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Arizona Republic Publishes Cronkite Students’ Don Bolles Project

May 28, 2006

The Arizona Republic and its Web site, azcentral.com, published a nine-story package created by a Cronkite School class that explores the slaying of investigative reporter Don Bolles on the 30th anniversary of his murder.

The project was the undertaking of an In-Depth Reporting class taught by Kristin Gilger, a Cronkite faculty associate and director of Student Media at ASU.

Bolles, an investigative reporter for the Republic, died 11 days after his car exploded in the parking lot of a Phoenix hotel. Six sticks of dynamite had been strapped to the car’s undercarriage. Bolles’ death set off a chain reaction of events never repeated in American journalism. Reporters from around the country descended on Arizona to continue his investigation of organized crime and land fraud. Their 23-part report - the only team-reporting project of its kind ever produced in the United States - revealed crime and corruption throughout the state.

The Republic, in a story leading into the students’ package, explained the project:

“With the 30th anniversary of Bolles’ death approaching on June 2, a group of advanced journalism students at Arizona State University decided to revisit Bolles’ life and death. They tracked down family, friends and others involved in the case. They examined court documents and autopsy reports. And they asked the questions that have lingered for three decades: Who was Don Bolles? What did his death accomplish? How should he be remembered?”

The results of the class project were remarkable.

On May 28, the Sunday edition of The Arizona Republic devoted about 200 inches to three of the students’ stories.

Two profiles appeared in the A section - one on Bolles by Tatiana Hensley and the other on Max Dunlap, the man convicted of killing him, by Megan Irwin. The third story, by Lauren Vasquez, ran on the front of the Viewpoints section. Vasquez examined the Arizona Project, the report produced by the journalists who came to Arizona after Bolles’ death to continue his investigation.

Meanwhile, the entire nine-story package was published in a special section by azcentral.com, the Web site of The Arizona Republic. Sky Schaudt, a Cronkite School graduate student interning at azcentral.com, compiled the stories and built the slide show.

Dean Christopher Callahan shared his excitement with faculty and staff about the coverage. “We are thankful to Ward Bushee and his team at The Arizona Republic for publishing so much of our students’ outstanding work. This is just the latest example of the wonderful partnership we enjoy with the nation’s 15th largest daily newspaper.”

Callahan also thanked John Leach, senior editor at azcentral.com and a faculty associate at the Cronkite School.

Leach said the Bolles saga is “an issue of public importance, and it was good to see students tackle this for the anniversary.” Leach said he hopes to collaborate with the Cronkite School on similar online projects in the future.

Other Cronkite classes contributed to the project.

Four students in Assistant Professor Carol Schwalbe’s Online Media class - Ray Gonzales, Chelsea Ide, Matt Mueller and Brent Ruffner - designed and produced a multimedia Web site called “Dying for the Story.”

“Dying for the Story” also features 16 radio stories produced by students in Assistant Professor Bill Silcock’s Advanced Broadcast Newswriting class.

And a computer-assisted reporting class taught by Knight Professor Steve Doig conducted polling and analysis for the project.

“The Bolles Project is a fantastic example of the kind of in-depth, collaborative and multi-platform journalism we want to encourage and promote,” Callahan said. “Kristin Gilger and her Cronkite colleagues have done a tremendous job in leading a group of very smart students in a fascinating project.”

The full list of the project stories produced by Gilger’s class follows:

• Lauren Vasquez looked back at IRE and The Arizona Project.

• Tatiana Hensley offered a revealing profile of Don Bolles.

• Megan Irwin profiled Max Dunlap, the only person still in prison for the crime.

• Chad Mauk looked into whether Bolles would have survived the attack if it happened today in light of medical advances over the past 30 years.

• Hensley described the Newseum’s plans for Bolles’ car.

• Chelsea Ide and Kanupriya Vashisht reported on the state of investigative reporting today.

• Sonia Boonchanasukit detailed the modern tools used by modern investigative reporters.

• Ryan Rose chronicled the dangers face by investigative reporters outside the United States.

• Michelle Martinez wrote about journalists killed around the world.

The students work will be featured at next year’s Investigative Reporters and Editors convention, which will be held in Phoenix and dedicated to the memory of Bolles.