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Knight, Carnegie Fund News21 for Next Decade at ASU

June 14, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York are funding Arizona State University to operate the News21 in-depth digital journalism program for the next decade, the foundations announced today.

In this next generation of the highly acclaimed national program, News21 will now be open to journalism schools beyond the 12 universities that are members of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. The program will continue to be based at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Carnegie President Vartan Gregorian and Knight President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen made the announcement of $2.32 million in grants for News21 today at a meeting of the Carnegie-Knight deans at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“The name News21 means 21st-century news,” said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “These grants will help Arizona State pioneer new ways to teach a new generation to report, package, present and engage citizens with the news they need to run their communities and their lives.”

Carnegie and Knight launched News21 in 2005 as a cornerstone of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative with five universities: the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard University, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. Three years later, seven other schools were added: Arizona State University, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of North Carolina, University of Texas and Syracuse University.

Entering the program’s seventh year this fall, News21 will now be open to all journalism schools. The new News21 will be modeled after the highly successful multi-university national News21 investigative projects headquartered at the Cronkite School over the past two years.

Last year, students from 11 universities came together at Cronkite to create a 23-story package on transportation safety in America. “Breakdown: Traveling Dangerously in America” was published by MSNBC.com, The Washington Post, Yahoo News! and the Center for Public Integrity. The Washington Post led off the series with a Sunday page one story, and MSNBC.com featured a story every day for a full week at the top of its home page. The project drew more than 5.2 million page views in its first 18 days – the largest distribution of university-produced journalism in history.

This year, the national News21 fellows are working on a sweeping investigation of food safety, once again working closely with former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and other top news leaders.

The expansion of News21 comes after an independent evaluation found the initiative has already helped transform journalism school curriculums and led to the hiring of more journalism graduates during a critical juncture in the industry’s history.

“The initiative has developed a new cohort of well-educated journalists who are analytical thinkers and adept communicators, as at home in the virtual universe as they are in the day-to-day world of what has become a news cycle that knows no global borders and never sleeps,” said Carnegie’s Gregorian. “Yet of even greater importance, this investment has fortified journalism’s role as a pillar of democracy.”

“The Carnegie-Knight schools are very different places than they were just six years ago,” said Knight’s Ibargüen. “Today they have new classes, new teachers and new approaches that combine digital innovation with knowledge journalism. And news industry leaders are recognizing that journalism education has a role to play in the future of news.”

A 2005 pro bono McKinsey & Company study at the start of the now nearly $20 million Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education found that news leaders were unenthusiastic about the role of journalism education, suggesting that journalism schools needed to do “a better job of imparting values, building critical thinking and analytical skills and developing specialized expertise.” Six years later, a new, independent evaluation of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative by a veteran investigative journalist finds that most news industry leaders surveyed think journalism education in the U.S. has improved and is making important contributions.

ASU President Michael M. Crow, who was instrumental in providing critical support and new university resources for News21, applauded the Knight Foundation and Carnegie Corporation for their investments in the future of news and journalism education.

“News21 will not only provide fantastic opportunities for the nation’s best and brightest journalism students, but will give news consumers critically important, in-depth news about important issues and present that news in innovative ways that will help lead the news industry in the digital age,” Crow said. “It’s precisely that kind of bold problem-solving that is the hallmark of ASU. We’re proud to be the home of News21 and very thankful to Presidents Gregorian and Ibargüen for their visionary leadership.”

Under the new News21, fellows from around the country will participate via videoconference in a spring seminar taught by Downie, the Cronkite School’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism. The seminar will immerse students in their summer investigative topic. Fellows also will be able to participate in Downie’s Accountability Journalism class in the spring semester.

In the summer, the paid fellows will work out of the Cronkite School’s state-of-the-art digital media complex in downtown Phoenix for 10 weeks. The fellows will work with a team led by a soon-to-be-hired executive editor. Other members of the summer News21 team will be Retha Hill, the former vice president for content for BET Interactive and director of the Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation Lab, who will serve as the newsroom’s digital leader, collaborating with students on how to best tell their investigative stories in innovative and compelling ways on multiple platforms; Downie, who will provide regular consulting to the newsroom from Phoenix and Washington; Steve Doig, a Pulitzer Prize-winning computer-assisted reporting specialist and the school’s Knight Chair in Journalism, who will provide data analysis expertise and support; Mark Ng, chief Web developer for the New Media Innovation Lab, who will work with fellows throughout the summer to help operationalize their digital visions and innovations; Cronkite Washington Director Steve Crane, a longtime Washington editor and former University of Maryland assistant dean, who will serve as the project’s copy editor; and Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, former deputy managing editor of The Arizona Republic, who will provide project oversight.

“It’s an all-star journalism team,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “News21 will provide journalism students from around the country with a truly unparalleled experience in both investigative reporting and innovative multimedia creation. This is 21st-century, digital-era accountability journalism at its best.”

Interested schools should go to news21.com/jschools for more information.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. Programs are built around the core belief that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

The Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do "real and permanent good in this world." For more, visit www.carnegie.org