Victoria Traxler ’20 to investigate juvenile justice system during News21 Fellowship

The journalism and international & global studies double major has been named a 2020 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow, joining top journalism students from 16 universities across the country to examine youth violence and the juvenile justice system in America.

While abroad in Patagonia on the southern end of South America, Victoria Traxler ’20 stepped out of her kayak and checked her phone. Still in her wetsuit, Traxler saw the good news in her email: She was a News21 Fellow.

Victoria Traxler ’20 is one of nearly two dozens students selected to participate in the 2020 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellowship program, one of the most prestigious student journalism internships in the country.

Headquartered at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School, News21 is one of the most prestigious student journalism internships in the country. It was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to provide a platform for college students to produce in-depth multimedia projects on a national scale.

As part of the paid summer fellowship, the journalism and international & global studies double major will travel to Phoenix for a 10-week investigative reporting assignment at the Cronkite School’s digital media complex.

Traxler is one of approximately two dozen students from 16 universities selected to participate in the annual program, which regularly attracts the nation’s leading student journalists. Among the universities with student representatives are Arizona State University, Butler University, Kent State University, Syracuse University, the University of Iowa and the University of Oklahoma.

Portions of previous investigations have been published by major news organizations, including The Washington Post, NBC News, USA Today and the Center for Public Integrity, as well as many nonprofit news websites. The projects have won numerous awards, including five EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, a host of honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and recognition from the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism

Traxler has bene a regular contributor to Elon News Network during her time on campus. Photo courtesy of Traxler

Past News21 investigations have focused on water pollution, food safety, marijuana use and U.S. gun legislation. Anton Delgado ’20 participated in the 2019 project and examined how the federal government has handled natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes to wildfires. Traxler said hearing about News21 from Delgado and others sparked her interest in the program.

This year, the team of student journalists will focus their efforts on investigating disparities in sentencing and jail time, conditions of juvenile detention facilities and the impact on families, communities and victims. Fellows will travel across the country to report stories, and their work will be published as a multimedia project online and shared with industry partners nationwide.

“I’m really excited to be able to work on multimedia reporting,” Traxler said. “I’m also also excited to learn from the other people in the program, learn from their skill sets and be able to offer mine to create a really nice, cohesive project.”

Leading up to the summer program, students take part in a spring seminar led by News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and professor of practice at the Cronkite School. The seminar immerses students in the topic that will investigated during the summer and students do preliminary reporting.

“We’re really just starting to get into the preliminary research right now,” Traxler said. “What is the purpose of juvenile detention centers, and prosecuting juveniles? Are those programs that are set up for juvenile delinquents effective, or are they just perpetuating a cycle of crime and poverty and perpetuating the cycle of incarceration at a younger age?”

Traxler has worked with Elon News Network throughout her time at Elon, reporting on topics ranging from gun safety and suicide prevention to local Native American tribes and downtown Burlington. This January, Traxler interned with the Burlington Times News.

“I’m honored that the School of Communications selected me,” Traxler said. “I really didn’t expect it and I just want to make sure that I make the people – the professors and peers that have supported me – proud.”