Cronkite School alumni receive grants for innovative development in journalism industry

(Aubrey Rumore/DD)
Two Walter Cronkite School alumni are the first recipients of the new Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant. Brandon Quester and Weston Phippen will use the funds to develop new reporting tools. (Aubrey Rumore/DD)

The Walter Cronkite School recently awarded two of its alumni a grant to propel innovation in the journalism industry.

Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting co-founder and executive director Brandon Quester and National Journal correspondent Weston Phippen are the first Cronkite School alumni to receive the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant for $15,000 each.

The grant was created by Alberto Ibarguen, the president of the Knight Foundation, for Cronkite alumni to help newsrooms develop and move forward with innovative ideas all over the United States.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports ideas that will elevate good journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The Knight Foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged, according to the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant Application.

Phippen graduated from the Cronkite School in 2012 and intends to use the grant to design templates that will allow reporters, photographers and videographers to drag and drop their words and media to easily upload their work.

“We’re designing these templates to try to find a way to incorporate video, audio, infographics and words, using each other’s strengths to build one story,” Phippen said. “The way that we’re trying to do that is by building a CMS — content management system — that will allow National Journal to have reporters drag and drop their words into a story, and then the photographers and videographers can do the same in the templates.”

Phippen said he hopes to have the templates ready for reporters, photographers and videographers at the National Journal in about six months.

As Phippen works on his content-management system, Quester, who received his master’s degree from the Cronkite School in 2012, plans to use the grant toward the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting’s background machine, a public web application to provide background checks on political candidates and officeholders.

“This grant is a tremendous opportunity for AZCIR to develop an innovative tool that will increase transparency and community engagement in our political process,” Quester said. “I’m honored to be one of the first recipients of this funding and look forward to implementing our technology here and in newsrooms across the U.S.”

Christopher Callahan, vice provost of the Downtown campus and dean of the Cronkite School, said the selection committee was impressed by Phippen and Quester’s grant proposals, noting both alumni presented outstanding solutions that can invigorate journalism.

“Brandon and Weston exemplify the extraordinary passion and enthusiasm our outstanding alumni bring to newsrooms around the world,” Callahan said in a released statement. “I’m excited to see their proposals in action and encourage more of our alumni to apply for the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant.”

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