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The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication celebrated the official grand opening of its new home in the hub of downtown Phoenix on Thursday.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, members of the Phoenix City Council, state legislators, ASU President Michael M. Crow and members of the Arizona Board of Regents were all on hand to dedicate the state-of-the-art building, described as the most technologically advanced journalism school in the country.
Only five years ago, Gordon and Crow envisioned a journalism school of the 21st century in the center of the country’s fifth largest city. In 2006, Phoenix voters approved a $223 million bond by a 2-1 margin, with $71 million allocated for the Cronkite building.
Under a unique partnership between the city of Phoenix and ASU, the six-story, 235,733 square foot building was completed in just 18 months from groundbreaking to move-in. The building, featuring two television studios, seven digital computer labs and a 150-seat auditorium, is primed for journalism students to learn and work with new forms of media in the digital age.
“What would you imagine the school of journalism for the 21st century American democracy to look like, feel like and be like?” Crow said. “You’re sitting in it right now.”
Gordon said the building was “unprecedented” in the country. “We really think this is going to be the most important catalyst for our city in the Valley,” he said.
Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan thanked Gordon and Crow Thursday for their passion and support of the project and recognized the design team—Steven Ehrlich Architects, Sundt construction company and HDR, an architectural, engineering and consulting firm.
The celebration took place in the building’s central space, The First Amendment Forum, which Callahan called the most important part of the building. It’s a place, he said, “where we practice and celebrate our freedom of speech and freedom of the press each and every day.”
Arizona state legislators, members of the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona Board of Regents attended the standing-room-only event, as did Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, the PBS news team and recipients of the 25th annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Callahan said it was fitting to have Lehrer and MacNeil present because Eight/KAET, Arizona’s PBS affiliate will occupy the fifth and part of the sixth floors of the building. The two will be formally honored at the Cronkite Awards Luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore on Friday.
Regent Robert Bulla of the Arizona Board of Regents called it a great day for the school, ASU and the city of Phoenix, saying what the country needs most is factual, truthful and ethical reporting. “Walter Cronkite was the man America trusted. And his school will produce those cycles of trust,” he said.
Callahan read a letter from former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, who was unable to make the trip. With the new building, Cronkite wrote, “Everyone else knows what I always knew: Arizona State University has become the finest journalism school in the land.”