PHOENIX — Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will establish an engagement and education hub for American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, a community of tens of thousands of citizen sources who help journalists create deeper stories by sharing their experiences. The expansion is funded by $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that American Public Media has matched via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The Public Insight Network, or PIN, is an active online network of more than 200,000 people across the U.S. who have signed up to share their knowledge, experience and insights with journalists, helping them improve the quality, diversity and relevance of their reporting. Journalists in more than 80 newsrooms use the network to uncover stories, ask questions, test hunches, unearth angles and provide important context to stories.
The PIN bureau will occupy a digital newsroom in the Cronkite School’s state-of-the-art facility on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Media professionals and faculty will train students to interact with PIN sources in innovative ways and help create services, such as localization of national stories or idea mining; they also will devise ideas to attract clients and grow revenue sources. Students will hold paid positions or earn academic credit for their participation.
“This project provides students with the research, analytical and entrepreneurial skills that they need to meaningfully interact with sources and audiences – preparing them for the journalism jobs of tomorrow,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation. “At the same time, it will expand Public Insight Network services to newsrooms across the country, helping ensure its sustainability into the future.”
The new bureau will be led by Rebecca Blatt, a former senior editor for special projects at WAMU 88.5, a popular public radio station that serves the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Blatt has worked as an editor and producer at the station since 2008. Since 2011, she has managed PIN projects and community outreach and engagement efforts for the station, utilizing the network to produce special projects and cover breaking news.
Blatt is the recipient of numerous awards for projects she has edited and produced, including the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, the Education Writers Association Award for Education Reporting and the New York Festivals’ Radio Broadcasting Gold World Medal. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will join the Cronkite School in mid-March.
“I am thrilled to be joining the tremendous faculty and students at the Cronkite School — as well as partners at APM and Knight Foundation — as we embark on this new endeavor,” she said. “The PIN bureau will provide a powerful learning experience for students, a valuable service for partner newsrooms and an incredible opportunity to explore new models for collaboration and innovation throughout the news industry.”