About America's Weed Rush

Credit: Emi Sasagawa

“America's Weed Rush,” an investigation of marijuana legalization in America, is the 2015 project of the Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multimedia investigative reporting project produced by the nation’s top journalism students and graduates. Each year, students selected into the program report in depth on a topic of national importance.

This year, 27 journalism students from 19 universities traveled through half the country to examine issues surrounding marijuana legalization nationwide. From Nevada to Maine, reporters interviewed longtime politicians, parents, patients, mothers and advocacy groups on all sides of the debate. They uncovered wide disparities in the enforcement of state marijuana laws and examined the lack of federal research for potential medical marijuana benefits.

The fellows reviewed thousands of pages of state statutes and assembled data examining marijuana laws by state, as well as law enforcement actions involving driving under the influence of drugs. The project also looked at how legalization has affected black-market dealing.

The student work began in January 2015 with a video-conferenced seminar that included reporting and research. In May, they began the 10-week investigative reporting fellowship based out of a newsroom at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus.

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News21 Fellows

Alexa Ard

Alexa Ard is a multimedia journalist from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She twice received Associated Press Sports Editors scholarships and has worked for Reno Public Radio. Her work has been published in the Nevada Media Alliance, a sports start-up called UsportsHub, and her university’s student newspaper, The Nevada Sagebrush. You can see her work on her portfolio and stay updated on Twitter at @Alexa_Ard.

Rilwan Balogun | John and Patty Williams Fellow

Rilwan Balogun is a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Journalism and Electronic Media program with minors in political science and cinema studies. He was one of the founding members of UT’s Chapter of National Association of Black Journalists. Rilwan worked as an editor and photographer for WBIR-TV and has interned for NBC News in New York. Find his work at www.rilwanbalogun.com and follow him on Twitter at @RilwanB5.

Josh Benson

Josh Benson is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism, where he is focusing on investigative reporting, data and documentary filmmaking. He recently completed a research assistantship with Investigative Reporters and Editors. His work and contributions have been published by the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the Columbia Missourian. In August, he will intern with American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Tom Blanton | Reynolds Fellow

Tom Blanton is a master’s student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, where he studied journalism and creative writing. At NAU, he served as opinion editor of The Lumberjack student newspaper. His work has appeared in The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Business Journal. He will finish his studies at ASU’s Washington, D.C. bureau in the fall.

Michael Bodley

Michael Bodley is a senior majoring in journalism at Elon University. The Baltimore native has held several internships, including The Baltimore Sun, where he focused on business reporting. At Elon, Bodley serves as editor-in-chief of the school’s Pacemaker-winning newspaper, The Pendulum. Follow the SPJ National and Hearst award-winner’s work on Twitter at @michael_bodley.

Kathryn Boyd Batstone

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone is a photojournalist who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon. She has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, National Public Radio, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and EcoWatch. Her work focuses on humanizing environmental scientific research in a visual form. To see more of her work visit Kathrynboydbatstone.com.

Katie Campbell

Katie Campbell is a recent graduate of the University of Florida where she majored in journalism and minored in European Union studies. While at UF, Campbell worked in the Innovation News Center with WUFT News, UF’s NPR and PBS affiliate. She has also written for Elite Daily, PBS MediaShift, NetNewsCheck, The Gainesville Sun and others. See more from her on Twitter at @_KECampbell and at amerimad.com.

Jayson Chesler | Reynolds Fellow

Jayson Chesler is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication focused on multimedia and digital journalism. He is executive editor of the Downtown Devil and he has been honored regionally and nationally by the Society for Professional Journalists. His writing, editing and multimedia work has appeared in The Arizona Republic, USA Today and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter at @JayChesler.

Clarissa Cooper | Reynolds Fellow

Clarissa Cooper is a senior multimedia journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in mass communication in May 2016. Her work has been published in The Arizona Republic, USA Today, AZ Business Magazine and more. Find her at www.clarissacooper.com and on Twitter at @Clarissa_Aileen.

Lauren del Valle

Lauren del Valle is a senior at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication pursuing a degree in journalism and a minor in computer science. She is a data-assisted investigative reporter and Editor-in-Chief of Hofstra’s student-run publication, The Hofstra Chronicle. She has interned with New York Newsday, the Daily Local News in Chester County, PA and the Anton Community Newspapers in Long Island, NY. Follow her work at laurendelvalle.com and on Twitter at @Lauren_delValle.

Dom DiFurio | Reynolds Fellow

Dom DiFurio is a recent graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and mass communication, where he spearheaded the startup of the Public Insight Network’s news engagement bureau. He has experience in depth and investigative multimedia reporting. His work has been published in The Dallas Morning News, The Arizona Republic and Deseret News.

Quint Forgey

Quint Forgey is a junior at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication, where he is the news editor of his university’s award-winning, 128-year-old student newspaper, The Daily Reveille. His specialized interests are political reporting and narrative storytelling. Follow him on Twitter at @QuintForgey.

