Sam Laird

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UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
August 2009 - May 2011
Degree expected May 2011
UC Santa Cruz
September 2003 - June 2007
Graduated June 2007, Major: American Studies, Minor: Education

Published Stories:

Mixtape Madness: The impresario of viral high school basketball fights to stay on top
At 26, Wagner is the basketball mixtape’s gonzo king. His by-the-bootstraps company, HoopMixTape, has become synonymous with the sport’s culture and helped launch the public awareness of numerous young NBA players like John Wall, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Jennings. His videos have been viewed online more than 120 million times, and he has more than 125,000 YouTube subscribers. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports. Also featured on
A Surfing Legend Conquers Addiction, but Prison May Lie Ahead
The New York Times
For years, pro surfer Anthony Ruffo lived a glamorous life of big waves, beautiful women, and corporate sponsors. Then a methamphetamine addiction led him to deal drugs with a violent street gang. He avoided prison once, but a second charge of dealing could lock him behind bars for more than five years. Rehabbed and reformed, he says his work helping other former addicts should keep him out. Others disagree. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports.
Local Intelligence: American Steel Studios
The New York Times
West Oakland's post-industrial hinterland is home to many active and abandoned warehouses. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports on one old depot where a thriving arts community has taken root.
Local Basketball Stars Shun Bay Area Colleges
The New York Times
National powers raid for Bay Area talent as local universities struggle to keep up in a college basketball arms race. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports.
Shoe Marketer Who Enriched N.C.A.A. Takes on His Creation
The New York Times / Bay Citizen
For decades, Sonny Vaccaro revolutionized the merchandizing of amateur athletes, earning millions of dollars for the sneaker companies that employed him, the N.C.A.A. and himself. But more recently, as an adviser in a closely watched federal court case, Vaccaro has devoted himself to bringing down the empire he helped create. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports.
Performance-Enhancing Basketball Shoes
The New York Times Magazine
For the Year in Ideas issue, Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports on a revolutionary new shoe banned by the NBA.
To Create a Star, Add Hip-Hop to Hoops and Post to YouTube
The New York Times / Bay Citizen
From a hobby blooms a lucrative enterprise focused on basketball. Sam Laird, class of 2011, reports.
No Limit
Sam Laird, class of 2011, profiles the Drew Gooden Soldiers in the November 2010 issue of SLAM magazine. The Soldiers, a traveling all-star team, dominated the summer basketball circuit with a star-studded roster of future collegians and potential pros that packed gyms nationwide and left coaches and fans drooling for more.
Inside the Hangman's Knot
East Bay Express
Several months after an Oakland man was convicted of two barbershop murders and sentenced to Death Row, Sam Laird, Class of 2011, looks back on the trial and its aftermath. This 3,000-word feature was a cover story for the August 18, 2010, East Bay Express.
Jabari Brown Soldiers On
East Bay Express

Sam Laird, class of 2011, writes in the East Bay Express about Oakland prepstar Jabari Brown, the area's top basketball prospect in years. As Brown's prodigious talent propels him upward, he must navigate the murky, tumultuous, and often nasty world of big-time amateur hoops. This 4,000 word feature was the cover story for the May 19, 2010, East Bay Express.

"What Is Justice?" Inside A Death Penalty Trial
Oakland North

In 2001, Christopher Evans murdered two people at 85th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland, setting him up to receive either the death penalty or a sentence of life without parole. Sam Laird, class of 2011, takes you inside the penalty phase of Evans' trial, examining how prosecuting and defense attorneys sought to frame Evans' murders, the trial's stakes for Evans' loved ones and those of his victims, the state of capital punishment in California, and, ultimately, what a jury of Evans' peers deemed his appropriate punishment. This 4,500-word feature ran on in November 2009.


Society of Professional Journalists, Mark of Excellence Award (Region 11) (March 2011)
Departmental Fellowship, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (August 2009)
The Chronicle of Higher Education, David W. Miller Award for Student Journalists (May 2008)
Columbia Scholastic Press Association Certificate of Merit for News Feature Writing (May 2008)

Work Experience:

Editorial Intern
Diablo Custom Publishing  - Walnut Creek CA  ( June 2010 - August 2010 )
Primarily researched and wrote articles and short items for several client publications including Athletics, Giants, and Hastings magazines. Also did some editing, fact-checking, and production work.
North Gate Radio  - Berkeley CA  ( January 2010 - May 2010 )
Scripted, recorded, and engineered audio reports; scripted, produced, and managed weekly radio show; co-hosted live broadcasts.
Freelance writer
Various  - Various CA  ( January 2010 - January 2050 )
Published by The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Bay Citizen, SLAM, East Bay Express, Inside Out, and others.
Reporter/Producer  - Oakland CA  ( August 2009 - April 2010 )
Contributed articles and produced multimedia stories on issues impacting North Oakland residents for student-led news site based at UC Berkeley and funded by the Ford Foundation.
Editorial Intern
Via Magazine  - San Francisco CA  ( September 2008 - February 2009 )
Fact-checked feature articles and other editorial content as well as researched and wrote short items in a full-time, paid internship at Lowell Thomas Award-winning magazine with a circulation of 3 million.
Moving Ecuador  - Quito None  ( January 2008 - March 2008 )
Traveled to, researched, photographed, and wrote about locations throughout Ecuador for an on-line travel and volunteer guide based in Quito, Ecuador.
Quito City Paper  - Quito None  ( January 2008 - January 2008 )
Researched, reported, and wrote for a bilingual newspaper published in Quito, Ecuador, until the paper went bankrupt in late January 2008.
City Desk Editor
City on a Hill Press  - Santa Cruz CA  ( January 2007 - April 2007 )
Managed the largest desk at UC Santa Cruz's award-winning paper of record, assigning and editing reporters’ weekly clips and features. Also wrote 500-800 word clips about local people, events, and politics, two editorial pieces, and a 1,900+ word feature that was chosen for cover.
City Desk Reporter
City on a Hill Press  - Santa Cruz CA  ( September 2006 - December 2006 )
Wrote 500-800 word clips about local people, events, and politics, and a 2000 word feature that was chosen for cover.


  • Writing and editing, WordPress, proficient in ProTools, Garageband and Soundslides Pro, basic knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign, FinalCut Pro, and HTML/CSS, experienced traveler, conversant Spanish