Catalyst Chicago deputy editor Sarah Karp, widely credited with having broken the $20 million SUPES story that has now led to an FBI Investigation and the stepping down of the head of the Chicago school system, is leaving to join the Better Government Association of Chicago.
For more on the move, and a few possible explanations for why it took everyone else nearly 2 years to followw up on Karp’s story, read below.
For a time, it seemed like nobody would ever follow up on Karp’s 2013 SUPES scoop. Local NPR station WBEZ had her on to talk about the story, and local ABC 7’s Sarah Schulte did a segment. However, neither the Sun-Times or Tribune followed up in any meaningful way — until now.
That’s nothing new. Super-competitive news outlets sometimes refuse to “follow” other outlets. Other times, they re-report each others’ stories and pretend their competitors’ versions don’t exist (which is understandable but super-annoying). Of course, sometimes it’s not a conscious decision, they just have other stories to work on, more urgent-seeming matters, and don’t have time or staff to cover everything they’d like.
In any case, Catalyst is looking for a new reporter to replace Karp, and publisher and founder Linda Lenz noted graciously “We’re pleased that she will take all the knowledge she gained at Catalyst to a new audience. The city, in effect, will get an additional ed reporter.” Reporter Melissa Sanchez remains.
Meantime, Catalyst is also celebrating a 25th anniversary and figuring out where and what to do next. (So is Philly’s Notebook, another long-running district-based news outlet focused on education. Here’s an overview of anniversary activities and events surrounding Catalyst’s 25th.
While it may seem like a strange move, the BGA has staffed up with reporters in recent years and covered education along the way. After a decade at Catalyst, Karp starts at the BGA next month. She’s going to cover K-12 education as well as higher ed and state government. Read more about Karp and the story she broke nearly 2 years ago here.
Disclosure: I used to do some freelancing for Catalyst, and they lent me a free desk for a time, and kindly hosted the launch of a book on Chicago school reform I edited that came out in 2004.