Reporters-in-Residence make the most of their fellowships

December 1, 2023

Journalists Ana Tellez-Witrago and Andrea Madison standing next to one another in the courtyard of North Gate Hall.

Ana Tellez-Witrago and Andrea Madison in the courtyard of North Gate Hall. Photo: Andrea Lampros.

Berkeley Journalism awarded the 2023 Reporters-in-Residence Fellowships to Ana Tellez-Witrago and Andrea Madison as part of the school’s initiatives to bring new voices into journalism and remove barriers to the field.

Tellez-Witrago and Madison received $2,000 each and were given the chance to audit the J200 introductory reporting class taught by Dean Geeta Anand and Christine Schiavo. Both spent the semester writing for Berkeley Journalism’s hyper-local site Richmond Confidential.

Tellez-Witrago lives in Richmond, but works full time for Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. After her interest in journalism was piqued by writing press releases for Kaplan’s office and with encouragement from Richmond Pulse’s Publisher and Executive Editor Malcolm Marshall, she started to freelance for the community news site, which is led by young people. When she heard about the Berkeley Journalism fellowship, she said she jumped at the chance to sharpen her skills and report more deeply on her community.

“I am typically a very shy person,” she said. “I’m trying to find my voice and writing has been a way for me to channel and organize my thoughts and communicate them.”

Tellez-Witrago has so far written about Richmond’s housing plan, a local Native American powwow and a “flare” at the Chevron Refinery that sent black smoke into the Richmond skies.

Madison, who lives in nearby Concord, said she covered a story about rent control in San Pablo, attending a Richmond City Council meeting with a lively local tenants’ rights organization.

“I got a good snapshot of the struggles San Pablo is facing as a small community surrounded by bigger communities,” said Madison, who grew up in the small northern California town of Willits. “Everyone has their own issues on a daily basis, but when you write a story about rent control or a food bank, you see that a lot more people are struggling than folks realize. I am really glad to cover these for people who don’t really have a voice. People work very long hours to make a living.”

Both Tellez-Witrado and Madison say they are deeply appreciative for the instruction and mentorship they have received through the fellowship.

“The thing Geeta and Christine have helped me to learn is to simplify my writing and make sure that it’s structurally organized to capture the reader’s attention,” said Tellez-Witrago.

Madison said she’s learned to “think outside the box” when looking for sources and “digging a little deeper” with those sources. She said Schiavo pushed her to always look for numbers or statistics to back up claims.

The experiences this semester have inspired both fellows to stay in journalism.

“I want to change the world through my work in journalism and am very grateful for the mentors I have had along the way,” said Madison. “Going through the J200 class has been amazing. I feel blessed.”

Tellez-Witrago says she plans to bring what she’s learned back to the Richmond Pulse. “I want to focus on what our local government is doing policy-wise and how it affects our community,” she said. “I want to uplift the voices of people of color and other folks who have been historically marginalized.”

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