Each year, with support from Knight and its partners, students in the News21 program study a topic in-depth during the spring seminar and follow with a 10-week reporting fellowship. Here, Kristin Gilger, associate dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, writes about this year's expanded program. Above: Leonard Downie Jr. teaches a spring seminar for students around the country.
On May 14, students from journalism schools all over the country will begin arriving in Phoenix for this year’s expanded News21 program. They have spent the past semester immersing themselves in the topic of voting rights and they’ll spend the summer reporting and producing a national investigative project on voting rights in America.
Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, who taught the spring seminar that teleconferenced in students from a dozen universities, said the goal is to release the voting rights project before the first national political convention in August. Downie will be working this summer with an editing team that includes Sharon Rosenhause, former managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Steve Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University.
Downie said the time is right for a project on voting rights because of recent extensive changes in election laws and voting procedures in many of the 50 states. Students will consider whether voting fraud is a serious problem in American elections, whether new identification requirements at the polls disenfranchise prospective voters among minorities, college students or the elderly, whether ex-felons who have served their sentences should be allowed to vote -- and even whether voting machines are reliable.
Students will be based out of a newsroom at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and will travel the country to report their stories.
Previous News21 projects have won national awards and received wide national distribution. Last year’s project on transportation safety recently was awarded first place nationally in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence awards competition.
The News21 program was launched by the Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation in 2005 with five universities. Its goal was to change the way journalism is taught in the U.S. and train a new generation of journalists capable of reshaping the news industry. Students are encouraged to innovate, telling and presenting stories in new ways for digital audiences.
For the first time, News21 is open to any accredited journalism program in the U.S. This year there are 24 students participating from 12 universities: ASU, Elon University, University of Florida, Harvard University, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of North Carolina, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, Syracuse University and University of Texas-Austin.
Other News21-inspired projects will take place this summer at the University of South California’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism, the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of California at Berkeley. Each will have its own theme and approach, but all will demonstrate the same fundamentals as the national program: that top students and top professors can do the toughest stories in innovative ways, partnering with major news organizations.
For more information, visit http://cronkite.asu.edu/experience/news21.