Arizona PBS moves to ASU Cronkite School

June 26, 2014

Media organization to serve as hub for news innovation

Eight, Arizona PBS, the 53-year-old public television station based at Arizona State University with more than 1 million viewers, will become part of ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, continuing to provide quality PBS programming while serving as a national hub for news innovation and reinvention, the university announced June 26. ASU Cronkite School Download Full Image

Eight, which includes three TV channels and, will be the largest media organization operated by a journalism school in the world when the move becomes official next Tuesday. The station had been part of ASU’s Office of Public Affairs.

“Eight has served Arizonans for more than 50 years, providing important national and regional content in public affairs, education, the arts, science and culture across our state,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “That critical mission will continue and we will redouble our efforts to make Arizona PBS the best public television enterprise in the nation featuring all of the outstanding PBS programming now available on Eight.”

Under Cronkite, Arizona PBS also will serve as a journalistic “teaching hospital,” tapping into the talents of advanced students in journalism and other disciplines who work under the guidance of top professionals from the ASU faculty and Eight staff to provide rich, new and innovative broadcast and digital content.

“A leading journalism school joining forces with one of the nation’s largest PBS stations at a university known globally for its leadership in innovation is a powerful and potentially game-changing combination,” the ASU president said. “We will be able to serve Arizonans on new levels while providing a national testing ground for new approaches to digital storytelling, audience engagement and revenue models to help serve a news industry that needs to rapidly adapt in the fast-changing digital world.”

Cronkite – a digital news leader

Since ASU made the Cronkite School a free-standing college in 2005, the school has been at the vanguard of a movement in journalism education to create highly immersive, professional programs in which students create journalism products under the guidance of top professionals recruited onto the faculty from some of the nation’s leading newsrooms. Harvard University documented Cronkite’s leadership role earlier this month in Nieman Reports.

Like a teaching hospital in medical education, these immersive professional programs provide intensive learning environments for students, important services to the community and the ability to experiment and innovate. In this case, the community service is providing critically needed, in-depth journalistic content to readers and viewers.

“We have called this a ‘teaching hospital’ approach to journalism education, but until now, we haven’t had the hospital,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the school and university vice provost. “Now we do – a multiplatform media organization in one of the nation’s largest media markets.”

Cronkite leaders will spend the next few months designing the new enterprise, starting with combining the school’s immersive professional programs with Arizona PBS.

An expanded version of the school’s TV newscast, Cronkite NewsWatch, which covers public policy news around the state, will give Arizona PBS one of the nation’s only daily local PBS newscasts. A new study by the Radio Television Digital News Association found that only 16 of the nation’s 170 PBS stations have some kind of daily local public affairs programming. And most of those are not newscasts but public affairs interview shows, such as Eight’s award-winning “Arizona Horizon.”

Some of the other established Cronkite professional programs that will become part of Arizona PBS include multiplatform daily news bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles, which provide news coverage to professional media outlets across the region; an innovation lab that creates new digital media products for clients; the community engagement Public Insight Network Bureau that serves news organizations nationally; and the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative multimedia initiative, whose publishing partners include The Washington Post and

Cronkite plans to add new immersion programs in business reporting and sports within the next six months, and will look to other disciplines across the university to create other professional programs within Arizona PBS.

The future of news

“As a veteran newsman now on the Cronkite faculty who has been immersed in the reconstruction of American journalism, I could not be more excited,” said Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post who helps lead the News21 program. “This is a very important development, not just for journalism education and the development of outstanding journalists for tomorrow, but also for the transformation of the news media in the digital age.

“The future of news depends on the kind of ‘teaching hospital’ innovation and training that the creative combination of the Cronkite School and Arizona PBS will make possible,” Downie said. “At the same time, it promises to provide residents of the Phoenix area and much of the rest of Arizona with significant public service journalism in a university-based non-profit model that could serve as a blueprint for universities and public broadcasting stations everywhere.”

ASU also hopes other media organizations will bring their ideas to Cronkite to experiment on the Arizona PBS platforms.

“There remains a tremendous need for reinvention and disruptive innovation in today’s news industry,” Callahan said. “Our Arizona PBS initiative can provide a place where commercial news operations can try out their ideas.”

Kelly McCullough, a Cronkite alumnus and general manager of Arizona PBS, said his team is excited about Eight becoming a more integrated part of the university while continuing to serve Arizonans at the highest levels.

“We will continue to proudly bring Arizonans all of the quality programming they want and deserve,” McCullough said. “And now, as part of the Cronkite School, we will be able to develop new local content to complement our current signature PBS programs – everything from ‘Arizona Horizon’ and ‘Horizonte’ to ‘PBS NewsHour,’ ‘NOVA’ and ‘Downton Abbey.’”

