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Pulitzer-winning journalist leads Carnegie-Knight News21

June 29, 2011

William K. Marimow, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has been a top editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Public Radio and The Baltimore Sun, will join Arizona State University to lead the Carnegie-Knight News21 in-depth digital journalism program.

Marimow 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 top journalism students from around the country together to produce investigative journalism that is deep, impactful and innovative.

“Bill Marimow is one of the great investigative journalists of our time, one of the best investigative team leaders and a wonderful mentor to smart young journalists,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Working with an all-star team of digital media leaders, data analysts and former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., Bill and the News21 students will be producing journalism that truly makes a difference and is presented in bold, innovative ways.”

Downie, the school’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism and a key member of the News21 team who has led recent News21 investigations on food safety and transportation safety, applauded the announcement.

"I'm very excited to have Bill as a Cronkite colleague and to work closely with him on News21,” Downie said. “While a friendly rival during our years as editors of newspapers with national impact, I had great respect for Bill as an outstanding investigative journalist and inspirational leader. I expect him to continue News21's progress as a valuable source of in-depth investigative reporting for the nation's news media and of vital professional development for its student journalists."

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York recently announced a package of $2.32 million in new grants to support News21 into the next decade.

The foundations launched News21 in 2005 as a cornerstone of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism with five universities: University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard University, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. Three years later, seven other schools – including Arizona State – were added to the initiative and the News21 program was moved to the Cronkite School. For the past three years, eight News21 newsrooms at Carnegie-Knight schools around the country have produced a wide array of award-winning projects.

Under the new News21, there will be a single newsroom – at Cronkite – with top journalism students from universities across the country. And for the first time, the program will be extended beyond the dozen Carnegie-Knight schools, taking applicants from journalism programs nationally.

The new version of News21 will modeled after the highly successful multi-university investigative project on transportation safety in America conducted at ASU last year and led by Downie and Cronkite Associate Dean Kristin Gilger. That project, conducted in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and distributed by and The Washington Post, received more than 5.2 million page views in its first 18 days – the largest distribution of university-produced journalism content in history. A similar project this summer, focusing on food safety, is led by Downie and Sharon Rosenhause, the former managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Marimow joins the Cronkite School following an extraordinary career in accountability journalism. He and a partner wrote the stories for which The Philadelphia Inquirer received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1978. Their investigation uncovered how Philadelphia police homicide detectives beat statements out of suspects and witnesses and led  to the conviction of six detectives.

In 1985, Marimow won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for uncovering abuse by Philadelphia police whose dogs attacked and mauled innocent, unarmed citizens. The following year, Marimow was the lead reporter on stories about the MOVE bombing for which The Inquirer was chosen as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general reporting. Those stories revealed how city officials decided to drop a bomb on a Philadelphia row house, triggering a fire that killed 11 members of the radical group MOVE and destroyed a city block.

Marrimow’s work at the Inquirer also won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Howard Public Service Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Public Service Award and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award.

After 14 years as a beat reporter and an investigative reporter, Marimow moved to newsroom leadership positions at The Inquirer, serving as a suburban editor, New Jersey editor, city editor and assistant to the publisher.

In 1993, he left the paper for The Baltimore Sun, where he served as metro editor, managing editor and eventually the newspaper’s top editor. During his 11 years at the Sun he helped lead the newspaper to three more Pulitzer Prizes – for featuring writing in 1997, investigative reporting in 1998 and beat reporting in 2003.

In 2004, he joined National Public Radio as managing editor for national news and was later named vice president for news, overseeing NPR’s news operations and flagship shows “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.” Under his leadership, NPR won an RFK award and an Investigative Reporters and Editors award.

Marimow returned to the Inquirer in 2006, serving as the newspaper’s top editor for four years before returning to the investigative team in October.

A graduate of Trinity College, where he serves as a member of the Board of Trustees, he also has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and served as a Pulitzer juror eight times.

In the new News21, students from around the country will participate via videoconference in a graduate issues seminar led by Downie in the spring semester, gathering expertise in the topic to be explored by the News21 team. Fellows also will have the option of participating in an accountability journalism class taught by Downie.

In the summer, the paid News21 fellows will work closely with a full team of journalists led by Marimow that will include Retha Hill, former BET vice president, the school’s New Media Innovation Lab director who will serve as the newsroom’s digital leader, collaborating with students on how to best tell their stories in digitally innovative ways; Downie, who will provide regular consulting from Phoenix and Washington; Steve Doig, a Pulitzer-winning computer-assisted reporting expert and the school’s Knight Chair in Journalism, who will provide data analysis expertise and support; Mark Ng, the New Media Innovation Lab’s web developer, who will help students operationalize their multimedia visions and innovations; Steve Crane, Cronkite Washington director, a longtime Washington editor, who will serve as copy editor; and Kristin Gilger,, associate dean, a former Arizona Republic deputy managing editor, who will provide project oversight.

Marimow will be ASU's third Pulitzer Prize winner, joining Cronkite’s Doig and Bert Hoelldobler, a life sciences professor.

He will move to Arizona in September with his wife, Diane, a Philadelphia artist and teacher.