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ASU among 12 universities to report on US veterans post-9/11

April 10, 2013

Top journalism students from 12 universities around the country will conduct a national investigative reporting project on post-9/11 veterans as part of the Carnegie-Knight News21 in-depth journalism program.

News21, headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and also is supported by the Carnegie Corporation, the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and Women & Philanthropy, part of ASU’s Foundation for a New American University.

News21 fellows produce in-depth news coverage on critical issues facing the nation, using innovative digital methods to distribute the content on multiple platforms. Previous projects have included investigations into voting rights, food safety and transportation safety in America.

Last year’s project on voting rights received national attention for revealing only 10 documented cases voter impersonation in the United States since 2000. The work was published in news outlets that included the Washington Post, and National Public Radio, and the results were widely cited across the country. The project recently received an EPPY Award for best university investigative or documentary report from Editor & Publisher magazine and won several Society of Professional Journalists awards.

"The News21 program epitomizes what the 'teaching hospital' model of journalism training is all about," said Raul Reis, dean of Florida International University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, one of the schools participating in this year’s program. "The program's reputation and accomplishments speak for themselves. We jumped at the chance of being a part of it, especially because of the opportunities it will provide to our participating students this summer and in future years."

Students begin News21 by taking part in a semester-long seminar taught in-person and via teleconference by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism. This spring, the class consists of almost three dozen students who are conducting research and hearing from numerous veterans' advocacy groups, veteran service experts and government officials.

Selected students then 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. 

"As veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq return home for good, News21's national investigative project will examine their world after war – and whether American politicians, bureaucrats and service providers have kept their promise to help military men and women recover and adjust to life at home," Petchel said. "And we will tell that story with words, photos, video, data and other digital innovations so that we are sure their voices are heard."

Downie said the topic “could not be more timely." Veterans face huge challenges in health, education, employment, housing and access to benefits, he said. In addition, this cohort of veterans has the largest contingent of women in American history – women who face unique challenges as they re-enter civilian life.

The project, Downie said, "should significantly inform an emerging national dialogue about whether government, especially the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the rest of American society are doing enough to effectively assist these young people who have voluntarily sacrificed to serve their country during the past decade. The project also gives the student journalists the opportunity to produce widely circulated, professional-level multimedia journalism that enhances their career opportunities." 

Twenty-four students from 12 universities have been selected for this summer’s reporting fellowship program. The universities are ASU, Central Michigan University, Florida International University, University of Florida, Kent State University, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon and University of Texas.

Individual students are funded by their universities and by several foundations. This year’s Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation fellows are ASU students Peter Haden, Rachel Leingang and Mauro Whiteman and University of Oklahoma students Bonnie Campo, Chase Cook and Kelsey Hightower.

Hearst Foundations fellows are ASU students Andrew Knockell and Jacob Stein, and the Reynolds business journalism fellow, who will report on veterans’ economic issues, is ASU student Chad Garland. Women & Philanthropy fellows, who will report specifically on issues related to women veterans, are ASU students Caitlin Cruz and Mary Shinn.