Elon alumna part of News21 reporting team named winner of ONA journalism award

Kate Murphy ’15 contributed to a national multimedia reporting initiative in summer 2014 that investigated the issue of gun rights and gun legislation nationwide. 

Kate Murphy '15
​A national investigation by Carnegie-Knight News21, an investigative reporting project that included a top student from Elon University, has captured one of the nation’s top digital journalism awards.

Elon University alumna Kate Murphy ’15 was among 29 students from 16 universities who won the Online News Association award in the student projects pro-am category. The 2014 investigation, titled “Gun Wars,” featured dozens of multimedia stories, videos, databases and photo galleries examining the polarizing issues of gun rights and regulation in America.

“Congratulations to Kate and the entire News21 team on this great honor. It’s certainly well deserved,” said Colin Donohue, Elon University’s coordinator of student media and an instructor in the School of Communications, who worked closely with Murphy at The Pendulum. “Kate produced meaningful journalism as a News21 intern and as a student at Elon. I’m excited about her future.”

Murphy, now a reporter for the Loudoun Times-Mirror in Virginia, worked as a sports senior reporter at The Pendulum and was the starting goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team. She contributed to several stories in the “Gun Wars” project, including authoring a piece about armed teachers in K-12 schools.

“It’s really rewarding to have people so well respected and who are such great journalists themselves be impressed with my work and want me to do more,” Murphy said about her News21 experience in August 2014. “They challenged me every single day, but they were always there for support, and I really felt like they were there to make me better. They were what made that program special. They worked with me. I wasn’t just working under them.”

​The investigation was led by News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post and current Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where News21 is based.

“This award is particularly special not only because it recognizes the power of strong journalism, but because it also underscores our efforts to be innovative in our visuals and storytelling about one of the most controversial topics in America,” Petchel said. “We are really proud of these young journalists for their extraordinary and visionary efforts on this project.”

Students analyzed gun laws in all 50 states and compiled the most complete database on gun-related deaths among children in America. They also traveled to more than 28 states interviewing hundreds of individuals and sharing their stories.

The Washington Post, USA Today and NBC News were among the news organizations that published major portions of the investigation.

“The ‘Gun Wars’ project exposed hundreds of thousands of Americans to a more complete picture of gun rights and gun control forces in the United States,” Downie said, “through penetrating stories and powerful multimedia about real people throughout the country — gun enthusiasts and citizen militias, women gun owners and entrepreneurs, teachers who carry concealed guns in their classrooms, the passionate lobbyists and activists on both sides of gun issues and the many inner-city resident and child victims of gun violence.”

“Gun Wars” also received an EPPY Award from Editor & Publisher magazine for best college investigative report.

Elon journalism student Michael Bodley ’16 participated in the News21 program this summer. He contributed to “America’s Weed Rush,” a reporting project focused on marijuana legalization in the United States. Alumnae Caitlin O’Donnell ’13 and Kassondra Cloos ’13 were News21 interns in 2012, when they worked on a story about voting rights.

About the Online News Association

The Online News Association is dedicated to inspiring innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. Membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, technologists, photographers, academics, students and others who produce and distribute news for digital delivery systems.

About News21

Carnegie-Knight News21 is a multimedia investigative reporting initiative established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The “Gun Wars” project was also supported by the Miami Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and Louis A. “Chip” Weil.