Starting salary: $80,000/year
Location: Open

Open Campus is hiring a national reporter to examine higher education in prisons.

No other area of higher education right now is facing more change and less journalistic attention than postsecondary education in American prisons. The pandemic disrupted the sector, shutting down programs and leading officials to rethink their approach to technology. Even more importantly, the restoration of Pell Grants to incarcerated students will soon flood the system with millions of additional dollars. That’s going to mean new players, more options, and a need for more scrutiny. That’s where this national reporter comes in.

This topic deserves sophisticated coverage from a reporter who understands both colleges and prisons — rather than just dropping in for a single story. You’ll ask big questions about what’s at stake for students, both inside prisons and when they get out. Who’s paying attention to quality? What’s being done to give students more choice? Who’s exploiting the system?

You’ll be focused on smart enterprise stories — both big and small — that will run at Open Campus and with national distribution partners. (Here’s a recent story of ours in USA Today.) You’ll also write a regular email newsletter about postsecondary education in American prisons for those deeply interested in the issues: higher-ed administrators, corrections leaders, consultants, researchers, advocates, foundations, and journalists. (See our current newsletters here.) And you’ll lead collaborations with our local network reporters at newsrooms around the country. (Our network map.)

The national reporter will report to the executive editor. We’re based in Washington, D.C., but reporters may work from anywhere in the U.S.

Here’s what we’re looking for in a reporter:

  • A curious, probing journalist who has demonstrated experience wrestling with complicated ideas — then translating them for the rest of us. Knowledge of higher education is a plus, but more important is experience understanding any public-policy system and how it matters to regular people.
  • Someone whose work clearly demonstrates why issues matter, what’s at stake for the public, and why readers should care.
  • A reporter who is adaptable and interested in exploring new forms of journalism and ways to connect with an audience.
  • A journalist excited about our mission and skilled at working with others. As a very small, but growing newsroom, we’ve put collaboration at our core, working with other newsrooms every day. Lone wolves won’t be a great fit.

We know there are important skills we haven’t thought of or strong candidates who don’t have this exact background. If that’s you, don’t hesitate to apply and tell us more. 

Covering the full range of higher education also means we’re very interested in applicants who attended community colleges, regional public universities, historically Black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions. Graduating from a fancy college is definitely not a requirement.

Open Campus is committed to building an inclusive culture that reflects the full diversity of the nation. We encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.

About Open Campus

Founded in 2019, Open Campus is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to higher education. We are building a local network of sophisticated higher-education journalists, supported by a team of national editors and reporters who are subject-matter experts. Open Campus local reporters are embedded in partner newsrooms. We currently work with seven newsrooms in six states. (See the map of our Open Campus network here.)

We believe limited journalistic scrutiny of the full range of American higher education fuels disconnection and distrust. That’s why we think more thoughtful, aggressive coverage of all parts of our system matters. Higher ed’s best chance to reclaim the confidence of more Americans is through greater transparency and accountability.

Benefits of working at Open Campus

  • 20 vacation days, plus sick leave and major holidays
  • Health insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • 401(k) with matching
  • Up to 6 months paid family leave

How to apply

Interested candidates should apply here by August 6 , 2021. Have questions about this position? Contact Sara Hebel at Please note: We are not accepting résumés or applications via email. All candidates must apply here.