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Cronkite takes first dig at school’s new digs

February 21, 2007

Legendary TV anchorman participates in Phoenix groundbreaking  ceremony

Sporting a shiny new hard hat and clutching a large shovel, legendary newsman Walter Cronkite dug into the dirt where his school’s future home awaits.

The former “CBS Evening News” anchor visited ASU Feb. 21 to commemorate the groundbreaking of a new building for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS affiliate Eight/KAET-TV at the university’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

Cronkite was joined by several other leaders in Arizona, including ASU President Michael Crow, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, the Cronkite School’s dean, Christopher Callahan, and Eight’s general manager, Greg Giczi, to celebrate this milestone for the school. Groundbreaking events included remarks from Cronkite and others, as well as a ceremonial shoveling of the dirt.

Funding for the $71 million project stems from a $223 million bond passed by Phoenix voters in March 2006 to develop an ASU campus in Phoenix.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is a strong proponent of improving education to advance Arizona in the 21st century, and she supported the establishment of the campus from day one. Her continued support aids the campus in expanding its educational offerings to Arizonans.

“Education is key for Arizona’s success, and it’s essential for Arizona’s universities to provide our citizens with access to a college education,” Napolitano says. “ASU is making the effort to accomplish this, and the Downtown Phoenix campus is expanding to meet the demand. We must continue the path ASU has already taken to improve access and better prepare our students for the work force.”

When the school moves to its new location in fall 2008, students will be steps away from major print and broadcast news outlets where they can get internships or part-time jobs to gain real world experience outside of the classroom.

“Having the Cronkite School in Phoenix makes so much sense and offers so many educational opportunities,” Gordon says. “Locating right in the middle of the government corridor and most of the major media outlets will allow journalism students to essentially have a laboratory that is as big as downtown Phoenix itself. We’re so proud to have these future journalists here.”

The new location in Phoenix, combined with the school’s new professional programs for students such as the Cronkite News Service and New Media Innovation Lab, will allow students to better inform residents on key issues.

“Graduates of the Cronkite School of Journalism have built an impressive record of achievement over the past 20 years,” Crow says. “The school’s new facility at the Downtown Phoenix campus will further improve the student experience and will enhance the news product we see from these students.”

“Michael Crow is a true visionary of our time,” Cronkite said to the crowd of 350 that gathered to witness the ceremony. “He took the reins of this university and gave new direction and energy beyond anyone’s imagination. Together with Dean Callahan, these two inspiring leaders are working to make our journalism school the best in the land. I’m grateful beyond measure to those who made this dream a reality.”

ASU established a journalism department 50 years ago this year, and the university named the school in honor of Cronkite in 1984. The nationally accredited Cronkite School, which focuses on professional journalism education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, has finished in the top 10 of the highly competitive Hearst intercollegiate journalism awards for the past four years.

With an expanding faculty and influx of bright students, the Cronkite School aims to become the leading journalism school in the nation, Callahan says, adding: “There are only so many elements you need to have a great school. You need great students, which we have, and they’re only going to be getting better. You need great faculty. We already have terrific professors, and we’re getting more of them. And you need the proper teaching environment. We’re soon going to have a world-class facility.”

The six-story, 223,000-square-foot complex will be located on the northern end of ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. The Cronkite School’s portion of the new building will be five times the size of its current home at the Tempe campus. The 102,000-square-foot space will be fully equipped with cutting-edge amenities and will include newsrooms, computer labs, TV studios, classrooms, offices and an auditorium.
Eight, Arizona’s PBS affiliate, also will occupy the new building. Its portion of the building, which will be 76,000 square feet, includes TV studios, production and audio control rooms, a transmission center, offices and conference rooms.

“Eight is ASU’s most powerful means of community outreach,” Giczi says. “We serve nearly 80 percent of the state’s population, from Yuma to Flagstaff, Kingman to the White Mountains. Moving to the new facility in downtown Phoenix, where we are visible and accessible to all Arizonans, puts us in the center of it all.”