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UC Berkeley’s documentary program is widely considered one of the premier graduate nonfiction film programs in the country. Carrying on the work begun in the 1970s by producer Andrew Stern and pioneering African American filmmaker Marlon T. Riggs, professors Jon Else, Orlando Bagwell and others have trained hundreds of filmmakers of remarkable talent, diversity and accomplishment.

Grounded in the values of professional journalism–accuracy, eloquence, aggressive research and reporting, strong writing, ethics and analysis–combined with the fundamentals of filmmaking craft, documentary at UC Berkeley emphasizes visual storytelling in a wide range of styles: investigative, historical, biography, essay and cinéma vérité. Alumni routinely have premiere screenings at the top film festivals in the world, including Sundance, Telluride, Cannes, SXSW, and Tribeca; produce original films for documentary strands ranging from PBS to Netflix to the New York Times; and become industry leaders in the field. 


  J219 – Reporting On the Digital Revolution in Plain English

This is a 5 week course: 2/5, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26 and 3/5

Reporting On the Digital Revolution in Plain English (Course Description)

Every beat now has stories that touch on technological change. This course will help journalists cut through the marketing jargon and uncover the real stories about how technology is having an impact our society. We’ll look at the the core themes that run through all technology coverage -- AI, big data robotics, social media, privacy, etc. and we’ll talk about the cultures and values of the major companies that are currently driving the change. We’ll read samples of journalism that has done an exceptional job in explaining the human and societal impacts of technology. Most importantly, through a series of short exercises and a final feature this course will help everyone find interesting ways to write about technology and engage the public in the important issues it raises. No matter what you plan to cover -- business, economics, arts, politics, poverty, science, international relations -- this course will help you find and report on the ways that technology is having an impact. Students can expect regular, but light reading assignments, and be prepared to do a deep dive into one story.

Course Objectives: Developing an approach to writing clearly and eloquently about technology. Building a list of sources. Gaining a better overall understanding of the major themes and issues of the technology revolution. Learning how to create strong narratives in technology stories.

Students will be encouraged and assisted in pitching their stories to outlets such as NPR, Wired, & The New York Times, KQED and NPR

One feature -- audio or print
Short turnaround reporting exercises Assigned readings

Laura Sydell is currently the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR. Her beat focuses on the impact of technology on society and culture. She writes for NPR.org and her work has is heard regularly on NPR’s major news magazines “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” Previously, she was the Senior Technology Reporter for PRI’s

“Marketplace” and a culture reporter at WNYC in New York City. Ms. Sydell has contributed to “This American Life” and “Planet Money.” Her work has been honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, The National Headliner Awards, The Gerald Loeb Awards, and many others. Her reporting on patent trolls appeared in the Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University.

Week 1
Discussion of the big themes in tech coverage: e.g.,Privacy. Social Media, Robotics, Big Data, media, entertainment
Homework: Find a topic for a final feature in which one of these big themes is central. Read selected sections of “Technopoloy” by Neil Postman and “In the Plex” by Steven Levy
Listen: The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A 'Black Mirror'

Week 2
A Look at the big five and some history on Silicon Valley
Facebook, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft, Amazon
We’ll discuss the structure of the companies currently dominating the tech industry. We’ll look at their unique cultures and values, where they are putting their R&D dollars, where they compete, and how to approach them when you are looking for an answer to a question.
Discuss feature ideas and finalize

Assignment: Read selections from “Automating Inequality” by Virginia Eubanks and “It’s Complicated” by Danah Boyd. Bring in stories about technology that you got you really engaged.

Week 3
Diversity: How to get outside the bubble and find diverse voices and stories about tech’s impact on average people.
Strategies for interviewing tech experts.

Students will have opportunities to practice asking questions of tech expert who will make a visit to the class.
Assignment: continuing working on feature. Turn in a short story based on the interview with our guest. Read selected articles.

Week 4
Reporting on big Data & AI and hacking: We’ll discuss algorithm bias, privacy, social media and the coming war over data ownership.

Week 5
Reporting on the future: How to see where the puck is going and write about events that haven’t happened yet.

Tech journalists often find themselves in the position of looking at the potential future impact of technology. It can be a challenge to write about what you haven’t seen yet.


