News 21’s “Voting Wars” Wins Editors and Publisher 2016 EPPY Award

News 21’s “Voting Wars” project has recently won an Editor and Publisher 2016 EPPY award for our in-depth look at voting rights.

These  investigative stories were produced during a period of eight months with the News21: Carnegie-Knight Initiative. As an investigative reporter and producer, I pitched, researched, filmed, wrote, and produced stories from start to finish. Three of my stories were published by News21 and picked up by a verity of partnering news organizations such as The Washington Post, Stars and Stripes, AZ Central, Arizona Capitol Times, Center for Public Integrity, and NonDoc. The full list is included below:

“Why tracking military ballots can be complicated and confusing”

Published in the following publications:

  1. The Washington Post
  2. Stars and Stripes 
  3. Tucson Sentinel
  4. Non Doc
  5. The Center for Public Integrity
  6. Cronkite News/ Arizona PBS
  7. Arizona Daily Independent
  8. Standard Examiner 
  9. Just Say News

“Native Americans continue to battle for voting equality in court. Struggling for equal access to the ballot box”

Published in the following publications:

  1. AZ Central
  2. Non Doc
  3. ABC Action News (Tampa, Florida)
  4. 23 ABC News (Bakersfield, California)
  5. NBC 26 (Green Bay, Wisconsin) 
  6. Denver ABC 7 News (Denver, Colorado)
  7. ABC 5 News (Cleveland, Ohio)
  8. Fox 4 Now News (Fort Myers, Florida)
  9. KJRH 2 NBC News (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
  10. RTV 6 ABC News (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  11. HOT 104.5FM (Knoxville, Tennessee)
  12. The New 106.7FM The River (Springfield, Missouri)
  13. TALK 1170AM Radio (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
  14. Arizona Daily Independent
  15. Investigation West
  16. Voting News, A Verified Voting Foundation 
  17. Indian Country Today Media Network

“Arizona’s Online Voting System Makes It Easy for Military Personnel to Cast Their Vote”

Published in the following publications:

  1. Tucson Sentinel
  2. Cronkite News/ Arizona PBS
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Tutors Filling Arizona’s Curriculum Chasm

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Arizona’s education woes have increased business for tutors and learning centers in the Phoenix area, with many centers supplementing the gaps in the current educational system.

Despite the increase in state funding, test scores show that students are not consistently meeting academic standards developed by the state.

The State of Arizona’s Budget for the 2016 fiscal year shows a $148 million increase in K-12 education spending from the previous year. According to the budget, nearly $4.7 billion will go toward education within the state.

While Governor Doug Ducey’s executive budget proposal for 2016 shows an increase in spending, it will also reduce non-classroom expenditures by five percent for the 230 school districts.

The purpose of the reduction is to shrink the size of school administrations and refocus on students and teachers. However, the category of student support and instruction support is included as a part of the five percent reduction.

The state currently spends close to $8,000 on a student annually, according to the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee reports. That is below the national average. The National Education Association says the national average student cost is $11,000.

In addition, over crowded classrooms and minimal incentives for teachers have added to the breakdown of the academic climate. Tutoring companies are providing much needed supplemental education for students not receiving individualized attention in class.

The gap in instructional support for core subjects has led to an up scaling of private tutoring business.

Core Subject Assistance

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Sylvan Leaning Centers in Ahwatukee. Photo Credit: Erin Fox

Denise Dotti, 50, is the Director of Education at Sylvan Learning Center in Ahwatukee. She said she has seen an increase in business since last year. Dotti said last year students mostly needed homework support. This year more students need help with core subjects.

“In a classroom everything might have been bunched together, so within a week they might have had everything sort of thrown at them. Here we are giving them every little piece to find, where was that part, where was that part that they didn’t quite understand,” Dotti said.

Middle school math was one area she saw many of her students struggle. Dotti said the common core shift to move pre-algebra math to middle school, required a more abstract approach to mathematics.

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Giving Depth To Diving

Local dive shop Phoenix Scuba offers certification classes for local divers but what’s truly drawing people into to the shop is its owner.

Kelly Fischer, 54, is both instructor and owner of Phoenix Scuba. Her nurturing and selfless approach to helping others has earned her a reputation as one of the top dive instructors in the valley. Her business has a five star rating on Yelp and a 4.8 star rating on Google Plus.

A Phoenician since 1968, Kelly Fischer said it was never her intention to become a dive instructor. She sufferers from claustrophobia and pushed herself to become comfortable underwater. She previously worked as a corporate credit analyst for American Express. Scuba was a passion of her husband, Steve. It wasn’t until she went on dive trip to Seal Island in California did she truly grow a passion for the sport.

