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Journalism students report from Dominican Republic

March 15, 2011

Seventeen students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University are spending their spring break in the Dominican Republic reporting on immigration issues.

Students will be in the country for 10 days, reporting and shooting photos and video for an in-depth, Web-based project and a television package. They are led by Rick Rodriguez, the school’s Carnegie Professor of Journalism, and Jason Manning, director of Student Media.

The project is part of a depth reporting class taught by Rodriguez. Students spent the first part of the semester preparing for the trip by researching the issue of stateless people in the Dominican Republic, a subject Rodriguez called “timely and important,” in part because of a debate in the United States over the citizenship status of children born to undocumented immigrants.

The Dominican Republic revoked birthright citizenship last year. Previously, individuals born in the country were automatically considered citizens. The new law prevents individuals born to people residing in the country illegally from obtaining identification documents, limiting access to important services, such as education, health care and housing.

Some lawmakers in Arizona have proposed similar legislation to address illegal immigration into the United States.

Cronkite students are based in Santo Domingo and are traveling around the country interviewing government officials, legal residents and immigrants from neighboring Haiti, who flood into the Dominican in search of jobs, education and health care.

Rodriguez said the experience is invaluable for students, who are learning to negotiate cultural and language barriers while reporting stories of depth and consequence. The stories will be offered to professional media outlets for publication as well as being published at Cronkite News ( and broadcast on Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s award-winning student-produced newscast.

The student reporting project is funded by a $1 million endowment to the Cronkite School from the Buffett Foundation, which is led by philanthropist and photojournalist Howard Buffett. Since 2006, his foundation has funded four other projects that have given Cronkite students the opportunity to practice journalism in other countries, including Mexico and South Africa.

One of the Mexico-based projects, “Divided Families,” was the recipient of the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college print journalism category. The award recognizes outstanding reporting around the world on social justice and human rights concerns.