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Rodriguez Named Carnegie Professor at Cronkite

July 21, 2008

Rick Rodriguez, the former executive editor at the Sacramento Bee who joined the faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University earlier this year, will be the school’s first Carnegie Professor specializing in Latino and transnational news coverage.

The Carnegie Professor is part of the curriculum enrichment component of the comprehensive Carnegie-Knight Journalism Initiative to improve journalism education at 12 universities nationwide. The program is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Today’s journalists must be steeped in experience and deeply knowledgeable about the subjects they report on,” said Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian. “To understand the underlying ideas and possible ramifications of import, even truly transformative events, requires that journalists be trained and informed enough to deal with complex, nuanced information with a richness and depth.”

Arizona State University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Nebraska were recently added to the Carnegie-Knight initiative, joining the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland, the University of Missouri, Northwestern University, Syracuse University, the University of Texas and the University of Southern California.

The Carnegie-Knight grants are used by the schools to “expand the intellectual horizons of journalism students, in large part by harnessing the tremendous subject-matter expertise that resides in each of the universities,” according to a joint statement from the foundations.

At Cronkite, the grant will be used to create a journalism specialization on covering Latino communities and U.S.-Mexico transnational issues.

“The rapidly changing demographics of the nation represent an enormously important – and complex – story,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “Today one-third of the U.S. population is people of color. By 2050, minorities will make up half of the U.S. population. Latinos are both the largest and fastest-growing minority group. Yet much of the news media coverage of Latinos and Latino-related issues is superficial and often polarizing. We believe there is a critical need to develop a cadre of young journalists who can draw on a deep reservoir of knowledge from multiple disciplines – history, sociology, political science, economics, art, culture, religion, law – to create powerful, sophisticated and insightful journalism about these increasingly important stories.”

Under the program, the Cronkite School will offer a new specialization in the coverage of Latino issues that includes a multidisciplinary seminar to explore cultural, historical, political, legal, economic, religious and sociological dimensions of Latino life in the United States and U.S.-Mexico transnational issues, featuring top faculty and experts from a wide variety of disciplines. There also will be a new field course in which students will delve in-depth into critical Latino-related issues and meet with discipline experts during trips to Mexico. Students in the specialization also will take appropriate Latino courses across multiple disciplines outside of the Cronkite School and do an in-depth project at Cronkite News Service.

Rodriguez is uniquely suited to serve as the school’s first Carnegie Professor, Callahan said.

“Rick is one of America’s leading newspaper editors, a champion of not only the kind of in-depth reporting that we want our students to produce, but a national leader on news diversity issues,” Callahan said.

Rodriguez, the first Latino president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, joined the Cronkite School faculty in March after serving as the top editor of the Sacramento Bee for nine years.

The Salinas, Calif., native graduated from Stanford University in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He was only 18 when he began his career with his hometown newspaper, The Salinas Californian. One of his first assignments was interviewing legendary farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, and he says that reporting on Chavez’s career is among his proudest achievements as a reporter.

Rodriguez worked for another McClatchy newspaper, The Fresno Bee, before joining the Sacramento Bee in 1982 as a political writer. He was the Bee’s managing editor for five years before being named executive editor.

The Cronkite School has a deep commitment to journalism diversity issues. Later this week the school will unveil two national research projects conducted for UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. at the group’s national convention in Chicago. And two years ago, the school conducted a major study for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on the depictions of Latinos in America’s leading news magazines.