Advocate-Messenger editor selected for criminal justice fellowship

Published 1:06 pm Monday, July 9, 2018


News release

Advocate-Messenger Executive Editor Ben Kleppinger is among 28 journalists selected to participate in a year-long “jails and justice” fellowship through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The fellowship begins this week with a conference in New York City.

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Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s recently elected district attorney, heads the list of speakers at the July 10-11 conference on America’s jail crisis at the college.

The conference, titled “Rural (In)Justice: Covering America’s Hidden Jail Crisis,” will bring together selected journalists with a VIP list of experts, practitioners and academics to explore the factors driving the increase in jail populations in smaller towns and rural communities across the US, and best practices underway to address a crisis often ignored in discussions about mass incarceration.

Other speakers at the two-day conference include: Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute; Judge Steven Leifman, administrative judge for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Florida; Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues; Tona Monroe, Blount County (Tennessee) Commissioner; Georgia state Rep. Chuck Elfstration; Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley; G. Larry Mays, author of “Trouble in the Heartland;” Larry Amerson, former president of the National Sheriffs Association; Christian Henrichson of the Vera Institute of Justice; and Emily West of the MacArthur Safety & Justice Challenge.

Twenty-eight journalists, most of them from small and rural communities in the U.S. heartland, where the crisis is most keenly felt, were chosen as reporting fellows to attend the conference, which launches a one-year reporting and mentoring program on jail issues.

The conference is organized by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), and is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Catherine and John D. MacArthur Foundation.

“At this critical time in criminal justice, the work of journalists is especially important,” said CMCJ Director Stephen Handelman. “As the US struggles to understand and address the crisis in our jails, penetrating, evidence-based reporting is crucial to informing the public debate and to policy change.”

The 28 journalists chosen to be reporting fellows (in alphabetical order) are: Deborah Berry, USA Today; Paul Cuno-Booth, Keene (NH) Sentinel; Danielle Danford, Washburn County Register; Kelsey Davis, Mississippi Today; Whittney Downward, Meridian (MS) Star; Whitney Evans, KUER 90.1; James Farrell, Fremont Tribune; Nick Graziano, Cortland Standard; Matt Hopf, Herald Whig; Eric Jankiewicz, freelance journalist; Anne Jungen, La Crosse Tribune; Eric Killea, freelance journalist; Joe Killian, NC Policy Watch; Ben Kleppinger, THe Advocate-Messenger; Kati Moody-Walker, Levelland & Hockley News Press; Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Daily Telegraph; Kyle Ocker, Daily Iowegian; Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune; Samantha Perry, Bluefield Daily Telegraph; Aprile Rickert, News & Tribune; Mitch Ryals, The Inlander; H. Rose Schneider, Altamount Enterprise; Allison Sherry, Colorado Public Radio; Renatta Signorini, Tribune Review; Jessi Stone, Smoky Mountain News; Gregory Wehner, Southampton Press; Amy Yurkanin, Alabama Media Group; and Alissa Zhu, Springfield News-Leader.

The journalists will attend the conference and participate in a year-long fellowship program in justice reporting. The fellows were selected from a wide pool of applicants based on editors’ recommendations, and on reporting projects underway or in the planning stage.

The John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice the only national group that brings together journalists, legislators, policymakers, scholars and practitioners for candid, on-the-record discussions on emerging issues of U.S. criminal justice. Over 900 reporters have participated in CMCJ media training programs in the past decade.