  J219 – Sports Reporting

This is a 5 week course: 2/25, 3/4, 3/11, 3/18 and 4/1

Telling True Stories via Sports

Course description: A five week mini-course focusing on craft, access, voice, interviewing, and storytelling skills, all grounded in real-world experience. The sports world will be our nominal laboratory, as it harbors diverse personalities, features natural narrative frameworks, and intersects with topics from business to education to race. That said, students need not have a background in sports, or even a pre-existing interest, and are free to cover other topics if they choose. Sports is considered here as a megaphone and lens through which to focus on the human experience. The course will include: Reading and discussion, guest speakers, drawing out reticent interview subjects, and narrative strategies. Students will work on their skills through short-form exercises, including a personal essay. The format – written, audio, video - is up to the student.

  J219 Associate Producer

This is a four week course: January 23, January 30th, February 7th and February 14th
The Associate Producer is a crucial job in any documentary and long-form video production. The AP is called upon to fulfill a wide range of duties: reporting, logistical planning, budget management, archival acquisition, organizing deliverables, and managing personalities—and each one has to be executed with precision for the project to be successful. Each week, students will screen clips and discuss all the variables filmmakers had to consider in order to help bring the scenes or projects to fruition. Students will be given assignments based on that week’s lecture and discussion: plan an international shoot for your crew, organize a schedule, figure out insurance challenges, budget the project, report on aspects of the story, and others.

  J219 Picture and Sound

J219 is a required course for all second year long-form TV and documentary students. Classes are a combination of lecture and in-class exercises, and grades are based on attendance and quizzes. There are no outside assignments. This class is required for second year TV/Doc Students.

  J219 Videography

This course is designed to supplement J219 Picture and Sound, with advanced topics in documentary videography and lighting. The weekly meetings alternate between lecture/demonstrations, workshops, and guest presentations. We will explore topics such as green screen videography, backgrounds, shooting in extreme environments, composition, shooting in wet and cold environments, car rigs, time lapse, lighting and solo shooting. This course is for Second Year TV/Doc and advance multi media students students only.

  J284 Documentary Production

An intensive documentary workshop in which second year Journalism students develop and produce their Masters projects. We work with the styles of writing, shooting, lighting, sound, editing, and production management unique to documentary. Guest filmmakers will conduct special sessions on various production skills including lighting, shooting, sound recording, and archival research.The Course Material fee for this class is $200. The fee is charged to the student account the fifth week of classes. Fees are used to maintain equipment used in the course.

  J284 Documentary Production

An intensive documentary workshop in which second year Journalism students develop and produce their Masters projects. We work with the styles of writing, shooting, lighting, sound, editing, and production management unique to documentary. Guest filmmakers will conduct special sessions on various production skills including lighting, shooting, sound recording, and archival research.The Course Material fee for this class is $200. The fee is charged to the student account the fifth week of classes. Fees are used to maintain equipment used in the course.

  J286 History of Documentary

The course covers the evolution of primarily U.S. documentary film, from the origins of moving images to the present documentary landscape, with special attention to feature-length films. We will concentrate on the art, craft, and practical challenges of producing documentaries for wide distribution, and will unpack documentary materials, producing, storytelling, point-of-view and ethics. We will also analyze and critique the prevailing narratives that documentary film both constructs and deconstructs. The course is a prerequisite for graduate students who are considering specializing in documentary. Students who do not take history of documentary cannot pursue the documentary track. J-School TV students have priority, then other J-school students.

  J298: Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

This class will survey the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, state public records laws, access to state and federal court records (with emphasis on understanding and opposing the sealing for court records) and emphasize the making of requests and obtaining access. We’ll also study major court decisions granting and limiting access, learn access tricks to records for which instant access is the norm, as well as explore the basic Constitutional access to court records.

Students will learn how to hunt down government information and how vet whether archived, third party information, is accurate and trustworthy. They will develop a document state of mind.

Classes will be split between lectures and work on a group project. No outside work will be assigned other than readings and occasional access maters that must be done during business hours. No papers will be required.

Students wishing to take a five week mini version of the class will receive full class lectures for the first five weeks of the semester with no group project.

Proposed class project: Use all available information to crack and dissect secret Delaware controlled by Donald J. Trump.   This will include examining, say, local and state records involving a Trump building project. Those records will include land use records, construction permits, liquor licenses, tax abatements, tax records, court records, OSHA records, and many, many more.


Jon Else

Permanent Faculty

Shaleece Haas


Dan Krauss


Carrie Lozano


Spencer Nakasako


Dawn Porter

Permanent Faculty

Mike Shen


Zachary Stauffer



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