March 28, 2023
Jackie Mader is a senior reporter at The Hechinger Report, where she covers early childhood education. She previously worked as a special education teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, and trained new teachers in Mississippi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, USA Today, TIME and NBC News and has won several awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Nellie Bly Award from The New York Press Club and a Front Page Award from The Newswomen’s Club of New York. In 2021, she was one of two American journalists chosen for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma’s Early Childhood Development Fellowship. She received a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
What drew you to the early childhood beat?
I’ve always loved working with children (my career goal as a child was to be a first-grade teacher!). When I became a journalist after several years of teaching special education, I was drawn to the early childhood beat because it is a time where I believe I can make the most impact through reporting. Knowing that the majority of brain development happens in the first few years, the programs and policies that I write about feel especially urgent, and I love being able to bring this information to public consciousness. This became even more professionally and personally critical to me when I had my first child seven years ago, and I started to personally experience and witness these early years in a new way. I define the beat to include maternal health, family support programs, the early elementary years and everything in between, with a particular emphasis on research and solutions that can improve outcomes for families and our next generation. I feel so lucky every time I get to visit an early ed classroom, talk to children and witness early childhood teachers working their magic — and then elevate this in media.
From your perspective, how has media coverage of pregnancy, young children and child care changed over time?
I have seen an uptick in coverage of these issues and a greater understanding of how these issues intersect with each other. The reality of pregnancy, parenthood and child care is especially stark and relatively well-covered now. Much of this happened during the pandemic, and I hope this level of coverage continues, although I would love to see more solutions reporting to provide somewhat of a roadmap for those who are in a position to impact systems and funding.
What do you hope changes about the coverage of “women’s issues” and early childhood development in the future?
I hope that at some point, “women’s issues” won’t be viewed as “women’s issues” but rather as issues that are broadly understood to impact all of society. I hope coverage of these topics, including early childhood development, keeps hammering this home, especially by including research and links to the broader impact on society, the economy and family well-being. This is also contingent on news outlets acknowledging the early childhood years as a separate beat, which few outlets do. This is why I am so appreciative of editors at The Hechinger Report, where the early years are a separate beat that is valued. It is easy for readers to view these topics as issues that don’t impact them because they do not have young children and are not in the world of early childhood, but the way our society is built is dependent on the well-being and work of others, and I hope these issues will continue to be covered with an emphasis on why they matter for everyone.