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I was born in Chicago in 1952 and named after my grandfather, Joe Jacobs, who’d been a police reporter for the Omaha Bee-News. At the age of eight, my best friend and I decided that The Weekly Reader was “dumb” and that we could do better. As co-editors-in-chief, we produced The Wednesday Report for four years. It was just the beginning.

I attended public schools in Highland Park, Illinois and was graduated from Stanford University in 1974 with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. I worked for Suburban Newspaper Publications and for Super8Filmaker magazine before joining the San Jose Mercury News in 1978 as editorial pages copy editor. After two years, I became an editorial writer. I began writing a regular op-ed column in 1984.

My columns received local, state and national awards, including National Headliner (1996) and Best of the West (1999). With two colleagues, I won a Casey Medal in 1999 for the series “Making Welfare Work,” which followed six welfare families in their struggle for independence.

In 2001, I left the Mercury News to create, freelance and write Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds.

I’ve served on the board of the Stanford Daily and the Women’s Freedom Network. I was a Michigan Journalism Fellow in 1991-92 and a Casey fellow in 1994.

Currently, I freelance for Education Next and other publications and write for foundations. I wrote a chapter in Education for Upward Mobility, published in December, 2015.


I live in Silicon Valley with my husband, John Wakerly. My daughter is a literary agent in New York City.

— Joanne Jacobs

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