News 21: Reporting on a Changing America


News21 students have created and adapted a number of tools, navigational devices and presentations to engage audiences in new ways.

Voting Wars

Students from 18 universities investigate voter access and participation in a presidential election year.

Join the Team

News21 now welcomes students from all journalism schools. Applications are due Nov. 10.


Student work has appeared in numerous national publications.


News21 stories and projects have been honored in multiple journalism awards contests.

Foundations support News21 fellows:The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York have provided millions of dollars in funding for News21 since the program's inception in 2005. For a history of News21, go to

Other support comes from foundations and philanthropic organizations that support the work of individual fellows. These include the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and Women & Philanthropy, part of the ASU Foundation.

Big Journalism On Campus (PDF)

Leonard Downie Jr., vice-president-at-large and former editor of The Washington Post, writes about how journalism schools are producing high-level reporting that is making its way into major news outlets.

Innovation is part of the News21 culture. An independent evaluation, conducted in 2011, concluded that News21 sparked a number of innovations on the part of students, particularly in experimenting with storytelling formats. The report states:

“One of the hallmarks of News21 projects has been agnosticism toward a central storytelling form. Unlike the packages produced by most major news sites, News21 packages tend to feature a very visual front page with various routes into the content, whereas many sites tend to want to hang everything around text. On most of the News21 packages … the reader was the one making the decisions on how to dive into a package, not the news organization. The non-linear nature of these projects tends to match how readers explore deep, complex packages like the ones consistently produced by News21.”

The following list includes some of the interesting presentations, navigational devices and tools, with code when available, from 2009-2012.

