ASU professor's historical documents available at Library of Congress

Cronkite School Professor Leonard Downie Jr. investigated, led coverage of some of the most significant events of the 20th century

September 22, 2022

During his 44 years at The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. investigated and led coverage of some of the most significant events of the 20th century. 

Downie, the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was an editor for The Post’s investigation of the Watergate scandal, which resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation, covered the Jonestown massacre in 1978 and, as executive editor, oversaw The Post’s coverage of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, which ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. Portrait of ASU Professor of Practice Leonard Downie Jr. Leonard Downie Jr. Download Full Image

Downie amassed a trove of historical documents, notes, manuscripts and other materials from those stories, as well as other significant events that occurred during his journalism career, from his days as a college student at Ohio State University to his time with The Post.

And now those items are available to the public.

The Library of Congress has archived and made available to the public Downie’s papers, an expansive collection of notes, correspondence, public records, unpublished writings and other documents spanning his distinguished career.

Downie started at The Washington Post in 1964, progressing from intern to investigative reporter, local and national editor, London correspondent, managing editor and then leading the newspaper as executive editor from 1991 to 2008. Under his leadership, The Post won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper under a single executive editor.

The Library of Congress reached out to Downie regarding his materials about five years ago, but Downie wanted to finish his memoir, “All About the Story: News, Power, Politics and The Washington Post,” before donating any items.

The library maintains a manuscript section that includes collections from people of interest in an effort to preserve their work and life stories.

“It was an honor for the Library of Congress to want my material. It’s a privilege,” Downie said. “I discovered a lot of things I didn’t realize I had.”

A historian from the library met with Downie and reviewed the materials to see what was most interesting, eventually taking most of his items. 

Downie said his collection was already sorted because he used most of the documents to write his memoir.

“They said I was much more organized than most people they encounter,” he said.

The documents include the original police report from the Watergate scandal, as well as reporter Bob Woodward’s notes from the preliminary hearing for the men arrested at the Watergate complex. Downie also submitted the manifesto written by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. 

Other documents include a script from “The Post,” the 2017 movie about Post publisher Katherine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers detailing the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, with Downie serving as a consultant for the film; notes from his coverage of the Jonestown massacre; and documents from meetings and retreats that give insight into the newspaper and its operations.

There are also transcripts from interviews for his book, “The News About the News,” with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, who were once the leading anchors of the three major television networks.

Downie, who has taught at the Cronkite School for 13 years, said he is grateful for the opportunity to share this significant historical information with a wider audience.

“It’s important for me to do this,” he said.

Jamar Younger

Associate Editor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

First-gen ASU student becomes community mentor

Former Dorrance Scholar finds passion in helping new first-generation students go to college

September 22, 2022

According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, a third of college students are the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree, which is no small feat.

Statistically, these students are more likely to face financial challenges due to a lower parental incomeaccording to U.S. Department of Education data released in 2018 than continuing-generation students. They are also less likely to graduate in four years, owing to many reasons, from lacking additional support in successfully navigating college to the social isolation that can come with being educational pioneers in their families.

Portrait of Yazmin Reyes, a smiling young woman with dark hair and purple flowers in the background. Yazmin Reyes

It can be difficult not having the proper guidance from family members since they are not well-versed in the intricacies of the college experience.  

Sun Devil and first-generation graduate Yazmin Reyes knows exactly how this feels.

As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, Reyes has often felt “ni de aqui, ni de alla,” which means “neither from here nor from there.” Her family encouraged her to pursue higher education but to attend a university directly after high school graduation, additional funds through financial aid were needed.

With the help of the Dorrance Scholarship, which is designed specifically for first-generation students, and the ASU Leadership Scholarship Program, which is designed for students looking to make a difference in their communities, Reyes earned herself an open door to create her own sense of identity and purpose at Arizona State University.

While Reyes had wonderful scholarships and a loving family to get her through college, it still wasn’t easy feeling alone.

“In principle, it was great to know I had their moral support,” she said. “In practice, being a first-generation college student is extremely difficult because you don’t feel like you have people that can relate to what you’re going through.” 

Reyes pushed through, but it was “a group effort” full of the uncertainties that come with self-discovery. As someone passionate about helping young people succeed, she began as an education major but soon discovered that teaching wasn’t for her. After changing majors to family and human development at the suggestion of her scholarship coordinator, she never looked back. 

Not everyone understood her choice of major, however, because “it wasn’t a terminal degree in the way people who study engineering go on to become engineers,” she said. “But the beauty of that is this program teaches you transferable skills necessary to be successful in any profession.”

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Several years after undergrad, Reyes earned her MEd in school counseling and is now the assistant director of recruitment for ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She spends every day using her personal experiences to help first-generation high school students see their own potential to pursue higher education. As a student who felt inspired by watching other people achieve their goals, she describes it as a “full-circle experience” with “endless opportunities to help others.”

Life as a first-generation student wasn’t easy, but Reyes made it through and has a fulfilling career. After graduation, she worked for ASU Admission Services, where she created first-of-its-kind programming designed to help prospective first-generation college students at ASU.

“Happenstance brought me into the recruitment world in higher education, but now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I’m at the intersection of helping people explore what their professional dreams are, providing college-going support to underrepresented communities, and empowering people to pursue higher education,” she said.

The Sun Devil also leveraged her experience and talents when she was a participant of the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Corps, where she developed a high school achievement program called Soñadoras, in addition to previously being a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. 

“I truly have found my passion in life helping others,” Reyes said.

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics