Arizona Republic journalist to head business reporting bureau at ASU


February 4, 2015

A veteran Arizona journalist has been named founding director of an innovative business reporting program at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Christina Leonard, a reporter and editor at The Arizona Republic for the past 17 years, is leading the Cronkite School’s Reynolds Business Bureau, an immersive professional program in which students produce daily coverage of business and economics for regional and national media outlets. The bureau was established through a $1 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Christina Leonard Download Full Image

“The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is pleased that the Reynolds Business Bureau will provide real world experience for business journalism students at the Cronkite School,” said Steve Anderson, Reynolds Foundation president. “This program compliments and expands upon the already excellent educational opportunities for journalism students interested in focusing on business reporting and economic topics.”

Leonard, who started last month, has held a number of leadership roles at the Republic and azcentral.com, including assistant business editor and editor-in-chief of two business magazines, Arizona Woman and bizAZ. Most recently, she was the Republic’s Phoenix-West Valley regional editor and also has served as Phoenix editor, state politics and government editor and night city editor.

At the Republic, Leonard played an integral role in a number of initiatives, including the paper’s technology guide and AZ Fact Check, a service that examines the accuracy of statements by politicians, partisan groups and government agencies. She was the lead editor on the recent coverage of Phoenix’s pension-reform measure and helped lead the Republic’s efforts to transition to a mobile newsroom.

“I'm thrilled to join the talented faculty at the Cronkite School, and I'm excited to work with the outstanding students there,” Leonard said. “These students are the future of journalism, and I'm already impressed by their passion, drive and forward thinking. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work at this innovative university.”

Leonard is the recipient of a number of journalism awards, including the Gannett Chairman’s Award, the John Kolbe Politics and Government Reporting Award and several Arizona Press Club awards. She is the former president, vice president and treasurer of the Arizona chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and was founder and former chairwoman of the Republic’s Diversity Committee. She has twice participated in AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program and was a Western Knight fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism.

Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and following graduation was named a Pulliam Fellow at The Arizona Republic.

“Christina has long been a tremendous leader at The Arizona Republic, producing remarkable state and business coverage for Arizonans,” Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said. “We are thrilled to welcome her on as the founding director of the Reynolds Business Bureau and are excited for our students.”

Announced in July 2014, the Reynolds Business Bureau is the 10th professional immersion program to be established at the Cronkite School. The other programs include a nightly television news broadcast that airs on Arizona PBS, digital news bureaus in Washington and Phoenix, sports bureaus in Los Angeles and Phoenix, a strategic public relations agency, an entrepreneurial digital innovation lab, a digital production bureau and a newsgathering and civic journalism bureau.

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.

Reporter , ASU News

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Project Humanities director touted as 'Invisible Hero'


February 4, 2015

If academia were Hollywood, it would be sweeps season for Neal A. Lester.

Lester, who is the founding director of ASU’s Project Humanities and Foundation Professor of English, was presented with the 2015 Invisible Heroes’ "UMOJA" Award at a Feb. 3 ceremony at Mount of Olives Lutheran Church in Phoenix. It is Lester’s sixth award in less than a year. Neal A. Lester Download Full Image

“Neal Lester educates the community about our biases, prejudices and stereotypes,” said Jason Green, founder of the United Gay Informed Men of African-descent (UGIMA). “He has always been an ally of the LGBT community and an agent of change regarding the privileges associated with heteronormativity and cisgender bias.”

Green said each year at Invisible Heroes, his organization gives out three awards based on the principles of Kwanzaa. “Umjoa” is the principle of unity, stressing the importance of togetherness for the family and for the community.

The award was established in 2010 by UGIMA to recognize the hidden or invisible history of current and past figures in the black and LGBT community. Past honorees include singer Sylvester, actor Paul Winfield, writer Langston Hughes, entertainer Josephine Baker and comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley.

Lester said the award holds special significance for him.

"That the work of Project Humanities is making such an impact nationally, regionally and locally is gratifying,” Lester said. “Reaching wide and diverse audiences has indeed become hallmark of our programming."

Lester and Project Humanities have received major accolades since the project was founded just over three years ago, demonstrating the rapidly growing success and impact of this university initiative.

In 2014, Lester received the Roy Wilkins Community Service Award from the East Valley National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the inaugural Key of Excellence Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society; the Juliana Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award from Arizona Humanities; and a written commendation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the Humanity 101 effort.

Last month, Lester was presented with the 2015 Francis March Award by the Association of Departments of English in Vancouver, Canada.

Reporter , ASU News

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