|About this site
These web pages represent the reporting work of eight students at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The stories, graphics, and art were produced during the Spring term, 1997, as part of an advanced reporting and writing course devoted to examining issues related to juvenile justice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The course was developed in the wake of a disturbing incident last year in the nearby East Bay city of Richmond, in which a 6 year-old boy was charged with attempted murder in the beating of a three month-old infant. The Richmond case inspired numerous news stories in the print and electronic media in the U.S. and around the world, with many of these reports citing the incident as an example of the crisis of juvenile violence in America.
The students took a deeper look at youth crime and violence, and their stories reflect a wide range of topics as a result. Doreen Bowens found a school for troubled kids in impoverished East Palo Alto, and spent a great deal of time there throughout the semester with one youngster and his family to write about the struggles of three generations to cope with crime, drugs, and poverty.
Rob Selna discovered an unusual city program in Oakland run by an ex-convict devoted to providing a more humane alternative to incarceration for youthful offenders, and aimed at reducing juvenile recidivism. Matthew Broersma went into Oakland's public schools with members of a determined youth group called "Teens on Target" to write about how young people are trying to help educate their peers and to mediate problems of crime and violence themselves.
Christina Dyrness reported on the horrendous costs to young people of the easy availability of handguns in America and traveled to the state capital, Sacramento, to write about new efforts by gun control advocates to crackdown on the trade in "junk" guns.
Bonnie Eslinger focused on domestic violence and its myriad influences on juvenile crime, Shari Rubin wrote about the answers and darker problems presented by the foster care system, and Luis Martinez reported on work in youth gang violence prevention by the Oakland Police Department.
Finally, Jean Fisher, who designed and constructed this web site, examined in her stories the truly remarkable business at Highland Hospital in Oakland, where a young emergency room surgeon named Dr. Vernon Henderson not only works hard each day to save young lives on his operating table, but also spearheads outreach efforts in the community to help stem youth violence.
This course owed a great deal to two seminal recent works of journalism which were used as invaluable guides to juvenile justice in America, both of them Pulitzer Prize winners. The books provided a wealth of background information and rich grist for discussion in class. They were: "No Matter How Loud I Shout," by Edward Humes, and "All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence," by Fox Butterfield.
The course also benefited tremendously from numerous expert visitors in the field, including Dr. Herbert Schreier, director of psychiatry at Children's Hospital of Oakland, who taught four seminar sessions on the emotional and psychological factors contributing to youth violence and crime.
The students and instructors also thank for their time and expertise Lori Olszewski of the San Francisco Chronicle, Sherman Spears of "Teens on Target," Dr. Vernon Henderson of Highland Hospital, documentary filmmaker Michael Smith, journalist Doug Foster, psychiatrist Terry Kupers, victims' rights leader Helene Davis, and Jane Stevens and Lori Dorfman of the Berkeley Media Studies Group.
This course evolved simultaneously with a Frontline investigative project in which two acclaimed filmmakers, John Zaritzky and Virginia Storring, worked out of our campus building, North Gate Hall, throughout the semester to report on the Richmond case for a documentary scheduled for broadcast on PBS in May. We thank them, and producer Sharon Tiller, for their visits to the class and for the rare opportunity they gave us to see a professional documentary as it evolved from the planning stages all the way to completion.
We thank freelance photographer Robert Gumpert for granting permission to display his portraits of Highland Hospital on our pages, and student photographers from Prof. Ken Light's photography class for their work, Abner Kingman and Marc Ermer.
Last but not least, we extend special appreciation to Paul Grabowicz, an award-winning investigative reporter for the Oakland Tribune and adjunct faculty member at the journalism school, for his insights, his journalistic savvy, and the wealth of information about everything from the Internet to FBI records that he passionately rendered on Thursday afternoons throughout the term.
When it came time in April to decide on an overarching theme and title for this web site, the students in Journalism 224, "Reporting on Social Issues: Juvenile Violence," agreed on one word: "Why." The word is presented here as both a question and a declaration. For in the stories on these pages the students not only tackle many problems related to juvenile justice, but attempt to shed light on a few answers, as well.
We thank you for visiting.
Acting Associate Professor