Top journalism students to lead in-depth marijuana report at ASU

April 8, 2015

Top journalism students from 19 universities will lead an investigation into the issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana as part of the 2015 Carnegie-Knight News21 national multimedia investigative reporting initiative.

Headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that top journalism students can produce in-depth reporting and multimedia innovations. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and ASU alumna Jacquee Petchel Download Full Image

Students selected as News21 fellows conduct in-depth reporting on critical national issues, traveling the country and using innovative digital reporting techniques. Past projects have investigated veterans’ issues, voting rights, food safety and transportation safety in America.

Last year’s project, which examined gun rights and regulation, was published by more than 60 media partners, including The Washington Post, NBC News and USA Today. The investigation received a prestigious EPPY Award from Editor & Publisher magazine and was a finalist in the Investigative Reporters & Editors competition.

Students participating in the 2015 project are spending the spring semester researching and reporting on marijuana issues as part of a seminar taught in person and via video conference by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism.

Downie said the investigation will examine the legalization of marijuana – both medical and recreational – in states across the country. He said it will look at the politics of legalization, the medical and recreational marijuana businesses, the cannabis culture and law enforcement issues.

“We chose the legalization of marijuana this year because it is a historic change, debated in election referenda and legislatures in states across the country,” Downie said. “And News21, with student journalists at universities throughout the nation, is uniquely able to dig into all the issues that legalization poses.”

Following the seminar, students move on to paid summer fellowships during which they work out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School and travel across the country to report and produce their stories. The fellows work under the direction of News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former senior editor for investigations and enterprise at the Houston Chronicle.

“Not only will we be investigating the scope of the marijuana legalization movement and its many political and practical intricacies, we also will be presenting this project with original data and multimedia elements conceived and designed by the fellows in ways that push and promote enterprising storytelling on a national level,” Petchel said.

Twenty-nine students, including nine from ASU, have been selected for fellowships from nominations submitted by journalism deans and directors from across the country.

The ASU News21 fellows are: Tom Blanton, Jayson Chesler, Clarissa Cooper and Dominick DiFurio, all of whom are supported by funding from the Reynolds Foundation; Kelcie Johnson, Sean Logan and Anne Shearer, who are supported by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation; Alexa Talamo, supported by the Hearst Foundations; and Jessie Wardarski, supported by Louis A. “Chip” Weil.

For a full list of all participating students and universities, visit

Superstition Review interns take wing

April 8, 2015

Quality writing, stunning art, beautiful design, strong branding – these descriptors are consistently associated with Arizona State University’s Superstition Review, the online literary magazine anchored at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Launched in the College of Letters and Sciences in 2008 by founding editor Patricia Colleen Murphy to give students a “maker” experience in producing a first-rate magazine, Superstition Review has since showcased the work of more than 550 established and emerging writers and artists – and given more than 200 ASU students significant editorial and design mentorship. Superstition Review intern Jess Fletcher in Minneapolis Download Full Image

This week, eight Superstition Review student interns are joining managing editor Murphy and faculty adviser Mark Haunschild in representing ASU at North America’s largest literary conference – the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference. Held this year in Minneapolis, April 8-11, the conference typically attracts some 12,000 writers, teachers, students, editors and publishers.  

“Our interns spend an incredible amount of time helping bring the work of others to light,” said Murphy, senior lecturer in Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication. “This is a chance for them to invest focused time on their own professional development and really see how they’re connected to a global community of writers, artists and publishers.

“In addition to attending sessions of their choosing, our editors are looking forward to blogging and tweeting conference insights to our readers around the world,” Murphy said.

They will also take shifts staffing the Superstition Review table at the conference book fair, where more than 700 other journals, presses and literary organizations will be represented.

Six past Superstition Review contributors – Ruben Quesada, John Vanderslice, Elizabyth Hiscox, Matthew Lippman, Beth Gilstrap and Robert Detman – will be stationed at the table at appointed times on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, talking with conference-goers and signing their newest books.

Superstition Review is also hosting a reading in collaboration with Hayden’s Ferry Review and Blue Mesa Review  from 10 a.m. to noon, April 10 at The Nicollet.

Intern Stephanie Funk said she couldn't wait for her trip to Minnesota and the opportunity to attend conference for the first time.

“As intuitive as it sounds, one of the most significant things I’ve learned interning for Superstition Review is that the literary community is a real community,” said Funk, an English major. “It’s not a bunch of writers in their respective writer-holes; it’s an interactive, symbiotic system of people who do a lot of work to promote each other’s art."

Over the last seven years, Murphy and her team of student editors and faculty advisers from the College of Letters and Sciences have produced two issues a year of the magazine – featuring art, fiction, interviews, nonfiction and poetry. Issue number 15 goes live on May 1.

Though all their editorial work is done entirely online using Blackboard, Google Docs, Google Hangouts and email, editors also organize live events and readings, audio and video podcasts and engage readers through social media, a blog and a monthly newsletter.

“We’re committed to building a strong, year-round community of editors, submitters, contributors and readers,” Murphy said.

Senior Erin Regan, who served as editor-in-chief for the spring 2014 issue, counts her work with Superstition Review as one of her proudest collegiate accomplishments and an experience in which she found both confidence and creative freedom.

“I felt as though I was contributing in some small way to the landscape of modern publishing – rather than simply watching it unfold,” said Regan, who is completing majors in English and journalism and attending the confernece for the second time.

“Last year, I was nervous about attending the conference,” she said. “I expected everyone in attendance to have already written their first novel. Now, I know that’s not the case.

“Of course there are some profoundly successful writers there who have been widely published, and it’s such a joy to see them and hear them speak. But the AWP conference is also full of students and new writers who are trying to break into the world of literary publishing through small journals and publishing houses,” Regan added. “It’s incredible to be in the company of thousands of aspiring and inspiring writers and editors.”

Interns wanted

“We welcome interns from any discipline who are interested in the publishing field and want to immerse themselves in marketable job skills while earning college credit,” said Murphy, who is still looking for additional interns to join their ranks for fall 2015. “Students from creative writing, literature, web design, art, music, film and business have made a good fit.”

Interns enjoy exceptionally thorough training and mentoring.

Trainees register for a three-credit ENG 394 course in the fall. They study the field of literary magazines, are introduced to the processes and practices of a national literary publication, and review and read contemporary art and literature. They’re encouraged to create their own literary brand as well, one that will help make them more marketable for publishing jobs.

Trainees are also paired with current interns and encouraged to participate in Superstition Review outings, to attend local literary events and engage in literacy volunteer efforts.

In the spring semester, trainees enroll in ENG 484 and become active interns with the magazine. 

Funk has found that the benefits of doing a Superstition Review internship go well beyond the practical, marketable experiences in publishing. 

“Patricia Murphy is a real guru in her field and an excellent mentor – not to mention, she knows everybody,” Funk said. “My time with Superstiton Review has also been invaluable to me as a writer. As fiction editor this semester, I got to sit on the other side of the publishing curtain. You learn quickly what works and what doesn’t work. As a result, I’ll be much smarter when I submit my own writing for publication in the future.

“Before interning with Superstition Review, I had a distant, hazy desire to work in an editorial capacity,” she added. “Now I have a concrete idea of what that means and I absolutely want to pursue a similar position post-graduation. The lit mags are where the new, innovative stuff comes to first. It’s an exciting and fulfilling place to be.”

Follow ASU’s Superstition Review editors as they experience the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, using any of the following social networks:

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Maureen Roen

Director, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts