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Carnegie-Knight News21 food safety probe wins national awards

May 08, 2012

A major investigation of food safety conducted by the Carnegie-Knight News21 digital news team from five universities is being recognized nationally in journalism competitions.

Top honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence national competition went to students from Arizona State University, University of Maryland, University of Nebraska, Harvard University and University of Missouri for an in-depth multimedia reporting project “How Safe is Your Food?”  Students spent the summer of 2011 working out of newsrooms at ASU and Maryland and traveling the country to report the project, which won first place in online in-depth reporting.

One of the food safety stories – on salmonella dangers in food – was singled out for another first-place SPJ award. “Salmonella Lurks from Farm to Fork,” reported and produced by University of Maryland students Jeffrey Benzing, Esther French, Judah Ari Gross and Robyne McCullough, won first place in online feature reporting.

The winners were selected from more than 4,000 entries submitted by student journalists nationwide. The awards will be presented in September at the SPJ national conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition, an interactive graphic produced by News21 students in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been shortlisted for the first-ever international Data Journalism Awards, sponsored by Google and organized by the Global Editors Network and the European Journalism Centre.

The “Visualizing Our Future Selves” data visualization interactive allows readers to enter basic biographical information about themselves and see how they fit into the aging world of the future, using projections from economists, biostatisticians and demographers. The graphic was developed by students Jason Alcorn, Michael Keller and Emily Liedel.

Other nominees for the Data Journalism Awards include BBC News, the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian and The Economist.

All of the students’ honored work was produced as part of News21, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help change the way journalism is taught in the U.S. and train a new generation of journalists capable of reshaping the news industry.

“News21 attracts top students from all over. It’s an all-star team. So yes, it wins awards,” said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at the Knight Foundation. “But more important than the awards, we hope, will be its lasting impact, not just on journalism education or the notion of increased collaboration, but the impact of the stories themselves.”

The Cronkite School serves as the national headquarters for the initiative, which includes top journalism students from across the country. The program is led by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, and other leading news veterans.

Student works gets wide national distribution through partnerships with The Washington Post,, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity and other media organizations.

The 2012 national News21 project will bring two dozen top student journalists from 11 universities to Cronkite to conduct an investigation into the impact on American voters of recent extensive changes in election laws and voting procedures in many states.

News21-inspired projects will take place this summer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of California at Berkeley. Each will have its own theme and approach, but all will demonstrate the same fundamentals as the national program: that top students and top professors can do the toughest stories in innovative ways, partnering with major news organizations.

About the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential of American grant-making foundations. The foundation makes grants to promote international peace and to advance education and knowledge.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on project sthat promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit