The 41st Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards were announced this week. In all, more than 20 Berkeley Journalism alumni were recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the highest number in our community since 2016.
Closest to home, alumna and former instructor Daffodil Altan (‘04) and Berkeley Journalism Prof. and alum Andrés Cediel (‘04) were awarded an Emmy for Continuing Coverage of a News Story for “Kids Caught in the Crackdown.” The story is an important one for our times: As the detention of migrant children climbed to record-breaking levels under President Trump, FRONTLINE and the Associated Press investigated what was going on inside federally-funded shelters — and the lasting impact on children held in U.S. custody.
The film’s production team included nearly a dozen past and current Berkeley Journalism students including JoeBill Muñoz, Jean-Philippe Dobrin and Bo Kovitz (all Class of ’19) who worked as associate producers, Mario Furloni (’11) as additional camera, Pedro Cota and Jess Alvarenga (Class of ‘20) as production assistants, and Lulu Orozco, Rosa Tuirán and Betty Márquez Rosales (all Class of ’20) assisting with translations. Alum Garance Burke (’04) (MPP ’05), an award-winning investigative reporter at the AP and former Berkeley Journalism lecturer, was a lead reporter on the project.
“The relationships you build at the J-School are forever,” Daffodil Altan said. “Some of the best work I’ve done during my career has been in collaboration with Berkeley J-Schoolers. When we hire our teams for these major projects we look for the best qualified candidates, and it is no coincidence that J-Schoolers are consistently right there at the top. It’s a wonderful confluence when recent graduates experience with us how our shared ethic extends among all classes.”
The project began in the spring of 2019, after AP reporters Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke published a series of immigration stories that led to change in the government system that detains migrant children. She, Daffodil and Andres, who were in the same graduating class of 2004, teamed up and brokered the first-ever documentary partnership between AP and FRONTLINE.
“Having the connection to one another through Berkeley and this shared background of reporting knowledge was crucial as we worked together under intense pressure and demanding deadlines,” Garance Burke said. “The students and alums who worked on the film were incredible — they brought deep knowledge, experience, professionalism and ethics to all the complexities we were navigating.”
Mexican-American filmmaker JoeBill Muñoz (‘19), now an associate producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting and a 2020 Sundance Ignite Fellow, said, “I’m thankful that the judges elevated the stories of the children and families who told their stories to us, and honored that I was able to work with this powerhouse team after graduation.”
Alumna, lawyer and journalist Gisela Pérez de Acha (’20) was part of The New York Times visual investigations team that won an Emmy for Coverage of a Breaking News Story for their remarkable story, “El Chapo’s Son: The Siege of Culiacán” for The Weekly. The story reconstructed eyewitness videos on the Sinaloa cartel’s brutal response to Mexico’s failed attempt to capture El Chapo’s son. Alum Gregory Winter (’00) was an executive producer, Brent McDonald (’04) was a producer, and Singeli Agnew (’07) was a supervising producer on the story.
“This story hit really close to home,” Gisela Pérez de Acha said. “All my family lives there. My grandmother, my family and friends were caught in the crossfire.”
“I had the opportunity to work with the amazing Visual Investigations Team at The New York Times to conduct our own digital forensics and make sense of the chaos that rippled across social media. Having trained at the Human Rights Center and Journalism School at UC Berkeley prepared me to be an exceptional reporter and to leverage my digital skills into powerful storytelling.”
Interim Dean Geeta Anand said the work being honored by the Emmys reflects the values, passion and excellence of the Berkeley Journalism community.
“Our faculty and students are telling stories of grave injustices in deep and powerful ways, often using the latest, cutting-edge investigative techniques. I couldn’t be prouder of them and of our school.”
Here are the nominees and winners from the rest of our alumni community. (Note: We will publish a separate write-up for the winners and nominees in the Spanish language categories, which were moved to a separate ceremony in November.) We asked a few for comments about being recognized by the Academy:
Roberto Daza (‘12) produced VICE’s “Taken by ISIS | One American Father’s Journey to Get His Kids Back from the Caliphate,” that won an Emmy for Best Story in a Newscast. “This Emmy means a lot more than I expected,” Daza said. “I’ve been nominated several times prior but it feels nice to finally make it over that hump. Awards shouldn’t matter, but they do help convince news agencies and editors to allow you to pursue more ambitious stories. This story is a unique angle on the topic of radicalization because it focused not so much on the people that uproot their lives to pursue an ideology, but on the people they leave behind.”
