Cronkite News Website

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At a time when many newsrooms are downsizing, ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is expanding its news coverage. Dean Christopher Callahan talks about the schools newly-launched Cronkite News web site.

Ted Simons: At a time when many newsrooms are downsizing, ASU's Cronkiteschool of journalism is expanding its news coverage. The school's multimedia stories and other efforts are now available to the public on the recently launched Cronkite news website. Here to talk about it is Chris Callahan, dean of ASU's Walter Cronkite school of journalism and mass communication. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Chris Callahan: Thanks for having me on.

Ted Simons: Your quote was this was an unprecedented venture. Talk about that.

Chris Callahan: For the first time ever, we're in the serious content production business. Obviously our real business is ducating young people to be great journalists. We think the best way to do that, especially at the end of their careers here at the Cronkite School, is to have them focus on real serious journalism at the very highest levels. So the outgrowth of that are real products -- TV, print and multimedia.

Ted Simons: So when people go to this site, let's talk about the site in itself. Before we get there, though, student -- people hear student reporters and they go hmm, how much can I trust them? Talk about who is overseeing this, who is editing this, what goes on there.

Chris Callahan: That's the critical point there, Ted. Certainly these are terrific students, but they are edited, produced and directed every day by, quite frankly, some of the best journalists I've ever had the pleasure of working with. People like Steve Elliot, Mark Ludado, Sue Green absolutely first-rate journalists. And nothing goes out without their stamp of approval.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about what goes out. What will visitors see at the site?

Chris Callahan: It's all about serious public policy news. Quite frankly,the issues that you cover here on "Horizon." What you're not going to see is entertainment, sports. There's a place for that and that's great. But we feel there isn't enough serious public policy news out there, so this site really focuses exclusively on that area.

Ted Simons: Okay. We're looking at the site right now. We see news watch up there, we see news 21 program. Let's talk about the individual components here. Combines news service with news watch. Describe both.

Chris Callahan: Yes. And these are the full emerging professional programs we've developed over the last few years. Cronkite news watch is a 30-minute nightly newscast that 8 world, 8.3 runs every night. Very much in a commercial TV format but, again, focusing on those serious policy stories that we think aren't covered quite as much in traditional media.

Ted Simons: And Cronkite news service.

Chris Callahan: Cronkite news service covers specific stories in print and digital format. Those stories are distributed to news organizations around the state. So you'll see them in the Arizona republic and all sorts of newspapers and websites all around the valley and the state.

Ted Simons: We saw a tab for news 21. What's all that about?

Chris Callahan: Really interesting program funded by the Carnegie corporation and knight foundation. That focuses on intense in-depth journalism. We had a group of students here this summer doing an investigation on transportation safety in America. A 22-package story that is going to start on the front page of the "Washington Post" this Sunday. They're going to run the entire series.

Ted Simons: Good stuff there. A-Z fact check has a production with the local paper here. Talk about that.

Chris Callahan: Absolutely. This was the brainchild of the Arizona republic. It brings together the republic, Cronkite School and our colleagues at 12News to really focus on campaign statements, things that seem questionable. Basically it's trying to measure the truthfulness of politicians' statements.

Ted Simons: Interesting. One more thing, southwest border lands initiative is included on this website as well. What is that?

Chris Callahan: That's a program run by our Carnegie professor, Rick Rodriguez, who was a long-time editor of "The Sacramento Bee." His students will focus in an in-depth way on issues that affect Latinos and issues that are along the border. He'll have students down on the border all semester to come back and produce multimedia packages.

Ted Simons: How long has the idea of coalescing, for lack of a better word, putting all of these things together on a platform, how long has that been developed?

Chris Callahan: About a year. Yeah. It took us about a year to get all the parts together, to get the design and then to get the work flow. While the stories were all out there, trying to get it all into one place in a professional daily news site was a little bit of an endeavor.

Ted Simons: Yeah. We've been talking about what people will see when they go to the website. Obviously the benefits they get. Talk about the benefits to the students here, because this is different than the old journalism schools. This is getting out there and doing the hard and dirty work out there.

Chris Callahan: That's exactly right, Ted. They're actually producing probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 original stories every week. And again, very highest quality. As good as anything you'll see out there. And focusing on issues that maybe you're not seeing fully covered in other places.

Ted Simons: The idea -- we've talked about this before and we might as well talk about it again. The idea that the news business itself is changing so quickly, and obviously the high-tech nature of news. We've discovered that here on "Horizon." Something happens on this program, it goes viral, it's all around the world in no time. In terms of kids in school learning to hit that moving target, how difficult is that?

Chris Callahan: I think it makes it much more complicated because they still have to be great reporters, great writers and great producers. Now they have to know a whole other series of things dealing with technology and social media. Much more difficult than when I was in journalism school.

Ted Simons: Are you finding kids that may have a touch of engineering interest moving their way to journalism? It used to be maybe an English student would be there. Are you finding a different kind of student these days?

Chris Callahan: I think it's a different generation. I think all of the students from this generation, they're digital Natives. They get the technology on a level that I never will because I still have to translate it in my head. You know, they're Natives to it. They come to it much more easily. It's not as difficult for them.

Ted Simons: Last question, I think I've actually talked with you about this as well, but the facility is top notch. Everything here is just amazing. From someone who has worked in buildings that were nowhere near this nice in the commercial world, I got to tell you, some of these kids, a lot of their first jobs will be in smaller towns, in buildings, in operations that aren't as high-tech and aren't quite as developed. How do you prepare them for it?

Chris Callahan: The one thing, we're transparent with them. We tell them, in all likelihood, where you go, the technology will not be what you have here and the kind of editing is not going to be what you have here. Our students really do appreciate that and they understand that.

Ted Simons: Very good. Congratulations. Good luck on the site. I notice that "Horizon" is linked on the site as well. That's always good to see.

Chris Callahan: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Thanks, Chris. Good to see you.

Christopher Callahan:Dean, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism;

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