Dean’s Letter – December 2013

December 1, 2013

December 19, 2013


The holiday season is the time to recap notable accomplishments of the year that’s ending, and I’m still new enough to the job—my first anniversary will be New Year’s Day—that I continue to be surprised and deeply impressed by the consistently high caliber of the work of our teachers and students.

I’m not alone in being impressed.

We have just received news that Lowell Bergman’s Investigative Reporting Program, along with its partners PBS Frontline, Univision and the Center for Investigative Reporting was awarded an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (the Pulitzer Prize of broadcast news) for “Rape in the Fields,” a powerful investigation of sexual assault on immigrant farmworkers. Eight J-School alums—Andres Cediel, Zachary Stauffer, Lauren Rosenfeld, Linsay Rousseau Burnett, J.J. Barrow, Daffodil Altan, Rosa Ramirez, Tupac Saavedra; five current J-School students Yousur Alhlou, Alicia Avila, Steve Fisher, Erica Hellerstein and Anne Hoffman; and four UC Berkeley undergrads Nadeen Jubran, Mariela Nevarez, Claire Perlman and Mariana Sosa Cordero worked on this landmark multilingual project. It is the first time a news program has premiered on two national networks and in two languages. This is also only the second time that a university-led program has been awarded a DuPont Award.

Other J-School instructors also had a stellar year. Michael Pollan’s latest book, COOKED: A Natural History of Transformation, was on The New York Times best seller list for seven weeks. His “Some of My Best Friends are Germs” was the NYT Sunday Magazine’s cover story in May, and he has an article on plant intelligence in The New Yorker this month. Michael has also helped create the Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship Program at the J-School.

Jennifer Kahn had a powerful article on emotional intelligence in the NYT Magazine in September, and Edwin Dobb’s piece on the “fracking frenzy” in North Dakota was National Geographic ‘s cover story in March.

Photography professor Ken Light worked with Jonathan Logan, of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, to bring the late David Logan’s exceptional collection of photography books to UC’s Bancroft Library. The bequest also establishes a chaired professorship and generous funding to ensure that North Gate will remain a regular venue for exhibitions of great documentary photography, which Ken will continue to curate. In addition, Valley of Shadows and Dreams, a book of Ken’s photos on California’s Central Valley won the 2013 California Book Awards Gold Medal.

Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue were selected for PBS documentary series POV’s Hackathon 4, which supports innovative approaches to building audiences for documentary films. They also signed a contract with Routledge Taylor & Francis for a book on innovations in narrative story forms on the web. (Koci’s own limited edition collection of photography he created on mobile phones, Downtown, was published in the fall.)

And Mark Danner finished the year in the New York Review of Books with an article on Syria in November and a retrospective in December on U.S. foreign policy under George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

That December issue of NYRB also had a memorable article by Adam Hochschild on one of George Orwell’s greatest achievements, Homage to Catalonia, his memoir of the Spanish Civil War. The war is the subject of Adam’s own work in progress on the fabled Lincoln Brigade, the unit of American volunteers who fought in the doomed effort to keep the fascist-led military from overthrowing the Spanish republic.

Our students had a strong roster of accomplishments as well, and their work was routinely featured in local, regional and national media. For the fourth time in five years, a J-School student—this time, Brittany Schell (’13)—won the Online News Association’s top award for best individual student multimedia story. Carrie Ching (’05) was honored with a national Emmy for “In Jennifer’s Room,” which exposed abuse of developmentally disabled residents of state-run institutions in California. Her project, part of a multi-platform investigation led by Ryan Gabrielson, a 2009-2010 Fellow in our Investigative Reporting Program, was also a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Oscar nominee and alum Dan Krauss (’04) won this year’s Tribeca Film Festival’s best documentary award for “The Kill Team,” his thesis documentary about a soldier who ends up the target of one of the largest war crimes probes in U.S. history.

North Gate once again drew a steady flow of media notables, who gave lectures, conducted master classes, or discussed their work—among them, “This American Life” creator Ira Glass, comic and playwright Lewis Black, New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright, media scholarRobert McChesney, former NPR host Neal Conan, and Bay Area broadcast legend Belva Davis.

We continue to host unique and timely events on campus, and last month featured New York Times national security reporter James Risen in conversation with Lowell Bergman. With Jim possibly headed to prison for resisting a subpoena to identify a source, and Daniel Ellsberg in the audience, it was an interesting and provocative evening.

It’s my hope to build on that success to create a series of events where top-tier media professionals weigh in on the challenges confronting contemporary journalism, particularly as we approach the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s watershed Free Speech Movement.

Indeed it is that movement, which mirrored the School’s own founding at the height of the tumultuous 1960s that helped weave intellectual courage, independence of mind, and principled social engagement into what has become this J-School’s uniquely valuable culture.

Let me close with this: I am continually humbled by the quality and loyalty of the School’s alumni and its community of supporters, whose help is more than ever indispensable to our mission. They are accomplished and steadfast and, nearly to a person, both intellectual fans and financial mainstays. Thanks to them, whatever the turbulence in the news industry and however the state finds itself paring back its contribution to our work, we at North Gate can remain determined and optimistic about the challenges ahead.

Wishing all of you a healthy and happy New Year,

Edward Wasserman

The J-school has an exigent need for scholarship funding for the incoming class. Consider directly impacting the future of public service journalism by making a tax-deductible contribution in your end-of-year giving. Please make checks payable to the UC Berkeley Foundation, or donate online:

Mail gifts to:

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
ATTN: Development Office
121 North Gate Hall #5860
Berkeley, CA 94720-5860


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