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16 universities join Carnegie-Knight News21 investigation

January 16, 2014

Top journalism students from 16 universities will conduct an investigation into state gun control efforts and gun rights issues as part of the 2014 Carnegie-Knight News21 national multimedia reporting initiative.

Headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Students selected as News21 fellows conduct in-depth reporting on critical national issues, traveling throughout the country and using innovative digital reporting techniques. Past projects have investigated voting rights, food safety and transportation safety in America. Last year’s project, which examined the enduring battles facing post-9/11 veterans, received national attention from major news outlets such as The Washington Post,, Center for Public Integrity and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The project also netted News21 an EPPY Award from Editor & Publisher magazine for a second consecutive year.

Students participating in this year’s project will spend the spring semester researching and reporting on gun issues as part of a 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. The seminar will include special guest speakers such as Bob Woodward and Jeff Leen of The Washington Post.

Downie said the focus on gun issues, especially as they play out on the state level, is timely in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings a year ago and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation.

“States have been the places where new laws are being debated and passed and where advocates of gun regulation and gun rights have been most active,” Downie said. “So it is a good time for News21 student reporters to focus on gun issues, legislation, lobbying and money in states across the country.”

Following the seminar, students move on to paid summer fellowships, during which they work out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School and travel across the country to report and produce their stories. The fellows work under the direction of News21 executive editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former senior editor for investigations and enterprise at the Houston Chronicle.

“Few national issues are as contentious among the American public and politicians as those affecting gun rights and gun control legislation,” Petchel said. “With that in mind, no time is better than now for News21 to investigate one of the most polarizing issues in the country, and examine with diligence and balance the rhetoric and the reality on both sides of the debate.”

Twenty-one students have been selected for fellowships from applications submitted by journalism programs across the country. In addition, a half-a-dozen ASU students participating in the spring seminar will be named fellows.

The participating universities are ASU, Elon University, George Washington University, Hofstra University, Kent State University, Marquette University, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, University of British Columbia, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Tennessee and University of Texas at Austin.

The fellows are:

• Elon University: Kate Murphy
• George Washington University: Sarah Ferris
• Hofstra University: Claudia Balthazar
• Kent State University: Jacob Byk  
• Marquette University: Aaron Maybin  
• Syracuse University: Jim Tuttle  
• Texas Christian University: Jordan Rubio   
• University of British Columbia: Allison Griner  
• University of Florida: Wade Millward   
• University of Maryland: Marlena Chertock and Justine McDaniel 
• University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Robby Korth, Jacy Marmaduke and Morgan Spiehs
• University of Oklahoma: Carmen Forman, Amy Slanchik and Sydney Stavinoha
• University of Oregon: Sam Stites   
• University of Tennessee: Jacqueline DelPilar
• University of Texas at Austin: Kelsey Jukam and Natalie Krebs

Individual students are funded by their universities and by individual donors and foundations. The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation supports fellows from the University of Oklahoma and ASU; the Hearst Foundations and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation support ASU fellows; the Peter Kiewit Foundation is funding students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and George Washington University fellows are supported by the Kathryn Green Endowment and Stephen Holly Bronz Endowment.