In 2002, Kelly Fischer opened her first dive shop Paradise Scuba. Three years later, she and her husband decided to become instructors. It was in her training that she noticed only three of the 40 students in her class were women. She said it was in that moment she felt a responsibility to become a course director to encourage women to take leadership roles in the sport.

It [Diving] takes some nurturing and just being there as a calming presence. Being a mom. I really think at the end of the day that’s it. I think as a woman, I bring something to the table that men don’t which is that nurturing quality,” Kelly Fischer said.

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Coyote Curling Rocks The House

The Coyotes Curling Club in Tempe is redefining camaraderie by building a dynamic community both on and off the ice.

The club’s hard work and determination has led to a brand-new, sprawling, Olympic-caliber facility and a hundred new members.

The Coyotes Curling Club was founded in 2003 and is currently the only curling club in the state. When they started, they were located at the home of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. The club had about 80 members. However, their time on the ice was limited to two hours a week. They needed more space to become competitive.

Twelve members decided to create a new facility and make the Coyotes Curling Club into a nonprofit organization. They wanted the club to be about its members and a place for the community to gather and share a love of the sport.

Darryl Horsman, 43, works in marketing for U-Haul and is spokesman for the club. He grew up curling with his parents in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. Horsman is also one of the 12 original co-founders of the Coyotes Curling Club. He said they all knew it would be hard work but a risk worth taking.

“We reached out to everyone we knew locally in the western U.S. and said ‘if this thing goes belly up’ we will all put in $1,000 and lick our wounds,” Horsman said.

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Glendale Man Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Of Trying To Kill Girlfriend In Fire

A man pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to kill his girlfriend and setting fire to their apartment at The Galleria Apartment complex on 60th Avenue, on Monday night.

Marcus Deondrae Savage-Dewitt, 22, pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted first-degree murder and a separate count of arson of an occupied structure, according to superior court documents.

Police records state the fire at The Galleria Apartment complex was a result of arson. Savage-Dewitt told police that he wasn’t on the property when the blaze began. However, his explanation of the evening’s events doesn’t fully match his girlfriend Chelsea Maria Griffin’s account to police.

The following information on the sequence of events comes from Glendale Police Department documents.

On the night of the fire, Savage-Dewitt told Griffin he was going to take a shower. So, she headed to bed. Griffin claims she fell asleep and awoke to flames in her room. Hearing the shower still running, she tried to alert Savage-Dewitt. However, Griffin didn’t hear him respond. She tried to open the bathroom door but it was locked.

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Officials Turn to Businesses to Save State Fair Landmark

The Phoenix Historical Preservation Commission announced during Wednesday’s meeting they are seeking help from private businesses to save the 1938 Works Progress Administration building on the State Fair grounds.

The plan distributed federal funds to put Arizonans back to work after the Great Depression.

Kathryn Leonard, an archeologist serving as a historian to the commission, said the building is currently vacant.

“It’s in pretty poor condition and it is not able to be occupied. But it has been used in the last five years, mainly for storage,” Leonard stated.

During the meeting, committee members said they have met with state officials from the governor’s office to find a solution and save the building. The commission wants to show private businesses investing in the building is mutually beneficial to the business and the community. Companies will have the opportunity to increase profits due to the fair’s location and the state and city can preserve a part of Arizona’s history.

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Phoenix Metro Drivers Leery of I-10 Travel

The Arizona Department of Public Safety raised the reward to $50,000 for information on the Interstate 10 shooter but Phoenix metro commuters remain cautious of traveling on the highway.

Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank Milstead said that they are still actively searching for the individual responsible.

A total of 11 shooting incidents have been reported since Aug. 29 on I-10. Commuters driving on the highway say they’re leery of using the roadway while the shooter remains at-large. Despite assurances from DPS, travelers remain on edge.

Jessica Cherubini, 36, is a mother that lives in Chandler and works as a health and wellness supervisor. She says she has stopped driving on the I-10 because of the shootings.

“I’m just extremely concerned for my family’s safety and I have little children and it really freaks me out,” Cherubini stated.

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Welcome

Welcome to my portfolio. This website encompasses the work I have done throughout my career in journalism.

Currently, I’m a Masters of Mass Communication student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. My focus is broadcast production. I enjoy covering stories relating to international and domestic politics.

Most recently, I worked as an Associate Producer at Fox News Channel. My experience includes working on the Washington Bureau’s editorial and production staff for Fox News Sunday, America’s News Headquarters, and Special Report programs. I was also part of Fox’s White House unit. I have experience generating story ideas, setting up interviews and assembling information for reporters and show staffs. In addition, I have produced live shots for daytime programming, written copy and online content

I hope to apply my newly obtained skills from the Walter Cronkite School to create engaging and interactive news stories for viewers.

My most recent posts on this site will feature projects I have completed throughout my course of study.