Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news publisher that covers K-12 education, was investigating the public school system in Detroit, Michigan to uncover the reasons why one in three elementary students switched schools every year. No one knew why this was happening, but the traditional journalistic approach wasn’t working. Privacy of the students and having a broad enough pool of sources were both concerns as Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit’s bureau chief, and her team began reporting.
Einhorn started looking at other tools with which to supplement the investigation for a fuller narrative that was truly representative of the community and found GroundSource, an SMS-based texting platform that enables news outlets to connect directly with people on their phones. The team developed a parent survey that was text messaged directly to more than 32,000 people in the Detroit public school system. The responses helped Chartbeat to publish the story, supplemented with the force of 100 parent voices from a broad array of schools across the district.