NEWS21

Introduction

News21 is an investigative journalism collaborative. Comprised of college students and led by academic advisors, News21 conducts in-depth investigative reporting. News21 provides its stories freely to the media. Liberal media outlets often publish work written by News21 students in a practice known as co-publishing. News21 work has been criticized for being sloppy and incomplete.

Prominent liberal media outlets such as the Washington Post, MSNBC and the Center for Public Integrity have republished News21 reports.[1]

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation have provided millions of dollars to News21.

History / Mission

In 2005, the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched News21 to produce free investigative journalism reports and articles.[2] News 21 is headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.[3] News21 content is provided for free under Creative Commons Usage.[4]

According to the group’s website, “[s]tudents selected for the News21 program study a topic in-depth during a spring topics seminar, followed by a 10-week reporting fellowship during the summer. Students work out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School and travel the country – and sometimes to other countries – to report and produce their projects.”[5]

As of 2012, the following schools participated in News21:

• Arizona State University
• Elon University
• University of Florida
• Harvard University
• University of Maryland
• University of Nebraska
• University of North Carolina
• University of Oklahoma
• University of Oregon
• Syracuse University
• University of Texas – Austin[6]

Work / Co-Publishing

News21 has produced stories on the following issues: food safety, ethnic communities, charter schools, national security and voting rights.[7]

Mainstream liberal media outlets often reprint News21 work. Known as co-publishing, News21 employees are essentially given page space to write press releases promoting their own reports. For example, in August 2012, News21 teamed up with the Investigative News Network (INN) to distribute stories about News21’s voter ID and voter fraud report, “Who Can Vote?”[8]

To promote their report, 24 college students wrote 19 stories and INN noted that “[t]hrough a series of emails, calls and newsletter postings, we got the word out. We worked closely with the News21 team on publication, staggered embargo dates, and made the stories available to INN’s 64 members.”[9] Self-written News21 stories appeared in the Washington Post, MinnPost, NPR News, NBCNews.com and IowaWatch, among others.[10]

Critics suggest there are two major problems with this arrangement. First, there is an issue of transparency. Reading an article discussing an investigative report, the public would naturally assume an employee of that newspaper wrote it. However, by allowing News21 students to write their own articles, objectivity is removed and transparency is diminished. Secondly, the article lacks normal editing and scrutiny. Objective reporters evaluate studies, point out deficiencies and often provide critiques or differing opinions. However, in this co-publishing model, newspapers give News21 a platform to laud their own work.

David Almasi, Executive Director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, criticized the Washington Post / News21 voter fraud article stating: “It’s essentially a press release for News21 on page A3 of the biggest newspaper in the nation’s capital. Yes, the Post is a “media partner” with News21. Yes, former Post executive editor Len Downie is now a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University where News21 is headquartered. But that hardly means that the Post should become a giant national refrigerator upon which C-level work is prominently posted. Also, shouldn’t the Post, as a courtesy to its readers, fully disclosure Downie’s ties to News21?”[11]

Criticism

In August 2012, News21 began publishing the results of its comprehensive report on voter fraud, titled, “Who Can Vote?”[12] Claiming to have created an “exhaustive” and “comprehensive” database, News21 asserted: “[d]espite the push for strict voter ID laws in a charged partisan and racial debate, the most extensive study ever of American election fraud reveals the rate is infinitesimal. Since 2000, a time when 146 million Americans were registered to vote, News21 found 10 cases of in-person voter fraud… That would be about once case for every 15 million eligible voters.”[13]

However, according to National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi, the News21 report is irreparably flawed. Calling the report “news that’s not fit to print,” Almasi pointed out that News21 simply sent out letters to state officials asking about voter fraud in their states, and that “[m]any states — including Massachusetts, South Dakota and Oklahoma — sent back nothing at all.”[14]

The study also contained a massive disclaimer that said in part:

• “[I]t is possible that some jurisdictions which did respond failed to include some cases.

• Despite the huge News21 public-records request effort, the team received no useful responses from several states.

• Hundreds of officials responded with short notes — some handwritten, even coffee-stained — saying they had no cases of fraud.

• Some jurisdictions insisted that their computer system lacked the capability to search for election fraud cases.

• Dozens of jurisdictions flatly refused the requests.

• For nearly all the data News21 received, there would be some vital piece of information that had been requested specifically but that was missing.

