ASU celebrates career and impact of longest-serving journalism professor

March 11, 2020

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will soon say farewell to its longest-serving faculty member, John Craft, who has been guiding students for nearly five decades. 

Craft, who has been with Arizona State University's Cronkite School for more than 46 years, will retire at the end of the spring semester, leaving behind a legacy of influence on thousands of graduates, many of whom have gone on to successful broadcast careers.  John Craft, who has been guiding students for nearly five decades, will retire at the end of the spring semester. John Craft, who has been with the Cronkite School for more than 46 years, will retire at the end of the spring semester. Download Full Image

Since 1973, Craft has taught a range of broadcast courses, from production, direction, station operations and announcing to programming, sales and management. In addition, he has taught students documentary production and the history of broadcast journalism, and for 12 years he was the director of graduate studies for the school. He also is the curator of the Cronkite Gallery, a rich collection of historical journalism memorabilia at the Cronkite School.

Craft’s passion for broadcast history is captured in a book he co-wrote with Lisa Honebrink, “Phoenix Television: Images of America,” published last year. The book chronicles the colorful history of television in Phoenix, beginning in 1949. He also is the lead author of a major textbook on American electronic media and a major contributor to a second textbook on corporate video, and the producer of award-winning documentaries on Route 66 in Arizona, which have been aired around the world.

Craft’s most important contributions, however, have been in the classroom, Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said. Since 2006 alone, he has taught 674 students in 51 classes over 26 semesters.

“His teaching has inspired generations of students to pursue broadcast and documentary careers,” Callahan said. “Newsrooms across Arizona and well beyond are filled with his former students, who learned their crafts — and their ideals — from him.” 

To honor his many contributions to the school and the profession, the Cronkite School is establishing the Professor John E. Craft Scholarship in Electronic Media. The scholarship will be established initially as an annual award. If gifts or pledges received reach $25,000 by Dec. 31, 2025, the scholarship will be converted to an endowment to provide scholarships in perpetuity. Learn more about the scholarship.

“I want to help the student who has the desire and has the ability but may not have the financial resources,’’ Craft said. “When I went to school it didn’t cost very much … now with the cost, you almost have to have some support system to buy rent and buy food and buy tuition all at the same time. I want to help.”

Looking back over nearly 47 years in ASU classrooms, so much has changed, from the facilities to the technologies. What hasn’t changed is the connection with students.

“Over the years, I’ve developed some good friendships with people who used to be students of mine,” Craft said. “What you remember are the people. You remember the individuals, and some have done very, very well. You hope you had something to do with that.”

Craft earned a master’s degree in radio and television and a doctorate of philosophy in mass communication at Ohio University. Early in his career, he was an instructional television programming coordinator at Ohio University and director of educational television at Hancock County Schools in West Virginia, where he developed a first-of-its-kind instructional television programming for students and distribution of community programming via cable television. Previously he worked in a number of broadcast positions at WOUB-TV in Athens, Ohio, and earned production credits as director of staging and lighting for a number of nationally distributed television programs.

Beyond the classroom and the TV studio, Craft gave back to the industry through involvement in numerous professional organizations. He served two terms as a national trustee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and served for nearly 20 years on the board of governors of its Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter, serving as president and acting as a presenter at the annual regional Emmy events. He was inducted in 2012 into the Gold Circle Society of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter, which recognizes 50 years of outstanding service to the industry. 

Craft also was a member of the board and served as president of the International Television Association, and was on the board and was treasurer of an Arizona cable television professional organization. He has been active in the Broadcast Education Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Visual Communication Association.  

“It’s been an interesting and exciting ride,” Craft said.

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU Cronkite School brings innovation to local TV newsrooms with Knight Foundation support

March 11, 2020

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will use a $225,000 investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help foster innovation in local television newsrooms across the country.

The Knight Foundation’s investment will support the Knight-Cronkite Technology Fund by matching creators of cutting-edge tools with local newsrooms willing to test them. The initiative dovetails with efforts already underway at the Cronkite School to integrate innovative techniques into newsroom storytelling practices. Cronkite School Download Full Image

“This is a natural next step in our efforts to improve local television news, and thanks to the Knight Foundation we are now able to bring new tools to our commercial media partners,” said Mark Lodato, Cronkite School associate dean.

The new, 12-month program will solicit newsroom proposals from commercial vendors and then partner with innovation-minded newsrooms as testbeds for those new tools. The program will encourage and support experimentation on a local level to improve news coverage and viewer engagement — and Cronkite students will have front-row seats to experience the innovation.

Cronkite will measure the effectiveness of the new tools in six-month increments, and will offer analysis to the broadcast industry.

Cronkite News, the school’s student-powered newsroom, is working with companies such as AlertMe and iOgrapher, which respectively notify readers and viewers of story updates and improve mobile storytelling and production capabilities.

“Game-changing tools are out there. They just need to be connected with the journalists who are willing to see how they can improve their coverage capabilities,” said Frank Mungeam, Cronkite’s Knight Professor of Practice in TV News Innovation. “The Cronkite School has established partnerships with a number of technology businesses, and those technologies are changing the way our students connect with and inform our community.”

The Knight Foundation believes that journalism plays a critical role in fostering informed and engaged communities. The foundation works with projects that lead to transformational, sustainable change.

“Smart applications of technology will make or break a news organization’s ability to serve their audience. Yet few news organizations have the capacity to vet and test these new technologies,” said Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation director of journalism and technology innovation. “This grant is to match cutting-edge tools with news organizations in order to foster a technology conscious culture.”

The foundation has helped establish some of the Cronkite School’s signature programs, providing more than $10 million in support. In 2018, the foundation awarded Cronkite a $1.9 million grant to further digital and broadcast innovation at local TV stations.

In September, ASU was named the most innovative school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. It was the fifth year in a row that ASU earned the honor based on a survey of peers — college presidents, provosts and admissions deans nominated up to 10 colleges or universities that they believe are making the most innovative developments.

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications