Earlier this month, eight members of the Whiteboard Advisors team were in Atlanta for the Education Writers’ Association’s 76th annual national seminar.

Attended by hundreds of journalists from around the country, EWA provides a unique opportunity to learn, first hand, what’s on the mind of education reporters.

Here are the top issues that reporters were talking about at EWA this year:

Student Mental Health

As the youth mental health crisis persists, reporters are eager to hear from teachers and school leaders about their first hand experiences: What are their greatest challenges? What’s working when it comes to improving student mental health outcomes?

Education writers also expressed interest in “elevating the student voice” in their reporting – reporters want to give students a platform to tell their own stories and share their own experiences.

Several panels at the seminar featured conversations about how to collaborate with collegiate journalists and authentically engage young people to better understand the challenges they face.

Affirmative Action

The looming SCOTUS decision on affirmative action is top of mind for journalists covering both K-12 and higher education

Reporters covering K-12 are eager to understand the substance and forecast practical effects of eliminating race-based admissions on counseling and college access. Journalists on the higher ed side are interested in exploring how the ruling will impact admissions decisions.

Culture Wars

Journalists who have covered school board meetings for years were clear: at the local level, the debate is more politically charged than ever, with issues of race, gender, and sexuality permeating local education politics and decision making.

The politicization of education is only expected to ramp-up as we close in on the election.

Education communicators should take care to avoid pitfalls with even seemingly innocuous topics; know that nearly everything will be viewed through culture war lenses for some time to come.

Artificial Intelligence

As much as artificial intelligence is a hot topic nationally, it didn’t make the grade for EWA. The conference featured only one panel, which reflects the fact that education writers like real-world examples and there just aren’t enough to generate substantial interest yet.

Teacher Shortages

Journalists have been closely following the impacts of teacher shortages on both school operations and students. Reporters are interested in how school district, university, and state leaders are planning to combat talent shortages in education; keen on uncovering the best methods of both attracting new teachers and retaining veteran teachers; and understanding the long-term effects of churn on academic performance.