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Digital Media Leader to Direct Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative

July 31, 2008

headshot of Jody Brannon

Jody Brannon, a digital media leader who has held top editor positions at MSN.com, USAToday.com and washingtonpost.com, will direct a 12-university, $7.5 million project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to explore new ways to produce in-depth multimedia journalism.

Brannon will be national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 journalism initiative, which moved last month to the new Phoenix home of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

News21 was started by the foundations three years ago with digital media “incubators” at the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. Under a new three-year grant recently approved by the foundations, four more incubators have been added to the program: ASU, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina and Syracuse University. Four other schools under the Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative – Harvard University, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska and the University of Texas – will send students to participate in incubators at the other eight schools.

Under the News 21 program, journalism students are enrolled in a spring course to explore a major news topic, and then in the summer they are fellows in the News21 incubators, traveling across the country to produce in-depth stories while experimenting with different multimedia forms.

Brannon, senior home page editor and ombudsman at MSN.com in New York and Seattle, has experimented with new approaches and entry points to content by incorporating user input. Before joining MSN.com in 2006, she served as executive producer for news at USAToday.com, directing breaking news and prime-time programming.

She entered the world of digital media in its infancy, starting as a copy editor for The Washington Post’s first online initiative, Digital Ink, in April 1995. She rose to become manager of news and production and later managing editor of washingtonpost.com. She also served as executive producer at Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive before joining USAToday.com as executive producer.

Under her direction, multimedia news staffs won national awards from the Online News Association, Editor & Publisher, the Newspaper Association of America, the National Press Photographers Association, Associated Press Managing Editors and the National Press Foundation.

She is on the board of directors of the Online News Association and on the advisory board of the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.

“Jody Brannon is the ideal person to lead the next generation of News21,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “She is highly collaborative, possesses great leadership experience and is a nationally recognized leader in the digital news industry. She will help promote collaboration and innovation at the highest levels among the Carnegie-Knight schools.”

Prior to her work in digital media, Brannon worked in magazines and newspapers, primarily as a reporter and editor at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., and The Seattle Times.

Brannon has journalism degrees from Seattle University and American University and a doctoral degree in mass communication from the University of Maryland, where she studied the early days of multimedia journalism. Since 1988 she also has regularly taught a wide range of journalism courses at the University of Maryland, Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle University and American University, including the capstone seminar in its master’s program in interactive journalism for the past six years.

“These young journalists, guided by so many seasoned educators and the deans at their respective schools, are poised to prove the future of journalism is bright,” Brannon said. “The fellows will focus on telling important stories in new ways, blending learning and teaching styles, new and proven. I’m excited about doing what I can to ensure some next-gen approaches will have resonance for decades to come, thanks to the Carnegie-Knight commitment.”