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Next-Generation Reporters Innovate on the Web

August 31, 2009

News21, the national investigative reporting project with leading journalism schools, is making available a record amount of content – more than 60 multimedia stories and projects – to Web sites, broadcasters and newspapers around the country.
The projects, produced by top journalism students under the direction of seasoned professionals, focus on the theme “Changing America.” The students cover everything from the crumbling national energy grid to life decisions being made by young, college-educated urban adults. They spent this past summer researching and reporting on their topics and creating innovative and interesting ways to display their work on the Web.
All News21 content is free and available at http://news21.com.
This is the fourth year of the national News21 initiative. Previously, major distribution partnerships have been arranged with news organizations such as The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, NPR, PBS and The Associated Press. This year, Gannett Digital and McClatchy–Tribune News Service will be among those distributing News21 content.

News21, headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, is a joint program of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami. It is part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, a nationwide effort to train a new generation of journalists capable of leading and reshaping the news industry.

“News21 shows that great journalism schools have a role to play in the future of news,” said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “The proof is on the Web for all to see – students doing solid, in-depth journalism in new, interesting ways.”

Susan King, vice president, Carnegie Corporation of New York, said the Carnegie-Knight partnership “stresses our two foundation priorities: innovation in news for Knight and deeper intellectual standards at university-based journalism schools for the corporation.

“Journalism schools have an even larger role to play in this time of dislocation and change in the news industry. Students need to be well read and digitally skilled, and if News 21 proves anything it is that these students excel on both fronts.”

Schools involved in the project included ASU, the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, Northwestern University, the University of Southern California and Syracuse University. Students from four associate schools – Harvard University, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska and University of Texas at Austin also contributed.

In addition to reporting in-depth on their stories, students tackled the boundaries of Web innovation. Among other things, they developed video players that allow users to interact with content in new ways and created a working prototype of a national database for reporters to share hard-to-find data about cities. They used everything from motion graphics and time-lapse maps to Twitter feeds, video, slideshows and text to tell their stories. Their innovations are explained at http://news21.com/innovation-roundup/.

Students had 10 weeks this summer to report and produce their stories.

“Our strategy with the News21 students is to task them to tell complex stories in ways other young people might find interesting and relevant,” said Jody Brannon, News21 national director and a Cronkite School professor of practice. “This summer, in a short 10-week period, their experiments produced some approaches that do just that.”
Photojournalist Jose Castillo, an associate fellow from Texas who joined the University of Maryland’s summer program, studied voter data to see what it reveals about race and identity in America.
 “In 2008, we elected a black president, and I was intrigued by how this speaks to who we are and how we’ve changed over the last 100 years,” he said.
Castillo settled on telling the story Allensworth, Calif., a community founded in 1908 by a black man seeking his fortune, which has evolved into a town with a majority Latino population. To tell the story over time, he used an experimental interface that lets the user to “step to the side of the story” while providing a biographical sketch of the video subject.
Chrystall Kanyuck, a graduate student at ASU’s Cronkite School, said the program taught her a lot about what journalism can and should be.
“The high standards stretched me as a journalist and as a person, and the program gave me the opportunity to produce the kind of collaborative project journalism that many newsrooms don't have the budgets for in this economy,” she said.

Jennifer Carroll, senior editor and vice president Gannett’s ContentOne, said the students’ work will be distributed to 85 newspapers and 19 television stations as well as affiliate Web sites across the country.

“Our partnership with News 21 and Arizona State University ensures we stay tied to cutting-edge ideas and contributions from the best and brightest student journalists,” said. “We are impressed with the depth, quality and scope of the students’ work.”

For more information, contact Brannon, News21 national director, at jody.brannon@news21.com or at 602.496.5165.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” For more than 95 years, the corporation has carried out Carnegie’s vision of philanthropy by investing in non-profits that reflect his two major concerns: international peace and advancing education and knowledge.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950 the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance journalism quality and freedom of expression. The Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. To learn more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.