ASU Cronkite School establishes engagement hub

March 3, 2014

New Cronkite bureau to help news organizations connect with audiences

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will establish an engagement and education hub for American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, a community of tens of thousands of citizen sources who help journalists create deeper stories by sharing their experiences. The expansion is funded by $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and additional support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and American Public Media. ASU Cronkite School building Download Full Image

The Public Insight Network, or PIN, is an active online network of more than 215,000 people across the country who have signed up to share their knowledge, experience and insights with journalists, helping them improve the quality, diversity and relevance of their reporting. Journalists in more than 80 newsrooms use the network to uncover stories, ask questions, test hunches, unearth angles and provide important context to stories.

The PIN bureau will occupy a digital newsroom in the Cronkite School’s state-of-the-art facility on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Media professionals and faculty will train students to interact with PIN sources in innovative ways and help create services, such as localization of national stories or idea mining; they also will devise ideas to attract clients and grow revenue sources. Students will hold paid positions or earn academic credit for their participation.

“This project provides students with the research, analytical and entrepreneurial skills that they need to meaningfully interact with sources and audiences – preparing them for the journalism jobs of tomorrow,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation. “At the same time, it will expand Public Insight Network services to newsrooms across the country, helping ensure its sustainability into the future.”

ASU President Michael M. Crow said, “At ASU we ask all of our colleges for a deep and engaged role in improving the success of our communities. This effort at the Cronkite School, with our partners, is a great example of what we think a modern university is all about.”

David Kansas, American Public Media’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, welcomed the PIN bureau as an exciting development in the evolution of PIN and the future of journalism education. “It will provide an important service to the industry and a rich educational experience and career pipeline for students while helping to position PIN and the networked journalism it fosters for long-term sustainability,” he said.

The new bureau will be led by Rebecca Blatt, a former senior editor for special projects at WAMU 88.5, the award-winning public radio station that serves the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Blatt has worked as an editor and producer at the station since 2008. Since 2011, she has managed PIN projects and community outreach and engagement efforts for the station, utilizing the network to produce special projects and cover breaking news. She previously worked as an associate editor in the NPR newscast unit and started in radio, producing interviews for North Carolina Public Radio’s “The Story.”

Blatt is the recipient of numerous awards for projects she has edited and produced, including the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, the Education Writers Association Award for Education Reporting and the New York Festivals’ Radio Broadcasting Gold World Medal. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will join the Cronkite School in mid-March.

“I am thrilled to be joining the tremendous faculty and students at the Cronkite School – as well as partners at APM and Knight Foundation – as we embark on this new endeavor,” she said. “The PIN bureau will provide a powerful learning experience for students, a valuable service for partner newsrooms and an incredible opportunity to explore new models for collaboration and innovation throughout the news industry.”

This semester, Cronkite students are working with radio, television, print and digital media outlets in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas and Utah to help expand the Public Insight Network and integrate it into the newsrooms’ reporting. Beginning in the fall, they will offer PIN services to an expanded portfolio of media clients.

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School, said the PIN bureau is one of a growing number of professional immersion programs available to Cronkite students. The others include Carnegie-Knight News21, an investigative multimedia reporting initiative that sends students around the country to report on topics of national significance; Cronkite NewsWatch, a live, four-day-a-week, student-produced news broadcast that reaches 1.4 million households in Arizona; Cronkite News Service in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., where students cover stories of concern to Arizona audiences; the New Media Innovation Lab, where students from various disciplines create cutting-edge digital media products; and the Cronkite Public Relations Lab, where students develop PR strategies and campaigns for real clients. Cronkite is also launching immersive sports reporting programs in Phoenix and Santa Monica, Calif., as part of its new sports journalism program.

“The Public Insight Network is a great example of how journalists today are engaging with their audiences in new and important ways,” Callahan said.

Downtown lecture series discusses 'Race in Arizona'

March 3, 2014

Arizona’s racial history is dichotomous, schizophrenic and highly misunderstood by the rest of the country, according to Matthew C. Whitaker, ASU Foundation Professor of History and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

Whitaker’s “Race in Arizona” was the second installment of the spring 2014 Humanities Lecture series, hosted by ASU’s School of Letters and Sciences on Feb. 27, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. portrait of Matthew C. Whitaker Download Full Image

The lecture explored the history of race relations in Arizona, underscoring the role of Western racial etiquette, resistance, activism, interracial alliances, landmark legal decisions and key legislation.

“There’s a certain level of race diversity in Arizona that you don’t see in other states existing within a very homogenous state, and this has created an interesting dynamic. We pockets of liberalism and progressivism, which has often led Arizona to do some things ahead of the curve, while at the same time falling behind the rest of the country because of our conservatism,” Whitaker said. “It’s hard for people outside of Arizona to pick up on that because they assume we’re this wholly backwards place without understanding it’s much more complicated than it appears. Arizona’s a very schizophrenic state when it comes to racial relations.”

Arizona boasts the second largest number of Indian nations in the country, combined with one of the highest Latino populations, but is predominantly white and conservative. Holding steady at 5 percent is the African-American population, who Whitaker says is heading into unchartered waters.

“Over the last 20 years, we’re seeing unprecedented demographic changes, and it’s a question of how that is going to impact racial relations moving forward.” Whitaker said. “The Latino population has grown exponentially while the white population is shrinking. The black population isn’t being reduced, but diffused. We’re not really shrinking, but we’re getting outpaced.”

Whitaker believes Arizona’s future demographics means that the African-American population will be forced to think differently and more creatively than in the past if they want a substantive voice, a seat at the political table and how the state will evolve moving forward.

The lecture series will continue on March 20 with author Betty Webb’s presentation of  “Polygamy in Arizona.”

For more information on the spring 2014 Humanities Lecture Series, call Barbara Lafford at 602-496-0623 or email at

Reporter , ASU News