Carnegie-Knight News21 Chooses Students from 15 Universities to Investigate COVID-19 Impact

Thursday, Feb. 11


By Lisa Diethelm

Top journalism students from 15 universities across the country have been accepted into the annual Carnegie-Knight News21 program at Arizona State University in which students report and produce a multimedia project on a topic of national interest.

The 2021 project will focus on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the nation’s marginalized communities.

The students, selected in a competitive process, are taking part in a spring semester seminar along with undergraduate and graduate students from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. In the seminar, which takes place virtually through Zoom, students research the topic, identify stories, develop sources and do preliminary reporting. They then complete a paid 10-week summer fellowship at the Cronkite School during which they travel the country to report stories and produce their project.

Students work under the direction of Cronkite faculty member Jacqueline Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and a half-dozen other Cronkite faculty and staff members.

Petchel said this year’s topic addresses an overriding national concern.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of every American, but none more dramatically than those living in poverty,” she said. “This project will examine the national toll COVID-19 has taken on those already struggling to make ends meet and examine disparities affecting the most vulnerable.”

Petchel said reporting will examine the impact of COVID on housing and living conditions, the homeless, rural communities, farmers, undocumented workers and the elderly.

Student work will be published on a project website and be distributed to news organizations nationally. Past projects have been published in part by The Washington Post, The New York Times,, USA Today, the Center for Public Integrity, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Arizona Republic, among many other news organizations.

Over the past decade, News21 projects have included “Kids Imprisoned” about the American juvenile criminal justice system, “State of Emergency” about uneven federal aid for natural disasters, and “Hate in America” about the prevalence of hate crimes across the nation.

“State of Emergency” and “Hate in America” both won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for national social justice reporting by college students. “State of Emergency” also won the top student award for the Online Journalism Awards and the IRE student investigative award. ”Hate in America” also earned an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Cronkite fellows will be named later this semester. The fellows from other universities are:

Madalyn Kline, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana

Ian Brundige and Thomas Curdt, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana

Mackenzie Wilkes, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina

Amudalat Ajasa, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York

Gina Butkovich, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Meghan Hall, St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, New York

Emily DiSalvo and Jessica Simms, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut

Domenica Orellana, Amanda Paule and Jessica Ruiz, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Ceara Burden, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Priya Manjeshwar, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia

Lauren Irwin and Robert Tann, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado

Sara Metz, University of Houston, Houston

Kylie Graham, Brenda Moytorena Lara and Natalie Saenz, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

McKenzie Gladney, Nancy Spears, Beth Wallis, Wendy Weitzel and Zhixuan Fan, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

Maxwell Shavers, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

Ashley Depew, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

News21was established a decade ago by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that college journalism students can produce innovative, in-depth multimedia projects on a national scale.

News21 receives core support from the Knight Foundation and Arizona State University. Individual fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations, news organizations and philanthropists that include the Inasmuch Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, The Arizona Republic, the Murray Endowment, Diane Laney Fitzpatrick and Myrta J. Pulliam.

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. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

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.

Inasmuch Foundation (formerly Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation): The Inasmuch Foundation, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, the daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord. Ms. Gaylord created the Inasmuch Foundation in 1982 for charitable, scientific and educational purposes.

Donald W. Reynolds Foundation: The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it was named. One of the largest private foundations in the United States, it contributed more than $115 million nationwide through its journalism program.

Howard G. Buffett Foundation: The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has contributed more than $3.4 million to the Cronkite School in support of journalism students and special initiatives. Established in 1999, the foundation is one of the largest private charitable foundations in the United States whose mission is to catalyze transformational change to improve the standard of living and quality of life, particularly for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations.