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News21 investigation into voting rights wins national award

August 20, 2013

A Carnegie-Knight News21 investigation into voting rights produced at Arizona State University was honored as the top online news project of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

The multimedia investigation, 'Who Can Vote?' was one of three finalists in NABJ’s Salute to Excellence National Media Awards competition in the Digital Media Online News Project category. It won against another project on voting rights produced by The Nation magazine, and an investigation into housing in America published by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica.

The NABJ annual awards competition recognizes journalism that best covers the black experience or addresses issues affecting the worldwide black community.

“The significance of this award is a testament to the quality of students you have and it’s got to be a testament to the quality of education they’re receiving to be able to put up something as fine as this,” said Bob Butler, NABJ incoming president, who has been an investigative reporter for the George Washington Williams Center for Independent Journalism and worked on the award-winning Chauncey Bailey Project in Oakland.

'Who Can Vote?' was produced as part of the News21 multimedia investigative reporting initiative, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Twenty-four students from 11 universities across the country worked on the project under the direction of journalism professionals that included Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School.

The project, launched just before the 2012 political conventions, consists of more than 20 in-depth reports, including a comprehensive database of all cases of election fraud in the U.S. since 2000. Other multimedia content includes data visualizations, video profiles, photo galleries and a voting history timeline. In part, the project examines how various groups are affected by laws that require voters to produce government-issued photo IDs to vote. Among these are elderly African-Americans who often don’t have access to documents, such as birth certificates required to obtain the photo identification.

The project was distributed nationally through dozens of professional media outlets, including The Washington Post,, The Philadelphia Inquirer and National Public Radio. The project was recently recognized with a 2012 EPPY Award from Editor & Publisher magazine.  

Previous News21 investigations have focused on food safety and transportation safety in America. The 2013 project, which will be released Aug. 25, explores the return to civilian life of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The NABJ award is recognition of the stellar work the News21 fellows do each year,” said Retha Hill, director of the Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation Lab and one of the editors on the project. “These university students, drawn from the top journalism programs across the nation, represent the best of the new breed of journalists who are both multimedia savvy and super-sharp investigative reporters.

“That News21 was competitive against professional news operations again speaks to the hard work the fellows put into the Who Can Vote package.”

News21 is supported by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, and Women and Philanthropy, part of ASU’s Foundation for a New American University.