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ASU Cronkite alumni receive Knight Foundation grants to drive journalism innovation

February 20, 2017

Six Arizona State University graduates working in professional newsrooms across the country are the final recipients of the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant, a journalism innovation fund for alumni of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Hailey Frances and Adam Waltz of Phoenix CW6 KASW-TV, Kyle Newman of the Colorado Sports Network, Sky Schaudt of KJZZ 91.5 FM in Phoenix, Steven Totten of the Phoenix Business Journal and Mauro Whiteman of The Hill in Washington, D.C., each received up to $15,000 in grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to propel innovation in journalism.

Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen created the Knight-Cronkite Grant in 2014 specifically for Cronkite alumni working as journalists to disrupt the status quo in journalism and stimulate new cutting-edge technologies, practices and ideas.

In all, 21 Cronkite School alumni have received support totaling $250,000. This final round of recipients is receiving funding for innovations involving 360-degree video, interactive digital maps and a broadcast studio in a box, among other projects.

“Our alumni are among the very best in journalism, pushing the limits of innovation,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “This Knight Foundation grant has played a tremendous role in helping our alumni foster change in journalism.”

Frances, a 2007 graduate, who is a host and executive producer at KASW-TV, and fellow Cronkite graduate Waltz, the digital content manager at the Phoenix-based station, are using the grant to launch a new mobile application that will connect the community to nearby volunteering opportunities. The application, “YourPHXGood,” will provide a platform for users to share their experiences through photos and written reviews.

“There are so many volunteering opportunities in our community that go unnoticed and unattended,” Waltz said. “The special thing about this project is that not only does it connect people to large nonprofits looking for volunteers, it focuses on the individual who may need help with everyday tasks we take for granted.”

Newman is a 2012 graduate and the founder and executive editor of the Colorado Sports Network (CSN), a multimedia high school sports website. He is using the grant to create a “broadcast studio in a box,” comprised of all the technologies needed to conduct a broadcast. He plans on offering this technology to local high schools to broadcast on CSN.

“Until now, we haven’t had the funds to implement the ‘broadcast studio in a box’ idea,” Newman said. “It’s going to be beneficial for us, the high schools and the teams.”

Schaudt, a 2008 graduate, is a digital media editor at KJZZ 91.5 FM. She plans to use the grant to create “Pic Re:Quest,” a technology allowing reporters and digital editors to easily transmit multimedia back and forth using their smartphones. The application aims to close the communication gap between reporters and digital producers by providing a simple interface that allows users to distribute and manage photo requests from any location.

Whiteman, a 2014 graduate who works as social video producer for The Hill, is using the grant to create a rig for shooting 360-degree video interviews. His goal is to provide an immersive storytelling experience through 360-degree graphics. With this technology, Whiteman will produce a series of interviews with lawmakers and political influencers, bringing viewers an augmented reality experience.

Totten, a 2015 graduate who is a reporter at the Phoenix Business Journal, is using the grant to enhance the publication’s data visualization technologies. Totten said his goal is to bring data to life by creating digital maps that provide in-depth analysis on area companies.

“After spending several years learning, teaching and adapting to the changing face of journalism, I'm psyched to implement some of that innovation in my newsroom,” Totten said. “It's even more rewarding to know that it's with the support of my alma mater and the Knight Foundation, one of the biggest supporters of the industry.”

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
jgiorda3@asu.edu