Brianna Gurciullo | Kathryn Green and Stephen Holly Bronz Endowment Fellow

Brianna Gurciullo is a graduate of George Washington University with a major in journalism and mass communication and minors in political science and Spanish. She has reported for The Houston Chronicle and The Record-Journal. She served as editor-in-chief of The GW Hatchet, the George Washington University’s independent student newspaper. View her clips at Bgurciullo.contently.com. Follow her on Twitter at @brigurciullo

Brittan Jenkins | Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow

Brittan Jenkins is a recent graduate of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Oklahoma, where she majored in journalism with a specialization in online journalism and minored in psychology. While at OU, Jenkins spent a year at Oklahoma Watch and also interned at The Purcell Register. Keep up with her work on Twitter at @brittanjenkins and at brittanjenkins.com.

Kelcie Johnson | Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow

Kelcie Johnson is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her work has been published in the Apache Junction Gold Canyon Independent, North Central News, Downtown Devil and The State Press. Follow her on Twitter at @johnsonkelcie55.

Calah Kelley | Knight Foundation Fellow

Calah Kelley is a recent graduate of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, where she studied broadcast journalism. She worked as a news director, reporter, videographer and producer for North Texas Daily Television. She was president and founder of UNT’s Broadcast Education Association organization. Find her work at calahnkelley.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @calahk_15.

Sean Logan | Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow

Sean Logan is an award-winning visual journalist who has worked as an editor and multimedia reporter for The State Press and as a multimedia intern at Arizona Highways Magazine. His work has been published by The New York Times, The Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways Magazine, KTAR, Cronkite News and The State Press. Find him at seanloganphoto.squarespace.com and on Twitter at @theseanlogan.

Karen Mawdsley

Karen Mawdsley is a 2015 graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Her skills include writing, editing, photography, videography, web design and management, coding and data visualization. She was copy desk chief and assistant online managing editor for the university's independent student newspaper, The Diamondback, and worked as an intern at The Herald-Mail, The Baltimore Sun, McClatchy-Tribune and Capital News Service. Follow Karen on Twitter at @the_mawdster and on her website, kmawds.wordpress.com.

Montinique Monroe | Knight Foundation Fellow

Montinique Monroe is a senior multimedia journalism student at Oklahoma State University’s School of Media and Strategic Communications. She is the multicultural writer and photographer for The O’Colly, the university independent student newspaper. She was recently honored as a first-place winner for student diversity coverage by the Oklahoma SPJ. She has interned with KTUL Tulsa’s Channel 8 News. Find her at montiniquenmonroe.wix.com/montiniquemonroe and follow her on Twitter at @iAmMontinique.

Martin do Nascimento

Martin do Nascimento is a Brazilian-American multimedia storyteller based out of Austin, Texas, where he is pursuing dual master's degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. Martin currently works as the photo editor for the University of Texas at Austin's publication, Reporting Texas, and his work has been published in The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Texas Tribune and The Austin American-Statesman. Find his work at Martindonascimento.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @mhdonascimento.

Matias J. Ocner | Knight Foundation Fellow

Matias J. Ocner is a senior at Florida International University and is pursuing a major in journalism with an area of concentration in photography. He strives to specialize in investigative reporting and storytelling with multimedia. Ocner has written and produced multimedia stories for The Reporter, South Florida News Service and The Miami Herald. Follow his work at matiasocner.com and on Twitter at @matiasocner.

Emi Sasagawa

Emi Sasagawa is a Brazilian-Japanese multimedia storyteller based out of British Columbia, Canada. She received her journalism master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and her undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her work has been published by The Tyee, Megaphone, The Huffington Post and AlterNet, in addition to Brazilian publications. Find her work at emisasagawa.com and follow her on Twitter at @emi_sasagawa.

Anne M. Shearer | Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow

Anne M. Shearer is a multimedia reporter and photographer at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is set to graduate in May 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her master’s degree in mass communication. Previous internships include the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News, where her work was published around Arizona. Follow her on Twitter at @AnneMShearer.

Nick Swyter

Nick Swyter is a Panamanian-American multimedia journalist. He recently graduated from the University of Miami, where he studied broadcast journalism, international relations and electronic media. He served as the station manager of UMTV, the university’s student run television station and has worked at Indonesia’s MetroTV News, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Knight Foundation and the Miami Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @nickswyter.

Lex Talamo | Hearst Fellow

Lex Talamo is a recent graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication master’s degree program, where she studied investigative journalism. She was a 2015 Fellow in Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics program, during which she spent two weeks in Germany and Poland studying ethical dilemmas related to investigative journalism. Find her work at alexatalamo.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @LexTalamo.

Shawn Weismiller

Shawn Weismiller is a visual journalist from Charleston, S.C., and a master’s student at the Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University. Prior to joining News21, he served as a combat photojournalist in the U.S. Air Force, where he covered military operations around the world, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His work can be seen at shawnweismiller.photoshelter.com.

Jessie Wardarski | Chip Weil Foundations Fellow

Jessie Wardarski is a recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Jessie worked as a photographer at the State Press, reported on migrant issues as a part of the Borderlands Initiative and was a photo intern for the Arizona Republic. Her work can be found at jessiekwardarski.com.

