Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation Awards Grant for $1.5 Million in Support of Education and Health Reporting
INDIANAPOLIS – WFYI Public Media announced that a $1.5 million grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation will support the development of an expanded education reporting team. The grant will also continue the foundation’s support of the award-winning health reporting and news collaborative, Side Effects Public Media.
WFYI's new education initiative, set to launch this spring, features two investigative journalists, a reporter focused on Marion County and a digital editor. Another team member will lead community engagement to help inform the issues reported on. Veteran education reporter Eric Weddle will lead the team as managing editor.
Led by Dave Rosenthal, WFYI's health reporting and Side Effects' team will continue its work reporting on the impact of health policy on people’s lives in Indiana and across the Midwest. Holly Edgell’s role as project manager and assistant editor will expand from a singular focus on health projects to include education efforts as well.
In the last year, WFYI has added an economic equity reporter, as well as announcing the upcoming addition of a criminal justice reporter. The new education hires announced today mark another milestone for a radio and digital news organization that has grown from a small staff to a team of 39 regional and statewide reporters in the last decade, all rooted in community engagement journalism.
“This expansion allows WFYI’s audience to get much more coverage on education while exploring the intersection of policy, people’s lives, and how race, class, ability and immigration status impact families’ access to a public education,” said WFYI Chief Content Officer Matt Shafer Powell. “We are grateful to the Fairbanks Foundation for supporting this critical work.”
The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation awarded two previous grants to WFYI in support of the Side Effects reporting initiative. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting also provided grant support for its creation. With that investment, WFYI implemented a model of community engagement journalism that makes the public an active part of the news process.
“One of our goals as an organization is to ensure all people in our community have access to critical facts about education and health, a need made clear by COVID-19’s impact and the public’s need for accurate, accessible information,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO, Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “We are pleased to support WFYI and its commitment to community engagement journalism.”
That community engagement journalism led to several award-winning efforts from the Side Effects team in the last five years. From a theater’s efforts to produce autism-friendly productions to national recognition for two podcasts, “The Workaround” and “Sick”, the team has worked to share stories that shine a light on inequity, access and the impact of both. Additionally, the team has worked to bring health reporting directly to people, through a two-way texting service and conversations with experts and newsmakers.
Reflecting that commitment to community engagement journalism and authentic storytelling through the lens of equity, WFYI built a team for the education desk that allows for coverage of daily news, in-depth reporting and community outreach. The new WFYI education team includes:
Eric Weddle, managing education editor
Since 2009, Weddle has reported on K-12 and higher education issues in Indiana. He spent a year embedded in an Indianapolis high school. His audio and print reporting has been featured on NPR and won numerous awards. Before joining WFYI in 2014, he worked at the Indianapolis Star and Lafayette, Indiana newspapers.
Holly Edgell, assistant editor and project manager for education and Side Effects
Edgell joined WFYI in July 2020 after leading a four-station radio collaborative on race, identity and culture based at St. Louis Public Radio. She brings more than 20 years in journalism to the team, having worked in TV broadcasting and digital teams, as well as a professor.
Elizabeth Gabriel, reporter
Gabriel has worked at KLCC in Eugene, Oregon, and reported KUT in Austin, Texas. She has has covered education and equity issues in her reporting at public media outlets. She was a part of NPR’s Next Generation Radio Project and is a current fellow with the Education Writers Association.
Tasha Gibson, community engagement specialist
Gibson served as the program coordinator at Passport Camps in Birmingham, Alabama, and before that at Baptist News Global.
Lindsey Erdody, digital editor for education and Side Effects
In the last six years, Erdody has covered state government and developed digital initiatives at the Indianapolis Business Journal. She also worked previously at The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Indiana, and the State Journal in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Lee Gaines, investigative reporter
Gaines has covered education for the past three years at Illinois Public Media in Urbana, Illinois, and reported for NPR and Here & Now. Before that she wrote for Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader. Lee is a former national fellow with the Education Writers Association.
Dylan Peers McCoy, investigative reporter
McCoy has covered education for over five years at Chalkbeat Indiana. Prior to that, she covered K-12 education at the Lafayette, Indiana, newspaper, worked at APM Reports on education-related documentaries, and studied at Transom Story Workshop.
WFYI’s audience can anticipate rapid growth in our education reporting beginning in late spring. With the Fairbanks Foundation’s support, the reporting teams will examine areas where health and education policy overlap – and how that affects Hoosier families. To see current education and health coverage, visit wfyi.org/news.
About WFYI Public Media
Since 1970, WFYI has served central Indiana as a trusted friend. The nonprofit’s public media statin’s programming on radio, TV and digital platforms and its community engagement activities inform, entertain and educate Hoosiers of all ages and walks of life. WFYI broadcasts original content as well as programming from PBS and NPR. Learn more at wfyi.org.
About the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation strives to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people by addressing the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. The Foundation is focused on three focus areas: education, health and the vitality of Indianapolis. To advance its work, the Foundation implements a three-pronged approach: strategic grantmaking, evidence-based advocacy, and cross-sector collaborations and convenings.