Producer/director Sweta Vohra (‘10) was nominated for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a Newsmagazine for “Baby Constantin,” about the youngest known child taken from his parents at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration’s policy action separating migrant children from their parents. The story ran on “The Weekly,” a new TV series from The New York Times on FX Networks and streaming on Hulu.
“One of the things that I felt really proud of was that we were able to weave together two stories into one film: the investigation into one of Trump’s most contentious immigration policies – family separations – and how one 4-month old infant’s life changed forever because of it,” Sweta Vohra said. “It aimed to uncover the scope of a policy and, also, to see it at a very granular, and emotional, level. I’m grateful for the nomination because it renews attention on, one, family separations, which are ongoing, and the collective trauma that so many kids like Constantin will forever live with. But, two, it renews attention on the urgent and persistent need to investigate the abuses of this country’s immigration and detention systems – especially, right now, as we are in the middle of a pandemic.”
Vohra said she’s still using the skills she graduated with on every story. “Everything I learned in my TV/documentary classes with my nine other classmates I take with me on every project: be open to restructuring everything, simplify!, listen and learn from criticism, be bold in your ideas and be kind.”
Also for “The Weekly,” producer Singeli Agnew‘s (‘07) film “Collision” – about an ISIS attack in Tajikistan – received the Emmy for Outstanding Editing, as well as nominations for Outstanding Writing and Best Video Journalism. Singeli was Supervising Producer for the series, which received a total of four Emmy awards and an additional five nominations in its first season.
“More than a decade after graduating from the Jschool, I look around and am thrilled to see that so many of the best in the business – many I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with – are fellow alums!,” Singeli Agnew said. “The demand for storytellers who combine rigorous journalism, cinematic excellence and field savvy in tough situations is at an all time high – and that’s exactly the training the Jschool provided us.”
Javaria Khan (‘19) was a contributing producer on “Alternative Facts,” a “Meet the Press” NBC Special Edition nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding News Discussion & Analysis.
“I’m very proud of receiving an Emmy nomination with some of the smartest colleagues and journalists I have ever worked with,” said Javaria Khan. “This particular episode was rewarding because of how much light it shed on important topics such as misinformation and disinformation and how much weight that holds heading into the 2020 election season. But I must add that it was also particularly rewarding to see Daffodil Altan and Andrés Cediel win an Emmy just two categories before mine!”
Shilpi Gupta (’03) received three Emmy nominations as an editor for ABC News including Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine for “The Dropout,” the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the fall of her start-up Theranos, for Outstanding News Special for “Screen Time” on 20/20 and Outstanding Short Documentary for “1969: The FBI and the Panther.”
Emma Cott (‘09) was a producer and Brent McDonald (‘04) a reporter on “’It’s Mutilation‘: The Police in Chile Are Blinding Protesters,” for The New York Times, nominated for Outstanding Hard News Feature Story in a Newscast.
Tommy Nguyen (‘05) received two nominations: for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a Newsmagazine for Dateline NBC’s “Life Inside” in which Lester Holt spends two nights embedded inside the largest maximum security prison in America, the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary, and for Outstanding News Special as a field producer for “Justice For All Town Hall” on MSNBC. Alum David Corvo (‘72) was executive producer for “Life Inside.”
Emily Taguchi (‘06) was nominated for Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a Newscast as a producer of “The Sri Lanka Easter Massacre” for ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline.
Rachel de Leon (‘14) was nominated for Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine as a coordinating producer of “Freedom Fighters” about three women – a former child bride, a police officer and a labor crusader – speaking out against inequality and pushing for equal rights, for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Marjorie McAfee (‘06) was nominated for Outstanding Feature Story in a Newscast as a segment producer of “Mexico: The Disappeared” for Nightline on ABC.
Alexandra Berzon (‘06) received two nominations: one for Outstanding Investigative Report in a Newsmagazine as a reporter on “Unsafe Factories in Bangladesh Are Supplying Amazon Sellers” and Outstanding Business, Consumer or Economic Report for “The Hidden Safety Risks of Your Amazon Order,” both for The Wall Street Journal.
“60 Minutes” Correspondent Bill Whitaker (‘78) also received two nominations: one for Outstanding Investigative Report in a Newsmagazine for “The Label,” and one for Outstanding Edited Interview for “Know My Name.”
The competition received more than 2000 submissions for content premiering in calendar-year 2019, and was judged by a pool of 875 peer professionals from across the television and streaming/digital media News & Documentary industry.
By Marlena Telvick
Additional research by Julie Hirano.