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News21 and the New Generation of Journalist Election Geeks

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[Image courtesy of news21.com]

Yesterday, newspapers and other media outlets across the country highlighted a new report examining the data behind claims of voter impersonation fraud nationwide.

While the report itself is sure to get lots of attention, the journalists behind it are another big story; they're student journalists working with News21, a program based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. News21 is a joint program of The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who launched News21 several years ago as a cornerstone of a Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

I was fortunate enough to speak to the News21 reporters about a wide range of election issues earlier this year at the invitation of Len Downie, former Washington Post editor who now serves as a Cronkite professor and is a believer in the power of Big Journalism on Campus. Since then, I have been in contact with many of them as they have begun reporting various stories in the field of elections that have been appearing throughout the summer at votingrights.news21.com.

Here at the Election Academy, we're working to help build the next generation of professionals who will comprise the field of election administration. I've always believed that journalists are a key members of that community, given their role informing the public and holding policymakers accountable. Programs like News21 - which empower young journalists not only to chase stories but also develop the skills to find and use data like the thousands of public records underlying the fraud report - are an indispensable part of the effort to educate the leaders of our next generation in elections.

Kudos to Len Downie and especially News21's stable of star reporters for their work in the field. News21 may not cover election issues every year, but the tools and contacts each of those reporters has made in 2012 gives me hope that the media division of the next generation of election geeks is already well-represented.

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