Award-winning radio correspondent Mary Kay Magistad to lead Berkeley Journalism audio program

September 6, 2018

September 6, 2018

Mary Kay Magistad, an award-winning former East Asia correspondent for PRI’s “The World” and for National Public Radio (NPR), has been named director of audio at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Magistad succeeds Ben Manilla, a Peabody Award-winning producer who in 2014 was appointed head of audio and will continue to teach at the School.

In addition to overseeing the Audio Program, Magistad will teach courses in audio journalism, develop additional course offerings and mentor master’s degree candidates.

“At a time when interest in audio storytelling is at an all-time high, it was important to find a veteran journalist with a background that reflects the subject areas our students gravitate to in producing
feature-length and episodic audio projects,” Ed Wasserman, dean of Berkeley Journalism, said. “Mary Kay has reported from some 40 countries in Asia and Africa and won a host of the industry’s most prestigious awards. We’re so pleased to welcome her to our distinguished faculty and watch the direction she takes to strengthen and expand the program.”  

“I’m delighted and honored to be part of Berkeley’s storied journalism program, and particularly to be chosen to run the audio journalism department, after a career mostly in audio journalism,” said Magistad. “I’ve already found, in teaching international reporting to undergraduates in Berkeley’s journalism minor over the past two summers, how fun it is to see an interest in rigorous, creative journalism catch fire in a new generation.  I look forward to doing that now with a focus on audio.

“I believe in the power and magic of audio, the importance of good journalism, and in how good training in both can be transformative, for individuals who use those skills, and for the world that hears their stories,” Magistad said.

Magistad is creator and host of “Whose Century Is It?,” a podcast about ideas, trends and twists shaping the 21st century. She has served for three years as an Overseas Press Club judge for the Lowell Thomas award for audio journalism excellence.

Magistad began reporting on Asia in 1988, when she moved to Bangkok. After four years of stringing for The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, CBC and NPR, covering everything from Cambodia’s civil war to Burma’s pro-democracy insurgents, she joined NPR full-time. There she reported from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong before moving, in 1996, to Beijing, where she set up NPR’s first Beijing bureau and spent the next three years reporting throughout China and the region.

After a break for Nieman and Radcliffe fellowships at Harvard, Magistad returned to China to spend another 11 years as East Asia correspondent for BBC/PRI’s “The World,” exploring how China’s rapid transformation has affected individual lives, as well as global geopolitics, economics and the environment.  

Among her awards is an Overseas Press Club award for the seven-part series “Young China,” on the ripple effects in Chinese society of the One Child Generation coming of age; a Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists award for a series on China’s quest to become a global power in innovation, and a Dupont-Columbia Silver Baton and a Scripps-Howard National Journalism award, shared with two colleagues at “The World,” for a series on stem cell research.

Mary Kay received a BS in journalism, with a second major in history, from Northwestern University and an MA in international relations from Sussex University in England.


About Audio Storytelling at UC Berkeley
Berkeley Journalism’s audio program was founded in 1983, during a digital media transformation that drew journalists to rediscover the power of the oldest news medium, the spoken word. Our program specializes in training the next generation in the production of sound-rich, narrative radio on topics that serve the public interest.

Benefiting from a location rich in high-reach stations like KQED, KALW, KPFA and KALX, Berkeley Journalism is ideally suited to nurture audio innovation, from podcasting to sound design. This proximity also means stations have long hired our students as interns and our grads as employees. It’s the reason we can recruit such accomplished journalists as Joshua Johnson (formerly KQED, now host of 1A), Kelly McEvers (NPR), and the Kitchen Sisters to teach.

No journalism graduate program in the country offers this kind of sustained training in audio storytelling and production. Support the next generation by donating today.



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