Berkeley Journalism launches COVID-19 California reporting initiative with The New York Times 

April 6, 2020

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism logo

With the country in the grips of a devastating pandemic, the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley has joined forces with The New York Times to help meet the need for comprehensive reporting on how this crisis is affecting California.

Under the leadership of the School’s Investigative Reporting Program, more than 80 students and nearly 20 journalism instructors have been organized into small reporting teams to cover how the novel coronavirus is impacting each of California’s 58 counties. The teams are producing stories that will run in either the main edition of The Times or in its five-day-a-week newsletter, California Today, which reaches several hundred thousand readers. (The first story was published today.) Students will also collaborate with The Times in other ways, such as gathering data about the outbreak, taking photographs or assisting correspondents from The Times.

“This is a chance to work with one of the best journalism schools in the country,’’ Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said. “The story of this virus is one of the biggest of our time, and having blanket coverage of its spread and effects is important to our readers in California and around the world.”

Edward Wasserman, dean of Berkeley Journalism, said: “This initiative offers our students a dramatic pivot, and we would be remiss as an institution of journalism education if we did not respond by making this a moment both to teach and to serve, and our students have responded with determination and enthusiasm.”

The project was set in motion by two Berkeley professors who are former reporters for The Times — David Barstow, holder of the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism, and Geeta Anand, director of the Investigative Reporting Program.

“It’s an inspired idea on David’s part, and we are glad to be able to benefit from his and Geeta’s strong relations with The Times, and from the willingness of Dean Baquet and other editorial leaders of The Times to partner with us,” Dean Wasserman said.

Barstow joined Berkeley Journalism last year after a 20-year career with The Times, where he became the first reporter ever to win four Pulitzer Prizes. “We are in the early stages of the largest public health crisis of our lives, and we intend to harness the combined talents of students and staff to report on how state and local governments are responding, or failing to respond, how medical facilities are coping, whether public health measures are working, where the safety net is failing,’’ he said.

“This is an invaluable learning opportunity,” added Anand, herself a Pulitzer winner. “Students want to respond to this crisis with journalism that helps the public and policy makers understand where people are being left behind, and they view it as an all-hands-on-deck moment that requires setting aside for now less urgent academic endeavors.”

“This is a great experience for student journalists and I hope that our coverage will actually benefit the people who need it the most,” said second-year master’s student Ricky Rodas. “Breaking a story right now means nothing if regular folks can’t use the information to better their lives.”

About the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Since its founding in 1968, the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism has graduated alumni who have gone on to win virtually every major industry award and to staff–and run–the country’s top news organizations. Widely regarded as one of the country’s best journalism programs, it is also one of the only remaining two-year Master of Journalism programs in the United States and is the only graduate-level journalism program in the vast, publicly funded University of California system.

The School’s core master’s program enrolls approximately 120 students, while a summer-only Journalism Minor serves another 300 undergraduates. Its UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute (BAMI) offers certification courses in specialized training for mid-career professionals.

About the Investigative Reporting Program
The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism is dedicated to promoting and protecting the practice of investigative reporting. Established in 2006 by veteran investigative reporter Lowell Bergman, the IRP evolved from a single seminar to encompass a nonprofit newsroom, an annual symposium, multiple courses and a post-graduate fellowship program, among other initiatives.

Through its teaching-hospital model, students gain practical experience in breaking major stories for some of the nation’s foremost print and broadcast outlets. The IRP also works closely with students to develop and publish their own work. The IRP has been a pioneer in the collaborative production of award-winning investigative reporting on multiple platforms. This innovation, now commonplace in the news business, has been recognized with the highest honors in journalism. The program’s work has made it a model for nonprofit journalism based at a college or university that has been replicated around the world.

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Marlena Telvick

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