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Pulitzer-winning alum returns to ASU to lead Carnegie-Knight News21

Jacquee Petchel
December 06, 2012

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Arizona State University alumnus Jacquee Petchel will join ASU to lead the Carnegie-Knight News21 multimedia investigative reporting initiative.

Petchel will join the faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as professor of practice and executive editor of News21, the highly acclaimed program that brings together top journalism students from around the country to produce in-depth, innovative and interactive investigative journalism on issues of national importance. News21 is headquartered at the Cronkite School and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the Hearst Foundations.

This past summer, 24 News21 Fellows from 11 universities produced a major national investigation into voting rights in the United States. “Who Can Vote?” consists of more than 20 in-depth reports and rich multimedia content that includes interactive databases and data visualizations, video profiles and photo galleries. Major media partners that have published all or part of the project include The Washington Post, and National Public Radio. The project recently received an EPPY Award for best college/university investigative or documentary report from Editor & Publisher magazine.

“When it comes to innovation in journalism education, News21 is like the parting of the Red Sea,” said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of the Knight Foundation. “It’s a miraculous combination of student journalism, serious investigative work, high technology and major media partnerships that at first seemed impossible. But it’s really happening, and it is helping lead students toward a better future in journalism. We’re glad ASU has found an executive editor who can keep the miracle going.”

As News21’s executive editor, Petchel will serve as the program’s lead editor and newsroom manager, supervising a team of student reporters from top journalism programs around the country as they conduct major national investigations on critical issues and produce innovative multimedia journalism. She will work closely with a team of Cronkite faculty, including Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post; Retha Hill, former vice president for content for BET Interactive; and longtime Miami Herald reporter Steve Doig, to conceptualize and plan investigations, coach student journalists and edit their work, and develop media partnerships to ensure wide distribution of News21 projects.

“Jacquee's award-winning accomplishments in print and broadcast investigative journalism and her contagious, high-energy personality make her an ideal leader for what has become the highest-impact student reporting project in the country,” Downie said. “She will inspire student reporters to produce innovative professional-level journalism that can help them launch productive careers. It's an added bonus that Jacquee will be returning home to Cronkite, where she is already a member of the school's Alumni Hall of Fame.”

Petchel said she is looking forward to returning to the place where she began her journalism career.

“I couldn’t be more honored after more than 30 years of investigative journalism to return to the university where my own career started to coach and train the next generation of multimedia investigative journalists,” Petchel said. “The News21 program is one of the most progressive initiatives in the country, the Cronkite School is a national prize in and of itself, and I cannot wait to jump in and get started.”

Petchel joins the Cronkite School following a distinguished career as an award-winning investigative reporter, editor and producer. She began her career as a Pulliam Fellow at The Indianapolis News in 1980-1981 and then went on to spend six years as a reporter for The Arizona Republic.

In 1987, she joined The Miami Herald covering social services and later became an investigative reporter, where she was part of a team that won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service for an investigation into property damage in South Florida caused by Hurricane Andrew.

She then began producing investigative journalism for television, first as senior producer of investigations at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and then as executive producer of investigations at WFOR-TV in Miami. She returned to The Miami Herald in 1999 as assistant city editor over the criminal justice team, later becoming the paper’s investigations editor. In 2001, she was part of a team that received the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for coverage of the federal raid that removed 6-year-old Elián González from his relatives’ home in Miami and returned him to his father’s custody.    

Since 2005, Petchel has been senior editor for investigations and enterprise at The Houston Chronicle, managing the investigative team.

Over the course of her career, she has reported or led projects that have won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Silver Baton and numerous regional awards.  

She is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and has served on the organization’s board of directors. She also has been a visiting faculty member at the Poynter Institute. 

A Phoenix native, Petchel earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Latin American studies from ASU, where she was a reporter and editor for The State Press, ASU’s independent student newspaper. She was inducted into the Cronkite School’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1997.