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19 Universities Join Carnegie-Knight News21 Marijuana Investigation

April 6, 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.

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.

In addition to ASU, the universities participating in the 2015 News21 program are Elon University, Florida International University, George Washington University, Hofstra University, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University, Syracuse University, University of British Columbia, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Miami, University of Missouri, University of Nevada, Reno, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Tennessee and University of Texas at Austin.

News21 fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations and philanthropists. The students, their universities and the other institutions that support them are as follows:

  • Michael Bodley, Elon University
  • Matias Joaquin Ocner, Florida International University, supported by funding from Knight Foundation
  • Brianna Gurciullo, George Washington University, supported by The Kathryn Green Endowment and The Stephen Holly Bronz Endowment
  • Lauren del Valle, Hofstra University
  • Quint Forgey, Louisiana State University
  • Montinique Monroe, Oklahoma State University
  • Shawn Patrick Weismiller, Syracuse University
  • Emi Sasagawa, University of British Columbia
  • Katie Campbell, University of Florida
  • Karen Mawdsley, University of Maryland
  • Nick Swyter, University of Miami
  • Josh Benson, University of Missouri
  • Alexa Ard, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Calah Kelley, University of North Texas, supported by Knight Foundation and The Dallas Morning News
  • Brittan Jenkins, Joe Mussatto and Joey Stipek, University of Oklahoma, supported by Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation
  • Kathryn Boyd-Batstone, University of Oregon
  • Rilwan Balogun, University of Tennessee, supported by John and Patty Williams
  • Martin do Nascimento, University of Texas at Austin

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.

More information on the foundations and individuals who support News21:

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential American grant-making foundations. The foundation makes grants to promote international peace and to advance education and knowledge.

The Miami Foundation: Established in 1967, The Miami Foundation, formerly the Dade Community Foundation, has helped hundreds of people create personal, permanent and powerful legacies by establishing custom charitable funds. With the foundation’s help, fund holders have fostered the arts, awarded scholarships, championed diversity, taught children to read, provided food and shelter for the hungry and homeless and more.

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation: The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, the daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord. Ms. Gaylord created the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in 1982 to improve the quality of journalism by supporting research and creative projects that promote excellence and foster high ethical standards in journalism.

The Hearst Foundations: Publisher and philanthropist William Randolph Hearst founded The Hearst Foundation Inc. in 1945. Three years later, he established the California Charities Foundation, which was renamed the William Randolph Hearst Foundation in 1951. Today the foundations operate as a single entity under the name the Hearst Foundations and function as private philanthropic organizations independent of The Hearst Corporation. The foundations’ funding priorities include the fields of education, health, culture and social service.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation: The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed more than $115 million nationwide through its Journalism Program.

Louis A. “Chip” Weil: Weil served as president and chief executive officer for Central Newspaper Inc., which owned The Arizona Republic. Prior to becoming CEO, he was president and publisher of the Detroit News and publisher of Time magazine. Weil and his wife Daryl established the Weil Family Professorship at the Cronkite School.

The Kathryn Green Endowment: The Kathryn Green Endowment was established in 2001 by Kathryn Green, an alumna of George Washington University. This fund supports a program that will bring professional editors to campus to teach classes, offer workshops, or host mini-symposiums, to maximize the editors’ exposure to students.

The Stephen Holly Bronz Endowment: The Stephen Holly Bronz Endowment was established in 1982 by Pearl B. Holly, M.D., in memory of her son, Stephen Holly Bronz. The endowment is used to encourage and assist students in journalism at George Washington University.

The Dallas Morning News: The Dallas Morning News is a nine-time Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper that has served the Dallas-Fort Worth area for 130 years. The news organization dedicates itself to public service and helping North Texans better understand the world around them.