• [T]here are cases in the database that contain so little detail that they cannot be properly categorized as one kind of fraud or another.”[15]

Almasi sarcastically noted that “[b]eyond that, it’s still ‘comprehensive,’ ‘exhaustive’ and ‘the most extensive collection of U.S. election fraud cases ever compiled.’[16] Almasi questioned the group’s conclusions, saying, “they have a database that is riddled with incomplete and bad data, but they can apparently say with certainty that there were only ten real cases of ghost voters stealing away other people’s votes nationwide?”[17]

Funding

According to the News21 website, “[t]he 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.”[18] Specifically, “[s]ince 2008, the Cronkite School has been the recipient of nearly $10 million in grants from the two foundations to support the News21 program.”[19] The Hearst Foundations have also provided funding to News21.[20]

Leadership (as of September 2012)

Leonard Downie, Jr., Instructor and Editorial Consultant
Retha Hill, Digital Editor
Steve Doig, Computer-Assisted Reporting Editor
Nic Lindh, Technology Director
Micah Jamison, Web Developer
Steve Crane, Copy Editor

Contact Information

Website: http://news21.com/

The National Center For Public Policy Research publishes GroupSnoop. The National Center is a non-profit communications and research foundation that supports free-market and pro-Constitution approaches to today’s policy problems. The National Center is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

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  1. ^ “Partners,” News21, available at http://news21.com/partners/ as of September 5, 2012.
  2. ^ “About Us,” News21, available at http://news21.com/about-news21-more/ as of September 5, 2012.
  3. ^ “About Us,” News21, available at http://news21.com/about-news21-more/ as of September 5, 2012.
  4. ^ “About Us,” News21, available at http://news21.com/about-news21-more/ as of September 5, 2012.
  5. ^ “About Us,” News21, available at http://news21.com/about-news21-more/ as of September 5, 2012.
  6. ^ “Foundation Grants Support National News21 Program,” June 29, 2012, Arizona State University – Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication, available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/node/2615 as of September 5, 2012.
  7. ^ “Archives,” News21, available at http://news21.com/news21-projects-directory/ as of September 5, 2012.
  8. ^ “Who Can Vote? You May Not Be Able To,” News21, available at http://votingrights.news21.com/ as of September 5, 2012.
  9. ^ Evelyn Larrubia, “How Co-Publishing Helped Spread News21 Investigation into Voter Fraud,” PBS – Mediashift,” August 22, 2012, available at http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2012/08/how-co-publishing-helped-spread-news21-investigation-into-voter-fraud235.html as of September 4, 2012.
  10. ^ Evelyn Larrubia, “How Co-Publishing Helped Spread News21 Investigation into Voter Fraud,” PBS – Mediashift,” August 22, 2012, available at http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2012/08/how-co-publishing-helped-spread-news21-investigation-into-voter-fraud235.html as of September 4, 2012.
  11. ^ David Almasi, “Voter ID News That’s Not Fit to Print,” Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog, August 15, 2012, available at http://www.conservativeblog.org/amyridenour/2012/8/15/voter-id-news-thats-not-fit-to-print.html as of September 5, 2012.
  12. ^ “Who Can Vote? You May Not Be Able To,” News21, available at http://votingrights.news21.com/ as of September 5, 2012.
  13. ^ “Who Can Vote? You May Not Be Able To,” News21, available at http://votingrights.news21.com/ as of September 5, 2012.
  14. ^ David Almasi, “Voter ID News That’s Not Fit to Print,” Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog, August 15, 2012, available at http://www.conservativeblog.org/amyridenour/2012/8/15/voter-id-news-thats-not-fit-to-print.html as of September 5, 2012.
  15. ^ Corbin Carson, “Exhaustive Database of Voter Fraud Cases Turns Up Scant Evidence That It Happens,” News 21, August 12, 2012, available at http://votingrights.news21.com/article/election-fraud-explainer/ as of September 5, 2012.
  16. ^ David Almasi, “Voter ID News That’s Not Fit to Print,” Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog, August 15, 2012, available at http://www.conservativeblog.org/amyridenour/2012/8/15/voter-id-news-thats-not-fit-to-print.html as of September 5, 2012.
  17. ^ David Almasi, “Voter ID News That’s Not Fit to Print,” Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog, August 15, 2012, available at http://www.conservativeblog.org/amyridenour/2012/8/15/voter-id-news-thats-not-fit-to-print.html as of September 5, 2012.
  18. ^ “Partners,” News21, available at http://news21.com/partners/ as of September 5, 2012.
  19. ^ “Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative,” Arizona State University – Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication, available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/experience/news21 as of September 4, 2012.
  20. ^ “Foundation Grants Support National News21 Program,” June 29, 2012, Arizona State University – Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication, available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/node/2615 as of September 5, 2012.


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