  • The Voting Rights project employed Armstrong CMS, an open source content management system developed with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Armstrong has deep integration with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, search engine optimization and tools to manage memberships and subscriptions.
  • Responsive Web design was used to enhance usability across platforms, adjusting the design to the device and screen size on which it is viewed.
  • Thousands of public records were integrated into the website using Document Cloud, allowing users to view original documents used to develop an extensive database of voter fraud cases.
  • D3.js, a JavaScript library was used to digitally manipulate documents based on data. Using HTML, SVG and CSS, the program offers powerful visualization components and a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation.
  • The first iteration of a new, fully automated photo slideshow software developed by a member of the team. The downloadable software enables the user to upload a folder of images that are re-sized automatically and separate the caption from the photo, preserving the integrity of the image. The output is an embeddable html code (with one-column and two-column embed options) and full screen capability. An example can be seen about half-way down on this page: (Click on the expand button to get the full experience.)
  • A custom JavaScript slideshow was created for “Felons’ Gallery” using a JQuery plugin called Cycle. The audio is controlled by a JavaScript library called Audiojs. The code is available by choosing to view the source of the Web page.
  • To build sourcing for stories, the project utilized Public Insight Network, a technology that uses a network of sources to do queries about specific topics. The network was developed with Knight funding.
  • The voter fraud database was built with Django, a Python-based Web framework.
  • Throughout the food safety project, inside pages integrate multimedia content with the text of the story. As the user scrolls through the story, relevant multimedia content and related stories appear in the rail to the left.
  • Two mobile apps provide information on food handling techniques in Spanish and English. The source-code is available at and
  • Tilemill maps provide data on food imports from around the world. Assets are available at
  • An interactive data base allows users to see how their states respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, using Center for Disease Controls data. Assets are available at
  • Users are able to calculate their coal use by inputting data about their energy habits. The interactive video graphic is overlayed with a video that shows — in pictures and text — daily uses of energy.
  • An experiment in interactive storytelling employs an interactive film as a navigation device for a project about coal. Users also are able to opt for a traditional navigation, viewing each story separately.
  • A video with black-and-white animated drawings and unusual navigation draws readers into a project on money and power in politics.
  • “The Ration,” a project on food and health, launched an iOS magazine featuring long-form stories available on the iPhone and iPad.
  • “The Ration” also features a graphics notebook on tumblr.
  • A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder simulator captures what he might be like for a veteran to drive down the highway. Viewers may submit in-line video comments.
  • A navigation system offers the choice between thumbnail views of stories and a visually attractive list that uses a drag device to reveal more stories.
  • A student blog created for a project on war veterans utilizes an eye-catching and unusual blog design.
  • An interactive graphic places 30 common supermarket items on a scatterplot to see how calories, sodium and sugar per serving match up to price per serving.
  • Users can see how many more calories Americans are consuming by moving a vertical bar across this interactive timeline.
  • A photo animation makes the point that people have to face their food addictions every day.
  • A bank of thumbnail photos allows readers to choose interviews with young people describing their experiences being gay in America. The selected photo is opaque, providing clear navigation.
  • A music video, created by the reporting team, introduces a project on young urban adults.
  • An unusual slideshow player allows viewers to enter the slideshow at any point from a gallery of photos imbedded in the story.
  • Students took 1930′s photographs of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and re-photographed the scenes with modern cameras to offer a comparative look at the city over time. A slider moves across the images to reveal the then-and-now pictures.
  • A project on Latinos in Pennyslvania’s Leigh Valley employs Google Translate to offer content in both English and Spanish.
  • A project on education employs an “idea bank” to capture a multitude of ideas on how to improve education.
  • An interactive graphic offers questions and answers about school lunches overlaid on a visual of a typical school lunch.
  • Students created a newsletter using content from their Web-based education project to help parents with children in school make educational decisions.
  • An interactive tool is designed to help parents find the best educational options for their children. Parents are asked to enter information about their child, which generates graphic information about how well their child might do in different school environments. The data is culled from state of Illinois school records.
  • A graphic presentation allows users to experience what it’s like to grow old. “Aging in Three Minutes” simulates certain mental and physical changes that accompany aging. Students drew inspiration from visual techniques seen in the film “Being John Malkovich” and “Locked In,” an episode from the TV series “House, M.D.” The four videos show eye diseases, hearing problems, trouble with gait and balance and cognitive loss, all from a first-person perspective.
  • An animated cartoon illustrates some of the technological changes that scientists think might make the future easier for the elderly.
  • News21 takes a media player to the next level in a project about pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. The media player contains videos, photos and photos with audio captions. Users click on a topic to display related media in a grid then click on the media file they prefer.
  • Drupal produces a case study explaining development of a website on war veterans. The site provided a blogging platform and a project platform that included a custom Flash video player that supports timeline commenting. It also takes into account search engine visibility. For example, when Flash is used for video playback, there is also an alternative HTML 5 version available.
  • A project on California prisons invites users to review and then render a verdict on an old murder case.
  • The prison project also includes a prison yard map that shows segregation of the prison population. Viewers can explore the prison yard through photos, text and audio.
  • Students working on the Powering a Nation project created an unusual editorial that is presented as a video instead of words.
  • The Chesapeake Bay project displays video optionsin an interesting way, with stories displayed on a rotating carousel imbedded in pages. Videos can be viewed without leaving the page.
  • The Chesapeake Bay project provides an extensive curation of content about the bay, with directories for commercial, non-profit and, advocacy groups as well as government agencies and scientific organizations that deal with the bay. It also includes a map showing the location of webcams focused on the bay.
  • As part of a project on national transportation safety, readers were asked about their biggest concerns about safety while traveling. The interactive allows readers to compare their responses to others.
  • A clever navigation bar pops out related content above the bar instead of below.
