News 21: Reporting on a Changing America

how it works

Students selected for the News21 program participate in a spring seminar and a summer reporting project.

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.

Each year’s News21 national investigative reporting project begins with a spring semester seminar to do research, planning and preliminary reporting and multimedia preparation for the project that will be executed during the summer in the News21 newsroom at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Students selected for the News21 project at Cronkite and participating universities throughout the country participate in the weekly teleconferenced seminar using Adobe Connect software. The Cronkite students take the class for academic credit and several students from other universities get credit through their schools. All students must successful complete the seminar to qualify for the summer program.

Some students also enroll in a companion Accountability Journalism seminar on the history, techniques and ethics of investigative reporting. Cronkite’s Weil Professor of Journalism, Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, conducts both seminars, with assistance from the News21 editor, other members of the Cronkite faculty and visiting journalists.

Once the topic for each year’s national investigative reporting project has been selected, the News21 seminar combines teleconferenced lectures by and interviews with academic and other experts on the subject with research reports from teams of the seminar’s students.

Speakers for the 2012 News21 national project on voting rights included academic experts at ASU, Rutgers University and the Program for Excellence in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs; the Secretary of State of Georgia, representatives of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, the Heritage Foundation, the National Republican Lawyers Association, and the Advancement Project. Visiting journalists included the politics editor and the investigations editor of The Washington Post.

The seminar’s student journalists at Cronkite and 11 other universities, working in teams of one to three student journalists each, interviewed other experts, government officials, interest group advocates and prospective voters in more than a dozen states across the country. They reported their findings – along with ideas for stories and multimedia based on their findings – to the seminar in teleconferenced power-point presentations with graphics, databases, photos and video. They also shared research and reporting all semester long on an internal class blog.

In the latter weeks of the seminar, a budget for the journalism to be produced during the summer was created from all this research and reporting. Student reporters were assigned to stories based on topics they focused on in their research and their multimedia skills.

For the award-winning 2011 News21 national investigative reporting project on food safety, a similar teleconferenced spring semester national seminar included students in classrooms at Cronkite and colleges of journalism at the University of Maryland and the University of Nebraska. Speakers included experts from several universities and a number of food safety organizations; the deputy commissioner of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, the director of Agriculture and Food Safety Issues of the U. S. Government Accountability Office and an Arizona organic farmer. Student reporters went to farms, meat and produce processing plants and federal imported food inspection sites from coast to coast.

Selection into the summer reporting program is on a competitive basis. Students must complete the seminar and pitch projects for the summer, which are evaluated by the seminar professor and the News21 summer editor.

Preparations for the spring semester seminar begin during the preceding fall semester when Professor Downie and the News21 editor do their own preliminary research on the selected topic, find readings to put into the syllabus and locate and interview prospective speakers. A teaching assistant is chosen in advance to help with the preparations, including the teleconference arrangements, the class blog and other communications among students scattered across the country. 

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.