News21 Staff

Jacquee Petchel

Executive Editor
Jacqueline Petchel, a longtime investigative reporter, editor and producer in newspapers and broadcast, is a professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and executive editor of News21. She previously served as senior editor for investigations and enterprise at The Houston Chronicle. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and editor at The Miami Herald, the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star/News and produced investigative journalism for CBS television stations in Minneapolis and Miami. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and a member of the Cronkite School Hall of Fame.

Len Downie Jr.

Professor and Editor
Leonard Downie is the Cronkite School’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism and vice president at large for The Washington Post, where he served as executive editor from 1991 to 2008. He is a founder and board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. and chairman of the board of advisers of Kaiser Health News. During his 44 years at the Post, Downie was an investigative reporter, editor on the local and national news staffs, London correspondent and managing editor and helped supervise the newspaper’s Watergate coverage. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Ohio State University. At the Cronkite School, Downie teaches the News21 seminar and an accountability journalism class.

Christina Leonard

Assistant Editor
Christina Leonard leads the Reynolds Business Reporting Bureau for Cronkite News at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She joined the Cronkite school in 2015 after 17 years as a reporter and editor at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Her leadership roles included Phoenix-West Valley regional editor, state politics editor, assistant business editor and editor-in-chief of two business magazines, Arizona Woman and bizAZ.

Brandon Quester

Multimedia Editor
Brandon Quester is the founder and executive director/editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit accountability newsroom based in Phoenix. His multimedia and data journalism work has focused on children living along the U.S.-Mexico Border, U.S. soldiers serving in Kuwait and Iraq, and the impact of immigration across Central America and the Caribbean. Quester’s recent work has focused on statewide investigative reporting projects in Arizona, covering issues from election administration and law enforcement to the regulation of hazardous materials.

Nic Lindh

Web Developer
Nic Lindh is the Cronkite School Web master and instructional technology analyst. He built the school’s website and the site for Cronkite News, the school’s daily news website, and he helps faculty and students use technology. He also has taught graphic design at the school. Prior to coming to Arizona State University, he worked as a writer, programmer and system administrator.

Mike Reilley

Digital Production Bureau Director
Mike Reilley is the Cronkite News digital production bureau director and professor of practice. His students produce CronkiteNews.AZPBS.org, News21 Weed Rush and the Southwest Borderlands Initiative websites. A former LA Times reporter and copy editor, Reilley was one of the founding editors of ChicagoTribune.com. He founded the journalism research site JournalistsToolbox.org, housed at the Society of Professional Journalists, and is on SPJ's national board of directors. BSJ: University of Nebraska. MSJ: Northwestern University.

Hari Subramaniam

Data Visualization Developer
Hari Subramaniam is the lead developer for the New Media Innovation Lab at the Cronkite School, working with students to develop digital products and enterprises. Hari used to run platforms at The Arizona Republic and worked independently with other software consulting services.

Steve Doig

Data Editor
Steve Doig holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Cronkite School, specializing in computer-assisted reporting. He had a 23-year career as a newspaper journalist, including 19 years at the Miami Herald. His investigative projects have won major journalism prizes, including the 1993 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. Doig is a political science graduate of Dartmouth College. He also graduated from, and later taught at, the Defense Information School and spent a year as a combat correspondent for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Steve Crane

Copy Editor
Steve Crane directs the Cronkite School’s Washington operations, where he runs the year-round bureau of Cronkite News Service digital and broadcast reporters. A former Washington Times political reporter and editor, he previously ran the Capital News Service at the University of Maryland, where he served as assistant dean at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Evan Wyloge

Data Editor
Evan Wyloge is the senior reporter for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, and has worked as a journalist for more than a decade, focused on accountability reporting, with an emphasis on data analysis, for the past six. He earned a political science degree rom Northern Arizona University in 2005 and a master’s degree in journalism in 2010. He’s passionate about investigative reporting that has real impact and that uncovers stories that would have otherwise gone uncovered. When he’s not trying to break open the next big story, Evan enjoys snowboarding and hanging out with his niece and nephew.

Rebecca Blatt

PIN Bureau Chief
Rebecca Blatt is the Public Insight Network bureau chief at the Cronkite School. She was previously a senior news editor for WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington, D.C. As PIN bureau chief, Blatt leads advanced journalism students in providing services to news organizations seeking to connect with diverse audiences and expand community engagement.

Kristin Gilger

Administrative Editor
Kristin Gilger is associate dean in charge of professional programs for the Cronkite School and is the chief administrator of News21, which is headquartered at the school. She was previously director of Student Media at Arizona State University, deputy managing editor for news at The Arizona Republic, managing editor of The Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and served in various editing positions at the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. Gilger holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Nebraska. This is her sixth national News21 project.

For the first time with News21, the website was built by Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism's digital production bureau, led by managing producer Steven Totten, a recent Cronkite graduate. Producers on the project were Graham Bosch, Marianna Hauglie, Mario Kalo, Carolina Lopez, Nick Marciano, Michael Nowels, Chris Wimmer and Yihyun Jeong.

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