Campus honors distinguished Berkeley Journalism alums 

February 23, 2024

UC Berkeley will honor “60 Minutes” Correspondent Bill Whitaker (’78/’16) with the 2024 Alum of the Year Award and ITVS President and CEO Carrie Lozano (’05) with the Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award, campus announced today.

The Berkeley Journalism alums  — both members of the school’s advisory board — will be celebrated with other Achievement Award recipients at a special campus event on May 16.

“Bill and Carrie represent the excellence of our Berkeley Journalism community,” said Dean Geeta Anand. “They are extraordinary storytellers who tackle and champion the challenging stories of our times with integrity and humanity, while continually giving their expertise back to Berkeley.”

The Alum of the Year is jointly awarded by the UC Berkeley Foundation and the Cal Alumni Association to a “prominent alum who exemplifies the very best of Berkeley, whose professional leadership and contributions have led to extraordinary advances that benefit the greater good of society.” Past recipients include Steve Wozniak, ‘86, Maxine Hong Kingston, ‘62 and Alice Waters, ‘67.

“It’s an incredible honor. UC Berkeley is one of the great universities in the world and I was fortunate enough to go there and be taught by excellent professors there,” said Whitaker, whose career in journalism has spanned local reporting at KQED in San Francisco, global reporting for CBS News and a decade at “60 Minutes.”

Whitaker was once a paperboy who dropped the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin on the city’s doorsteps early mornings, seven days a week.

“It was something I had been interested in my whole life,” said Whitaker about journalism. “My father was a news junkie and we would sit and watch the evening news every night during the most momentous times: the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the beginning of Watergate….I was always intrigued, but at the time there was nobody who looked like me on broadcast television, and I didn’t think of it as a career path.”

Whitaker, who also has a master’s degree from Boston University, started his graduate degree at UC Berkeley in 1978, where he said professors would literally use a red pen to edit work. He learned to use a camera and put on a broadcast every week. “We were photographers, writers, anchor people and camera people — we did it all,” he said. “It was wonderful training for my life in journalism.”

Whitaker’s work in journalism began before he could finish his thesis, which he finally did in 2016. He has reported on police violence, presidential elections, Syrian refugees, Nelson Mandela, Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman, ghost guns and so much more during his storied career. His reporting on the opioid crisis — what he calls his proudest work — has won more awards than any other work at “60 Minutes.”

Like Whitaker, Lozano has been lauded for her work, receiving accolades for her Academy-Award nominated documentary film “The Weather Underground.” Still, she said, the alumni achievement award — which recognizes an alum whose professional achievements reflect the excellence of a UC Berkeley education — might be her biggest honor so far considering the vast contributions made by so many Berkeley alumni.

“I almost can’t process this, but I feel it is my opportunity to say thank you to the university,” said Lozano, who was the first in her family to go to a university. “Were it not for Berkeley, we would not be having this conversation. It really did change the course of my life.”

Lozano is a “double Bear” who earned her undergraduate degrees at Berkeley in film studies and political science in 1996 and completed her graduate degree in journalism in 2005. When choosing a graduate school in journalism, she had many options but “just felt like there was no other place to be.”

She said studying with renowned filmmaker Jon Else, who directed Berkeley Journalism’s documentary film program at the time, was “the gift of a lifetime.”

“The J-School has been instrumental in all that I have done,” said Lozano, who was the Director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs at the Sundance Institute and recently hired to lead ITVS, a leading incubator of groundbreaking documentary films for public television. She has also lectured at Berkeley Journalism.

Both Whitaker and Lozano emphasized the importance of journalism and journalism education in these times as well as the need to ensure that people of all backgrounds have access to the field.

Whitaker said that journalism is necessary for a democracy and written into the Constitution for a reason. The demise of local news and layoffs at major publications, like the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, are dangerous, he said.

“I am sitting here watching the watchdogs be whittled down. Journalists are losing their jobs. It’s not good for democracy,” Whitaker said. “Bad things happen when nobody is watching.”

Lozano said we need to continue to bring a diversity of people to journalism and documentary filmmaking. She said: “At the end of the day, it’s really about what are we missing in filling in the gaps? Whose voices are missing right now that we really really need to hear from? And that is fluid.”

Both Lozano and Whitaker are actively involved in supporting and mentoring Berkeley Journalism’s students and alums.

In 2021, Whitaker partnered with Dean Anand to launch the Dean’s Fellows Program, an initiative that fully funds up to five first-generation college students as a way to remove structural barriers to entering journalism. To support the program, he made a video with a “60-minutes” film crew which was shared widely to raise funds for student support.

“The world is a big diverse place,” said Whitaker. “We can’t just tell our story through one lens. It can’t just be told through a male lens. A white male lens. A white female lens. We all add to this mosaic, and we all add to this story, and we all bring something different to our view of this story. That helps us all put the pieces together. There’s not one narrative, and it’s important that we all be involved in telling our story.”

 

Dean's Newsletter

Quarterly Newsletter From Dean Geeta Anand

Spring 2024 Dear Berkeley Journalism community: With great optimism about the future of our school, I share with you news of the largest gift in the history of Berkeley Journalism:…