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PBS NewsHour to open its western bureau at ASU's Cronkite school

The newly announced expansion will provide new opportunities for Cronkite students


An ASU student walks past the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

PBS NewsHour and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication took their partnership to the next level through the development of a western news bureau.

In the next few months, PBS NewsHour will open a Western Bureau called PBS NewsHour West. 

“One of the things that we focus on is not just creating the next generation of great journalists, but also serving our community,” Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said. “In this case, the community being the entire west and a lot of ways the whole country and this relationship with PBS NewsHour does exactly that in very strong ways on both those fronts, both in terms of the opportunities for our students, in addition to the service to our community and region.”

After considering several candidates, PBS decided that Cronkite would be the best fit for the bureau.

PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just said the partnership comes after talks of how the station can better understand and cover issues around the country in-depth, as well as how the station could give updates to late-breaking developing stories.

“We wanted to be able to be more nimble in responding to breaking news and different parts of the country,” Just said. “And we wanted a better way to update our television programs and cover our digital platforms at all different times of the day and evening.”

PBS NewsHour West is currently in the process of hiring, and the bureau will help with their coverage of the 2020 presidential elections, Just said.

PBS and the Cronkite school have a five year history of working together, as Arizona PBS calls the school home with a studio on its fifth floor. Additionally, Cronkite News airs on the channel, which reaches 1.9 million Arizona households every week, according to Arizona PBS. 

In the past, PBS NewsHour has also aired the school’s News 21 investigative pieces. 

But the partnership also provides opportunities for students to work side-by-side with the PBS NewsHour West staff.

“We think that relationship is going to really blossom over time, which is of course a fantastic advantage for our students,” Callahan said. “But it's also a great advantage for the region to have more and better and deeper stories about the west on this prime national newscast.”

Over the past eight months, Cronkite students have produced about a half dozen in-depth news packages that have aired nationally on the station in an effort to incorporate more packages from local news. This is an opportunity Callahan said is unique to the school.  

“I think it's just going to be a fantastic opportunity for our students and again, something that's also going to help our viewers in the west,” Callahan said.

Cronkite News executive producer Allysa Adams said that working side-by-side will allow the new bureau to receive daily updates on what students are producing for Cronkite News or Arizona Horizon, and if it’s something they're interested in, they could ask for this type of news package from students.

“It's more exposure for us, for our students (and) for our stories,” she said. “I think we're already covering a lot of the things that they will want and that will be useful for a western news bureau. Now they’ll be able to see exactly what we're doing, and we'll be able to tempt them every day with our great storytelling.”

The bureau's coverage will include sustainability, water, immigration, the Native American community and other topics as the western region continues to grow in national importance.

Students within the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism will also collaborate with the bureau, but the scope of what they will cover is undecided as of right now, as the Cronkite school prepares the center for its debut in the fall. Adams said it is likely that students will further explore the topics already covered by the new bureau.

“These are stories that can be told really well from the west, and they impact the entire country,” Adams said. “We are the epicenter of so many of them.”

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