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Arizona Republic Establishes News21 Fellowship in Memory of Slain Reporter Don Bolles

June 10, 2016

The Arizona Republic has created a fellowship for students at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in honor of reporter Don Bolles, who was mortally wounded in a car explosion 40 years ago.

The Cronkite School is receiving a $62,500 gift from The Republic that will fund the participation of a student each year in the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting initiative. Established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the News21 program brings together the country’s top journalism students each year to create an investigative, multimedia reporting project on an issue of national significance.

Recent topics have ranged from voter fraud and voting rights to gun rights and regulations and the challenges facing veterans returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year’s project, which examined the trend toward legalization of marijuana in the U.S., was published by major media partners, including The Washington Post, USA Today, nbcnews.com, the Center for Public Integrity and the E.W. Scripps Co., plus a number of nonprofit online news sites affiliated with the Institute for Non-Profit News.

This summer, 31 students from 18 universities are working out of the Cronkite School and traveling across the country to report on voter participation in an election year under the direction of News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post and the Cronkite School’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism.

The Don Bolles News21 Fellowship will provide a stipend and cover travel expenses for a Cronkite School senior or graduate student to participate in the full-time summer fellowship beginning in 2017. The student will be competitively selected.

“Every journalist at The Arizona Republic – we share that passion for the truth,” Nicole Carroll, the Republic's editor and vice president of news, said at an event last week at the Cronkite School commemorating the 40th anniversary of Bolles’ death. “And we’re really proud and honored to nurture and support that in journalism moving forward.”

Bolles was fatally injured on June 2, 1976, when a remote-controlled dynamite bomb exploded under his car in a parking lot of a central Phoenix hotel. He died 11 days later.

Bolles was an award-winning investigative journalist for The Republic for more than a dozen years. He was known for his dogged reporting and coverage of the mafia’s influence in Arizona. He was named Arizona Press Club Newsman of the Year in 1974.

Cronkite Associate Dean Kristin Gilger said the Don Bolles News21 Fellowship will allow students to pursue in-depth investigations that represent the values of the late reporter. “At Cronkite, we try to make sure that every student who enters the school knows about Don Bolles,” Gilger said. “We sincerely appreciate The Arizona Republic continuing his legacy through this fellowship.”

News21 projects have won numerous awards, including four EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, the first Student Edward R. Murrow Award for video excellence and a host of honors by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hearst Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism.

In addition to the Don Bolles News21 Fellowship, a variety of foundations and philanthropists support News21 fellows, including the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Hearst Foundations and Louis A. “Chip” Weil.

Republic investigations have been recognized nationally with the Polk Award, Scripps-Howard Investigative Prize, an IRE award, National Headliner Awards, the Bartlett & Steele Gold Award and the Toner Prize.

The Republic broke the initial stories in the national Veterans Administration scandal when whistleblowers revealed that veterans were dying because of long wait times at Phoenix’s VA hospital. Other projects looked into costly public pension fund problems and the use of lethal force by agents on the US-Mexico border.