Bryan Anderson ’18 to investigate water pollution during News21 fellowship

The journalism and media analytics double major will participate in a 10-week investigative reporting assignment at Arizona State University this summer, examining water quality and its impact in the United States.

Bryan Anderson, an Elon University junior who is double majoring in journalism and media analytics, has been named a 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow. Anderson joins top journalism students from 18 universities across the United States, as well as Canada and Ireland, who will investigate water pollution and its impact on health in the U.S. as part of the News21 national multimedia reporting initiative.

<p>Bryan Anderson &rsquo;18 has been selected to represent Elon University in the 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative, one of the most prestigious student journalism programs in the United States. The journalism and media analytics double major was one of 30 students selected from across the country to participate in the 10-week summer program.</p>
Headquartered at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to provide a platform for college journalism students to produce in-depth multimedia projects on a national scale.

As part of the paid summer fellowship, the Elon junior will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, for a 10-week investigative reporting assignment at the Cronkite School’s digital media complex. Anderson is one of 30 students selected to participate in the summer program, which regularly attracts the top student journalists in the country. Among the universities with student representatives are Alabama, American, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Southern California and Syracuse.

This year the initiative will investigate major issues surrounding water pollution, including contamination sources, legislation, enforcement and health implications. Past News21 investigations have focused on food safety, marijuana use and U.S. gun rights and legislation. ​Max Garland ’16 participated in the 2016 project and examined voting access, participation and apathy.

While summer is still a few months off, the 2017 project is already underway. This year’s cohort is currently participating in a spring seminar, taught in person and via video conference by Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, and News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

“We chose the safety of drinking water as the 2017 News21 investigative project topic because, after the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, we discovered that the water consumed by millions of Americans across the country comes from groundwater variously contaminated by lead, industrial waste and chemicals, and agricultural runoff and animal waste,” Downie said in a News21 release. “Too many community water systems and private wells are antiquated and poorly maintained – and government regulators are unable to keep up.”

​A native of Burlingame, California, located in the Bay Area, Anderson said he has some familiarity with issues relating to water, and looks forward to delving deeper into the topic.

“It is one of the more important themes you can have, but it’s just not discussed very much,” Anderson said. “We know what happened in Flint. We know some of the hardships people in California have faced. But we don’t really know too much more other than those examples.

“It’s a topic that is incredibly important,” he added. “This is an issue that all of us will face for decades to come.”

Anderson plans to apply the skills he’s developed through his Elon coursework, student media opportunities and internships to make his mark during the investigation. The former Elon News Network enterprise manager also said he’d lean heavily on the lessons he learned as a political reporting intern last summer with the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Raleigh internship wasn’t short on opportunities to enhance Anderson’s investigative reporting chops. He attended numerous election events and rallies, and even garnered an exclusive interview with then presidential hopeful Donald Trump during a July 25 rally in Winston-Salem.

Anderson hopes his media analytics background will complement his journalistic skills and provide a different perspective to the News21 investigation. “The media analytics major offers a layer that a traditional print or broadcast journalism major wouldn’t necessary get,” he said, noting his familiarity with statistical software and creating his own graphs and visuals. “I believe I have the skills right now to embrace whatever opportunity comes my way.”

Colin Donohue, director of student media and instructor in the School of Communications, commended the selection of Anderson for the intensive summer program, calling him a “true multimedia journalist” and praising his passion for news reporting.

“Bryan is a hustler. He is a dogged reporter, who tracks down sources and pursues stories with vigor, enthusiasm and passion,” Donohue said. “In my time at Elon, I’m not sure I’ve met a student with as much reporting energy as Bryan. Simply, he loves the chase, and he wants to hold people in power accountable to their constituencies. But make no mistake, Bryan is also a caring and careful journalist. He asks great questions, listens intently and presents stories that are fair to their subject matter and to their sources.”

Anderson also expressed appreciation for his News21 selection, noting a desire to make his instructors and supporters proud while validating his appointment. “Elon has blessed me with so many opportunities, and News21 is just another example of that,” he said.