ensure my stories are as thorough, accurate and balanced as possible. This means recognizing my own biases, bringing in multiples perspectives on each subject, conducting a thorough fact-checking process and more.

I work with my colleagues and editors to make sure individual words, phrases and the framing of my stories do not skew the meaning or interpretation in favor of any side.

If there is a factual error in one of my stories, I am responsible for updating the story online with the correct information and including a statement at the top of the story stating a correction was made. I also am responsible for filing a print correction, which is printed in the same place in the paper every time.

Why do you need help from readers?

I am lucky to be able to spend time in local schools on a regular basis and I am an active member of my community. However, I’m not an educator or activist, and I can’t be everywhere at once.

I also recognize I do not have an intimate knowledge of all inequities and disproportionate harms seen in our society.

We need community members to help keep us in the loop about things going on and to hold us accountable for being fair, accurate and representative of our community’s diversity. If there’s something happening in the area we should cover, let us know.

This could be a cool event or recognition you think should be written about, a possible human interest piece, a cause for an investigation — you name it. Send it our way and we will see what we can do.

I always tell my sources, I would rather know about it and have to say, “No,” than not know something is happening.

Email me at npate@statesmanjournal.com with additional questions or news tips. Fill out the contact form to connect with me about my work as an author.

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