As part of the national Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, UT senior and Knoxville native Andrew Capps spent seven months interviewing experts, attorneys, and victims about their experiences with hate crimes across America.
Capps is the fifth student from UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media to be named a fellow of the News21 initiative thanks to a generous gift from CCI Board of Visitors Chair John T. Williams (BS/JEM ’71) and his wife, Patty (IS ’86), of Kingsport, Tennessee.
Previous fellows include: Bliss Zechman (BS/JEM ’17), Taylor Gilmore (BS/JEM ’16), Rilwan Balogun (BS/JEM ’15), and Jackie DelPilar (BS/JEM ’14).
Since 2010, a different topic has been chosen for the initiative each year. Drinking water in America was the 2017 topic, whereas the 2016 program investigated voting rights.
Along with 37 other program fellows, Capps traveled around the United States sharing content through various forms including a documentary, written features, and even an interactive map. The students were broken into groups covering specific populations affected by hate crimes. Capps, along with six teammates, was chosen to examine bias against African Americans.
As a journalist, Capps says, he knows how to maintain his composure, but the story of James Byrd Jr. shook him to the core.
“We sent three people to Texas to cover the story, and they came back with a CD of photos that had never been released digitally,” said Capps. “We decided if we were going to do this story justice, we have to all look at these. If we don’t see the extent of how brutal this stuff is, then we cannot paint an accurate picture of how deep the impact goes.”
“When you know there’s a problem, and you are aware not enough people know about it and nothing is being done to fix it, that’s the obligation of a journalist—to make others aware of the issues other people are facing.”
Catherine Luther, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, nominated Capps to attend the program.
“I was immediately impressed by what Andrew had accomplished both academically and professionally,” said Luther. “While doing quite well in his studies, Andrew had managed to excel in extracurricular activities and secure a position at the Knoxville News Sentinel as a reporter. I believe the fact that we have consistently had success in having students accepted into this program is a testament to the outstanding quality of our students and faculty.”