Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
In a gift designated to expand editorial coverage of education, BU trustee Robert Hildreth has given a record $1 million to WBUR, BU’s National Public Radio station. Hildreth’s gift, the station’s largest ever from an individual and the first seven-figure donation toward its capital campaign, will be used to assemble a team—an editor, a reporter, and likely a producer and a multimedia developer—to cover both K-12 and higher education, says Sam Fleming, the managing director of news and programming at the station.
The team will produce on-air reports, special podcasts, and online coverage, possibly on a platform and/or a phone app developed with money from the gift. It will also contribute to National Public Radio’s new education coverage initiative, NPR Ed, which would have been impossible without Hildreth’s “transformative” gift, says Charlie Kravetz, the station’s general manager.
For a city so dominated by educational institutions, Kravetz says, the local media, his station included, fail to give the topic the coverage it deserves. “Right now, we don’t have an education reporter,” he says. “What we have is a variety of reporters who cover education when stories come up.”
“This is probably the center of higher education in America,” says Fleming. Just as WBUR has a blog devoted to health issues, “we believe education deserves the same kind of treatment.” But Fleming and Kravetz stress that the new team won’t be just all-higher-education-all-the-time. Issues roiling K-12 education in Massachusetts, from charter schools to adopting national Common Core learning standards, will also be a focus, Kravetz says.
The goal will be to talk not just “to education wonks,” but also to families dealing with dinner-table issues, from the soaring cost of college to the competition among high schoolers for precious slots at universities, says Fleming.
Education is a longtime passion of Hildreth’s. The founder and president of International Bank Services, which trades and services loans globally, he is also founder and executive director of Families United in Educational Leadership (FUEL Education). The nonprofit organization helps low-income families send their children to college by providing services that range from information to financial incentives. In the last graduation season, more than 100 students in greater Boston graduated from high school with college savings accounts arranged with FUEL’s help.
“WBUR puts a human face on the problems confronting college students today,” says Hildreth, who has written about student debt and other problems for WBUR’s opinion page, “Cognoscenti.”