Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, record number of colleges join News21’s all-star student journalism investigative team

Dec. 7, 2012, 8:20 a.m., Posted by Katrina Bruno

Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Jacquee Petchel will work with a new all-star team of students at Arizona State University to produce next year’s investigative reporting for News21, the student journalism demonstration project that drew more than 7 million page views and 18,000 comments on this year’s Voter Fraud package.

Petchel brings to her newly announced role as executive editor more than 30 years of experience. She was twice part of Pulitzer-winning Miami Herald staff awards, one for coverage of the brief exodus of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez and a second for “What Went Wrong,” a report probing why Hurricane Andrew caused such extensive damage in Miami in 1992.

She will be joined in 2013 by 18 students from a record-breaking 13 colleges across the nation. Congratulations to 2013’s News21 Fellows:

  • Central Michigan - Catey Traylor
  • Florida International University - Anthony Cave
  • Harvard University - Jonathan Hillman
  • Kent State - Daniel Moore
  • University of Missouri – Steven Rich
  • University of Nebraska - Asha Anchan, Riley Johnson
  • University of Oklahoma - Bonnie Camp, Chase Cook, Kelsey Hightower
  • University of Florida - Meg Wagner, Hannah Winston
  • University of Maryland - Greg Kohn, Jessica Wilde
  • University of Miami - Julian Glover
  • University of Minnesota - Jeff Hargarten
  • University of Oregon - Colton Totland
  • University of Texas, Austin - Forrest Burnson

In addition, Arizona State will contribute seven students to the project, to be announced by summer.

This year, two dozen students from 11 universities produced more than 20 comprehensive reports, interactive databases, video profiles, photo galleries, and an e-book chronicling the findings. "Who Can Vote?" took student journalists across the country to more than 40 cities, 21 states and one U.S. territory, making it the widest reaching university-produced journalism project in history.

Looking for voter fraud, the students examined 5,000 documents and did scores of interviews. The result: Since 2000, though 146 million American’s were registered to vote, only 2,068 cases of fraud were alleged, and there were no confirmed cases of voter impersonation fraud. Yet dozens of states had passed voter I.D. laws to prevent voter impersonation. Why? Democrats argued that such laws were designed to keep people of color, students, the elderly and others from voting.

After the report was released in early August 2012, interest in the topic surged. The investigation was awarded an EPPY in 2012 for best college/university investigative or documentary report from Editor & Publisher Magazine.

Slow journalism project merges ancient voyage with new media

Dec. 6, 2012, 9:25 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Paul Salopek is about embark on a journey - a seven year, 39 country voyage to retrace the footsteps of ancient humans and chronicle it through new storytelling methods.

Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Geographic fellow, will walk the route from Africa to South America, collecting video, audio and narratives along the way.  The Out of Eden Walk website, supported in part by Knight, will also experiment with tracking his journey using new digital mapping tools.

Tonight starting at 7 p.m. ET, tune in to hear Salopek share more about his journey via a livestream or follow along on Twitter with #edenwalk. Ann Marie Lipinksi, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where Salopek researched his project as a visiting fellow last spring, will moderate the conversation.

Knight recently asked Salopek more about his plan to merge new media technology and traditional storytelling and what he’s hoping to accomplish.

How did you come up with idea for this journey?

P.S.: I crossed my first border at age six when my parents moved to Mexico. So the questions raised by leaving home—identity, exile, the idea of the quest—interest me. I’m not alone. Everyone likes journey stories. They’re one of the oldest tropes around. Folklore. Mythology. A couple years ago, I was sitting in a cowboy bunkhouse in West Texas, thinking: What’s the most universal travelogue of all? I came up with the idea of human dispersal out of Africa. It’s a journey that belongs to everyone.

What's your goal? What would you like to accomplish?

From #newsfoo: five opportunities for the news industry

Dec. 5, 2012, 2:29 p.m., Posted by Benoit Wirz

Above: A scene from NewsFoo. Photo credit: Elise Hu.

It was a real pleasure to attend my first NewsFoo conference this past weekend. Sponsored by O’Reilly MediaKnight Foundation and Google, NewsFoo gathered a cross section of folks (read: rock stars) in the digital news space to talk about an agenda created on the spot.

One of the most interesting observations shared by many news-fooers is that people by and large did not choose to discuss the ongoing revenue problems of news-gathering companies, which is the focus of many other news conferences.

Perhaps because there was a strong presence from some of the organizations that have best adapted to the new realities of news (WikipediaNPRDigital FirstBleacher Report) and startups that are being built on the opportunities of news in the digital age (BranchCir.caPoeticaSubmittableSyria DeeplyWatchup), people instead were focused on problems and potential solutions being faced by news organizations that have already made the transition to digital. It was enlightening for me to better understand some of these:

1) Building credibility (and engagement) in digital news

Most news publications are not as transparent about their own reporters and their sources as they could be, and many don’t report retroactively on whether pundits/sources got things right or wrong. Notable exceptions, like Wikipedia which footnotes all entries, have become very trusted (and popular) sources of information. How can news orgs move towards embedding more credibility into news? Also, can news animations be credible?

2) Improving content recommendations