Student Journalists Publish Unprecedented National Investigation in Washington Post/MSNBC.COM

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September 27, 2010 by Marika Lynch

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U.C. Berkeley student journalist Ryan Phillips interviews a trucker at a stop in Arizona while on assignment for News21.

School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and executive editor of News21. She was the lead editor on this summer's investigative project on transportation safety, and wrote this post for KnightBlog.

Five years ago, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Knight Foundation issued a challenge to the nation's top journalism schools: Take the best students, they said. Put them with expert editors and give them time and resources to report in-depth stories that are both multimedia-rich and journalistically excellent.

That challenge culminated this week with an unprecedented national reporting project on transportation safety in American that is appearing in two of the world's largest and most recognized media outlets -- The Washington Post and msnbc.com.

The package of 23 stories may well be the largest investigative reporting project ever produced by college journalism students. It analyzes recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board over the past 40 years and calculates how many accidents have happened ' and how many Americans have died -- because agencies, states and industries have resisted safety measures. The safety issues range from reducing ice buildup on the wings of airplanes to cutting down on the dangers posed by fatigued operators.

The students came from 11 universities to the Cronkite School this summer to report, write and produce their stories. They worked with editors and reporters from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization as well as top Cronkite faculty, including Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post.

The News21 reporters traveled across the country and to Canada and Mexico, interviewed hundreds of government officials, industry leaders, safety experts and accident victims and analyzed thousands of pages of documents, reports and accident and investigation data from the NTSB and federal regulatory agencies.

View their work at the news21 site, and'at'msnbc.com and at washingtonpost.com.

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