Arizona PBS reaches nearly 1.9 million households and 4.8 million people across 80 percent of the state. Located in the 12th-largest media market in the United States, it has more than 1 million weekly viewers and the 4th-highest prime-time viewership per capita among the nation’s major market PBS stations. Eight also has the 2nd-largest viewership of the 57 university-operated PBS stations.

Reporter , ASU News


Outstanding criminal justice grad makes most of opportunities

June 26, 2014

Katherine Chavez Chavarria has vision. She just can’t see. She lost her eyesight at the age of six as the result of a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma. But Chavez Chavarria never lost sight of what she wants to accomplish in life. She wants to be a lawyer and help those most in need.

She is one step closer to her goal. In May, Chavez Chavarria graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Public Program’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She was named her school’s outstanding graduate for the spring 2014 semester. Katherine Chavez Chavarria and her guide dog Olivia Download Full Image

It wasn’t easy. The last year was extremely difficult because her father was battling throat cancer. His voice box was removed in September. A blind daughter. A mute father. The only way they could communicate was through text messages.

“It was that much more difficult and heartbreaking for me because I can’t see him and I can’t hear him,” says Chavez Chavarria, who lived at Taylor Place, the downtown campus dorm. “It was hard being away and every time the phone rings, being tentative of who’s calling and who’s texting me.” 

Then, two weeks before graduation, her father died. Finals had just begun.

“I knew I needed to finish, not just for myself, but for my dad,” Chavez Chavarria says. “My parents, they both have been encouraging. And I know my dad would have wanted me to finish. He wouldn’t want me to be depressed and drop out.”

Chavez Chavarria credits her family, friends and faith for getting her through.

“It was very hard going through all of this my senior year, but God has definitely given me supernatural strength because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without God.”

“This girl is unstoppable,” says Karla Arias, who was Chavez Chavarria’s academic adviser. “She was very committed to her schooling and to getting the best experience from college that she could have earned.”

That meant getting involved in activities on the downtown campus, where she rarely missed a school event. She also started a student organization to help students develop and strengthen their faith.

“She has also been very, very involved with our school, very involved with our college,” says Arias. “And she was also president of an organization at our downtown campus – Awake Ministry. She’s just amazing.”

Here was a blind woman who was unafraid to try new things and seek out new opportunities. That impressed Bob Robson, a professor of practice in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“She wanted to experience everything that she could possibly experience,” says Robson, “and that was quite evident in her travels, but obviously in her educational pursuits.“

Robson got to know Chavez Chavarria in class and through their conversations outside the classroom. He wishes more students had her moxie.

“She took every opportunity that was made available to her,” Robson says. “If you have plans on going anywhere in life and you have opportunities that are around you, then you should take them. That’s how career opportunities come about.”

But, what most people didn’t know about Chavez Chavarria is that it took her twice as long to do the same class work as students who could see. But she never complained, never used it as an excuse. What really amazed Arias were all the other things that she could do. Such as living in London as part of a study abroad program, or being a member of her high school cheerleading squad. That surprised her initially.

“Because she was a petite girl, she was the one who did the flips,” Arias says. “Everything was by counting. She relied on her friends a lot."

She still relies on friends. But for the past five years, Chavez Chavarria has relied on a black Labrador named Olivia. For graduation, she dressed up her guide dog in a maroon cap and gown. Olivia walked beside Chavez Chavarria, who helped carry her school’s flag, or gonfalon, on stage at the beginning of the College of Public Programs Convocation held at Wells Fargo Arena. Chavez Chavarria sat in the first row. Olivia lay faithfully in front of her feet.

Chavez Chavarria isn’t your typical outstanding graduate. She doesn’t have a 4.0 GPA. It’s a tad under 3.0. It was higher, but dropped for a number of reasons, including dealing with her father’s struggle with cancer. Then there was studying for the LSAT, the exam needed to get into law school. She did her best to balance her studies while preparing for her future.

“Her goal after graduation is to become a lawyer,” says Arias. “She has her plan. She has her goal. She already did the LSAT and has applied to a couple Ivy League schools.”

Since the 8th grade, Chavez Chavarria says she’s wanted to help those who have nobody to turn to. She’s not sure how that will materialize after law school, but thinks she may start off working with juveniles.

“I just want to make a difference,” Chavez Chavarria says. “I really want to have an impact and make a difference on the whole community.”

Her college adviser is confident she’ll achieve that.

“She’s very passionate, she’s very caring for other people,” Arias says. "Her goal is to help those people who are in need of a lawyer. That’s what she wants to do.”

For now, Chavez Chavarria plans to take a break from school and help her family following the death of her father.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions