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College of Media graduate student selected for national reporting initiative

African American male student with camera

Maxwell Shavers (BSJ, 2020), a current student in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media Digital Marketing Communications master’s program, has been selected for the Carnegie-Knight News21 Program, a nationwide reporting project.

The program is headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and brings student journalists from around the country together to report and produce in-depth, multimedia projects on an assigned subject matter. The work is published by major media outlets, which have included The Washington Post, NBC News and USA Today.

“News21 is a long-form investigative journalism experience—one that is bigger than any story I have done in the past,” Shavers said. “Using everything that I've learned at WVU to contribute to this project will not only be an amazing application of my skills, but it will be the experience of a lifetime. I'm most looking forward to learning from the illustrious instructors and collaborating alongside other distinguished students from around the country that have as much of a passion for storytelling as I do.”

This year, Shavers and the other News21 program fellows will tackle the issue “Poverty and the Pandemic.” They will spend the spring semester conducting preliminary research and immersing themselves in the topic during three-hour virtual seminar sessions each week. Typically, during the summer, participants spend 10 weeks in Phoenix, working full time out of a digital newsroom at the Cronkite School. The state of the coronavirus pandemic will dictate whether students go to Phoenix this summer or continue remotely.

The program is led by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jacqueline Petchel, the executive editor for the News21 program. Students also work with Leonard Downie, the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School and former executive editor of The Washington Post, and Sarah Cohen, the Knight Chair specializing in data journalism at Cronkite and the former database editor at The Washington Post.

“I hope one day to be able to use everything that I have learned to create beautiful stories and art of people and things that have yet to be seen. I'd love to tell stories about my community and apply my visual skills and digital knowledge to help businesses. Most importantly, I want to love what I'm doing.”
Maxwell Shavers

Shavers, a native of Charleston, West Virginia, earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the College of Media in May 2020. During his time as an undergraduate, he was part of the BrandJRNY storytelling team, where he developed multimedia experiences to promote West Virginia communities. He also worked as a visual marketing specialist and photographer for the WVU Launch Lab and was the sports director for U92, the campus radio station. He is currently a freelance photographer and videographer.

Ashton Marra, teaching assistant professor in the Media College, recommended Shavers for the News21 program. The application required a letter of nomination from Dean Diana Martinelli and a resume, letter and portfolio from Shavers.

“Max is an incredibly talented visual artist, and I felt the News21 experience could help him grow in the area of visual journalism, both photo and video,” said Marra. “Max already has a strong grasp on the basics of both mediums, and this experience will only help him sharpen those skills and shape him into the accomplished journalist I know he will be.”

Shavers received a scholarship from the Cronkite school, which covered part of the participation cost. The balance was paid for by the College of Media’s student enhancement fund, which consists of donations to support student experiences beyond the classroom.

“We’re very proud of Max on his selection to this prestigious program and grateful to our generous alumni and friends who understand the value of real-world experiences such as News21, major market internships, study abroad courses and community-based engagement,” said Dean Diana Martinelli. “These professional experiences help our students grow personally and professionally by expanding their resumes, networks, confidence and passion for our fields.”

To donate to or learn more about the college’s student enhancement fund, contact development officer Josh Walters at