  • A horizontal photo collage provides a multimedia trip through a county’s economic and social zones.
  • The “Energy Cocktail” game allows users to choose sources of energy for the U.S. to power itself by the year 2050.
  • An interactive graphic traces the path of an energy bill from draft through bill to passage into law.
  • A “water-energy challenge” asks users to put themselves the shoes of a town manager who must figure out to balance water and energy needs while keeping residents happy.
  • A “data wall” provides access to demographic and political information about Hispanic voters by state and country. The data is from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Graphics contain interactive features that include contextual tooltips, toggling on and off of certain datasets and zoomable bar charts.
  • Videos and interactive infographics are presented as a collection that readers can browse in a package about Latino leaders in Chicago.
  • Three graphics on Hispanic consumers are integrated into one in this seamless graphic presentation.
  • A project on California’s economic crisis features a home page with a clever post card navigation that visually captures the state.
  • A new kind of video play was developed as part of a project on young voters that experiments with non-linear storytelling. The idea came out of a discussion on how to deal with more than 100 man-on-the-street interviews with young people on the political environment in the U.S. Viewers select what videos to watch by clicking on key words or tags. The player shows tags on the right; the tags grow larger if multiple interview subjects raised those topics. Video clips appear in a grid on the left based on which tags are clicked. Read an explanation of how the resulting invention, a video tag player, was developed.
  • A package about the academic challenges facing Hispanic students employs a video player that integrates multimedia into the user experience. Users can watch several videos in segments or as a continuous documentary. As the videos play, collateral content, such as links or PDFS with related information, pop up. Users can click on them and then return to the video without leaving the video application, providing a more seamless experience. Students worked with a developer to create an AdobeAir application that can be downloaded here.
  • A talking bar chart embeds audio of people talking into data visualizations to bring statistics to life. The test example embeds audio of young people into charts that compare voter attitudes by age.
  • A project on amnesty for immigrants sports an inset box that shows live Twitter conversation around a keyword, in this case immigration. The “Twitter Machine” code, developed at the same time that Twitter was developing its aggregator/widget tool, is available on Github.
  • A three-chapter article automatically cues multimedia elements — photos, videos and maps — at relevant spots in the story. As the reader scrolls, multimedia content appears and disappears within the story. Here is the code for the scrolling portion.
  • A time-lapse map created with Vuvox shows the explosion of charter schools across the country and provides a timeline and history of the charter school movement. To see how The Charter Explosion‘s map functions, download the source Flash file (requires Adobe Flash CS4 or later). Inside the file is the Actionscript that controls the interactive and the data behind the visualization.
  • The charter school project was the first News21 site to use CoverItLive to report on an event – the National Charter School conference – and to use a blog roll to showcase other interesting sites.
  • An interactive map uses embedded videos to capture the experiences of farm workers in Southern California.
  • A specially programmed Twitter module encourages participation in a live, open-ended discussion about immigration policy.
  • Riders of the BART line in San Francisco can locate their metro station and share their experiences on an interactive site. Users can generate their own photos or video and post to custom galleries on Flickr by using the “BART” tag and a station name. The photos are automatically uploaded. Users also can create similar galleries for their sites by doing a keyword search on Flickr, picking the slideshow option they wants, customizing the size, and then grabbing the embed code.
  • The BARThood site also has a chat feature that aggregates relevant news, blogs, Tweets and Yelp reviews – one for BART in general, and one for featured neighborhoods. Yahoo Pipes is used to fine-tune these feeds (eliminating references to, say, Bart Simpson).
  • The “Shift” project attempts to reach young readers by using lists, podcasts, blog-style posts, short Web videos and social media to present information and stories about young, college-educated urban adults. Its extensive use of data visualization and social media integration was unusual for the time.
  • A mixed-media player has linear video at the top while displaying items such as maps, photos and text in a non-linear fashion at the bottom.
  • A story about Latinos and religion uses a carousel tool that allows viewers to scroll back and forth, as if through time. Along the way, viewers interact with the story through video and text.
  • A project on the Virgin of Guadalupe as a religious icon is presented in an unusual, non-linear format that encourages the viewer to explore links between photos, video, slideshows, audio, text, animation and photo illustration.
  • An introductory video for a project on the new town square blends old techniques (stop motion animation) with the digital platform. Other elements include an interactive map illustrating how three towns have grown and changed over the last century and a series of maps where residents describe the places where they find their community.
  • is a database created by and for reporters that displays demographic and anecdotal data about 65 cities in the Bay Area. It is intended as a working prototype for a national database that allows reporters to compare hard-to-find information about cities all over the country. Each of the thousands of data points is individually sourced, allowing reporters to fact check by visiting the Web site from which the data was pulled or by directly contacting the reporter who contributed the data.
  • A motion graphic presents users with a plate of food. Click on a food item and discover how it is grown, processed and delivered from pasture to plate.
  • A 360-degree “portal” span of one intersection offers macro- and microscopic looks into property battles, commerce, diversity, transportation and urban landscaping. Included is a blog for residents passing through the intersection to post messages.
  • An interactive timeline employs a slider that graphically illustrates rising electricity demand in the U.S.
  • An energy calculator asks users for their energy profile, then estimates their energy use and offers ideas on how to save energy.
  • Audio is integrated into a text story about young women facing the proverbial glass ceiling.
  • A map of California is turned into a navigation device.
  • Video is built into an interactive timeline that traces Indian education in the U.S.
  • A project on Latinos in the military opens with a Flex/Flash presentation that presents data in a visually compelling way.
  • A student reporter brings a policy-heavy story about immigration policy to life by speaking directly to readers through a green screen presentation built in Flash that allows her to appear within the story package itself.
  • A project on the wired generation uses a creative drag-and stop navigational scheme that allows the reader to dig into stories in whatever order they chose. For readers not as comfortable with the more modern navigational scheme, a simple click turns the navigation into something more traditional.

Big Journalism On Campus

Leonard Downie Jr., vice-president-at-large and former editor of The Washington Post, writes about how journalism schools are producing high-level reporting that is making its way into major news outlets.