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18 universities join Carnegie-Knight News21 voting rights investigation at ASU


News21 executive editor Jacquee Petchel (center), a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and ASU alumna, leads this year's investigation into voting rights.

May 05, 2016

Top journalism students from 18 universities will lead an investigation into voting rights as part of the 2016 Carnegie-Knight News21 national multimedia investigative reporting initiative.

Headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that college journalism students, under the direction of top journalism professionals, can produce innovative and deeply reported multimedia projects for a national audience.

Thirty-one students are part of this year’s project, which focuses on the political divide between citizens with significant voting power and those without, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The students participated in a spring seminar taught in person and via video conference by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism. This summer, they will work out of a state-of-the-art newsroom at the Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix and travel the country to report and produce their stories.

“We chose voter access and participation for this year’s News21 project in a national election year to investigate why groups of citizens, including Latinos, African-Americans and millennials, are still under-represented among U. S. voters,” Downie said.

Previous national News21 projects have dealt with topics ranging from food safety to gun rights and regulations and the challenges facing veterans returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year’s project, which examined the trend toward legalization of marijuana in the U.S., was published by major media partners, including The Washington Post, USA Today,, the Center for Public Integrity and the E.W. Scripps Co., plus a number of nonprofit online news sites affiliated with the Institute for Non-Profit News.

This year, News21 is returning to a topic students first tackled in 2012 when they conducted the most exhaustive study ever of American election fraud.

“With each project, we look for new ways to push News21 to the forefront with an original presentation that provides both an investigative and an immersive experience,” said News21 executive editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who headed investigations at the Houston Chronicle before coming to the Cronkite School. “So this year, innovative storytelling will be paramount as we explore untapped data, VR/360 visuals and the latest in digital tools and graphics.”

News21 projects have won numerous awards, including four EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, the first Student Edward R. Murrow Award for video excellence and a host of honors by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hearst Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism.

Fellows are selected for the highly competitive, paid summer fellowships based on nominations submitted by journalism deans and directors from across the country as well as how they perform in the spring seminar, during which they prepare by deeply immersing themselves in the topic.

In addition to ASU, the universities participating in the 2016 News21 program are Elon University, Florida International University, Hampton University, Kent State University, Louisiana State University, St. Bonaventure University, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, University of British Columbia, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Nevada, Reno; University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Tennessee and University of Texas at Austin.

This year’s fellows are:

  • Lily Altavena, ASU
  • Alex Amico, Syracuse University
  • Alejandra Armstrong, ASU
  • Lian Bunny, St. Bonaventure University
  • Elizabeth Campbell, Texas Christian University
  • Andrew Clark, University of Oklahoma
  • Nicole Cobler, University of Texas at Austin
  • Courtney Columbus, ASU
  • Hillary Davis, ASU
  • Sami Edge, University of Oregon
  • Erin Fox, ASU
  • Max Garland, Elon University
  • Taylor Gilmore, University of Tennessee
  • Natalie Griffin, University of Maryland
  • Marianna Hauglie , ASU
  • Sean Holstege, ASU
  • Pinar Istek, University of Texas at Austin
  • Phillip Jackson, Hampton University
  • Roman Knertser, Syracuse University
  • Mike Lakusiak, University of British Columbia
  • Emily Mahoney, ASU
  • Jimmy Miller, Kent State University
  • Emily Mills, Kent State University
  • Michael Olinger, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Pamela Ortega, University of Oklahoma
  • Kathryn Peifer, ASU
  • Jeffrey Pierre, Florida International University
  • Sarah Pitts, University of Oklahoma
  • Amber Reece, University of North Texas
  • Ali Schmitz, University of Florida
  • Rose Velazquez, Louisiana State University

News21 fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations and philanthropists. The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation supports the three University of Oklahoma fellows as well as three fellows — Altavena, Armstrong and Holstege — from ASU.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation supports Columbus, Hauglie and Peifer of ASU, and the Hearst Foundations supports the fellowships of Davis and Fox, both from ASU. Louis A. “Chip” Weil provided the support for ASU’s Mahoney.

Olinger from the University of Nevada, Reno, is supported by the Fred W. Smith Chair at UNR. Reece from the University of North Texas is supported by The Dallas Morning News. The Diane Laney Fitzpatrick Fellowship supports Miller from Kent State University, and the David Dix Fellowship supports Mills from Kent State University.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

The Carnegie Corporation of New York: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential American grant-making foundations. The foundation makes grants to promote international peace and to advance education and knowledge

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation: The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, the daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord. Ms. Gaylord created the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in 1982 to improve the quality of journalism by supporting research and creative projects that promote excellence and foster high ethical standards in journalism.

Hearst Foundations: The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations and institutions working in the fields of education, health, culture and social service. Their goal is to ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives. The charitable goals of the Foundations reflect the philanthropic interests of William Randolph Hearst.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation: The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed more than $115 million nationwide through its journalism program.

Louis A. “Chip” Weil: Weil served as president and chief executive officer for Central Newspaper Inc., which owned The Arizona Republic. Prior to becoming CEO, he was president and publisher of the Detroit News and publisher of Time magazine. Weil and his wife Daryl established the Weil Family Professorship at the Cronkite School.

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