Knight Foundation executive named innovation chief at ASU Cronkite School

May 27, 2015

Eric Newton, a global leader in championing transformational digital innovation in the news media as an executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is joining Arizona State University as the innovation chief of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Newton, who will hold the faculty rank of professor of practice, will work closely with the school’s leadership to drive new, cutting-edge ideas and initiatives at Cronkite News, the school’s multiplatform daily-news operation. Cronkite News will serve as a test bed for news-industry innovations and experimentation while providing critical content to news consumers in Arizona and across the country. Cronkite School innovation chief Eric Newton Download Full Image

Newton will continue to serve Knight Foundation as a consultant working on special projects and endowment grants. In his nearly 15 years at Knight, Newton expanded the foundation’s journalism and media innovation program, overseeing the development of more than $300 million in grants, $160 million of which went to universities for pioneering projects in journalism education. For the past four years, he has been senior adviser to Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen.

“In the past decade, the Cronkite School has become one of the best, most innovative journalism schools in the country,” Newton said. “Now it has an ambitious goal: to transform journalism education – and to some degree journalism itself – with a stream of digital news experiments and inventions.

"This will be a built-out version of the teaching hospital model, with Cronkite News, a converged news organization in a major media market, as its platform. That’s a tremendously exciting challenge. If we are successful, we will do things in journalism education the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Newton developed grants for groundbreaking initiatives such as Poynter Institute’s News University, the largest online journalism training portal in the world, and Sunshine Week, an annual national observance of the importance of open government.

His work was central to the creation of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, a high-visibility consortium of leading journalism schools dedicated to transforming journalism education at the university level.

The initiative produced the landmark News21 program, headquartered at the Cronkite School, in which top journalism students from across the country investigate issues of national significance. Since its inception in 2006, nearly 500 journalism students have produced investigations that have captured numerous professional and collegiate awards and appeared in major outlets including the Washington Post, USA Today and NBC News.

In his new role at Cronkite, he will lead innovation projects at Cronkite News, the news organization that includes 15 full-time faculty editors and hundreds of students. Cronkite News includes a nightly television news broadcast on Arizona PBS; digital reporting bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles; a business reporting bureau; an entrepreneurial digital innovation lab; a digital production bureau; and a newsgathering and civic journalism bureau.

“Eric is an internationally recognized leader in the digital transformation of journalism over the past 30 years,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School and CEO of Arizona PBS. “He also possesses a deep understanding of journalism schools and universities. I can’t think of a better thought leader to be driving disruptive innovation and experimentation in our Cronkite News journalistic teaching hospital.”

At Knight Foundation, Newton’s team launched in 2007 the nationally recognized Knight News Challenge, a media innovation competition that funds breakthrough ideas in journalism. The challenge, designed to open up digital media to innovative ideas from anywhere, went on to attract more than 10,000 applications and provide more than $37 million in funding to 100-plus projects.

“Eric’s tenacity, know-how, enthusiasm and love of journalism have helped drive our program into the 21st century,” Ibargüen said. “He also has been an extraordinary and imaginative counselor to me on many subjects. I'm sorry to lose my office mate, but I know that this is good for Eric and his family and great for Arizona State.  Since he will continue as an adviser to Knight, it's good for us, too."

Newton also led major initiatives totaling more than $10 million involving high school journalism, newsroom training and investigative reporting. He co-produced five national studies on how well high school students know and understand the First Amendment.

Prior to joining Knight Foundation, Newton was founding managing editor of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., leading the content team at the world’s first museum of news. He started his career at California newspapers. As city editor, assistant managing editor and managing editor of the Oakland Tribune, he helped the paper win scores of awards, including a Pulitzer Prize.

Newton wrote or edited numerous works on journalism, including “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism,” which doubles as an interactive textbook. He holds a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Birmingham in England and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Francisco State University.

Reporter , ASU News


ASU Insight: Introduction to Dr. Sally Kitch’s book - “Contested Terrain The Future of Afghan Women”

May 27, 2015

New America Foundation in conjunction with The McCain Institute welcomed Dr. Kitch, Judge Basel and Ms. Afghani for a discussion on Dr. Kitch’s book and the future of Afghan women. seated panel discussion “Contested Terrain: The Future of Afghan Women” Download Full Image

With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan and a new Afghan government having assumed power, where does the future of Afghan women lie? In her new book, Contested Terrain: Reflections with Afghan Women Leaders, Sally L. Kitch explores the crisis in contemporary Afghan women's lives by focusing on the stories of Judge Marzia Basel and Ms. Jamila Afghani from 2005 through 2014, providing an oft-ignored perspective on the personal and professional lives of Afghanistan's women.


Dr. Sally L. Kitch

Founding Director, Institute for Humanities Research

Regents' Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Arizona State University

Author, Contested Terrain: Reflections with Afghan Women Leaders

 Judge Marzia Basel

Founder, Afghan Women Judges Association

Ms. Jamila Afghani

Founder, Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization

Founder, Afghan Women’s Islamic Network

Elected Member, Afghan NGO Humanitarian Country Team

Moderator: Peter Bergen

Director, International Security Program, New America

Dr. Sally L. Kitch is the founding Director of the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR), Regents' Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at the Wrigley Institute for Sustainability, and Affiliate of the Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Her work focuses on feminist theory and epistemology, the intellectual history of gender and racial ideology, and the material effects of such representation on the lived realities of diverse women's lives.

Judge Marzia Basel was sworn in as a judge in 1995, just before the Taliban eliminated all women professionals in 1996. She was the founder of the Afghan Women Judges Association in 2003, an organization later banned by Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in 2007. She then worked for several international organizations in order to advance women’s rights through instruction in both civil and Shari'ah law. In 2008, she founded the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization to fight injustices beyond the court system. In 2011 Marzia fled Afghanistan for fear of her life as a result of her work with international organizations. She now lives in Toronto, Canada, where she is seeking permanent residency. She remains involved in a number of organizations working on Afghan issues.

Ms. Jamila Afghani is the founder of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, which promotes the rights of women and girls by working with families to support the acceptance of girls’ schooling in rural areas and with imams to instruct congregations in what the Qur’an says about women’s rights. She personally overcame many obstacles, including family members’ conservatism and a disability that affected her since early childhood. Though disruptive, her family’s emigration to Pakistan to escape the Afghan civil wars allowed Jamila to obtain a degree from Peshawar’s Jinnah College for Women and a master’s degree in international relations. Back in Afghanistan since 2002, Jamila established the Afghan Women’s Islamic Network, an NGO that aims to create a network where women with Islamic education can pool their knowledge and support one another. She was also an elected member, and the only Afghan member, of the Afghan NGO Humanitarian Country Team, which decided on the distribution of government funds and donations in emergency situations, and established her own Afghan Women’s Professional Education Institute, which she officially registered with the Ministry of Education.

Ken Fagan

Videographer, ASU News