Dean’s Letter – June 2017

June 1, 2017

June 21, 2017

Warm greetings from North Gate Hall:

After a raucous year of political shocks, which continue to raise tough questions about the kind of journalism the times demand, it’d be nice to report that we’re all getting some year-end repose under the friendly Northern California sun, admiring the wisteria abloom in the courtyard.

Instead, with the launch of the summer journalism minor last year, Berkeley Journalism has taken a major step toward becoming a year-round operation. This summer 214 students are enrolled—nearly 40 percent more than in 2016, including students from Macau, Canada, Panama, India, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany—making North Gate almost as populous in late June as it is in late January.

We’re also about to start work, thanks to funding from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, on a project to modernize the School’s Library into a media-enabled venue for special events, complete with video cameras and a control booth that will allow the whole J-School community to benefit, via live streaming and video recordings, from the top-notch speakers we regularly host.

So it’s already a busy summer.

The spring term ended with commencement and a keynote address from Jorge Ramos, who as reporter and anchor for Univision is considered the country’s most influential Hispanic journalist. After an impassioned speech about journalism in the public interest, he was kind and indulgent to the throngs of admirers and submitted with grace to the now routine demands for selfies.  Graduating students Trinity Joseph and Lucas Waldron represented their class with touching and insightful speeches.

Leading up to graduation we showcased the work of the Class of ’17 at a two-day expo for friends and family. Audio and narrative thesis projects were presented on campus, while documentary, video, photography and multimedia works were exhibited at the sparkling new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) downtown—a breakthrough venue we were able to use thanks to support from friends at Netflix, Avid, CNBC, Meyer Sound and Heist.

Much news to report. I’ll start with a salute to lecturer Thomas Peele, who teaches public records to our master’s students and investigative reporting in the summer minor: In April Tom’s terrific work for the East Bay Times on last fall’s Oakland warehouse disaster won his team a 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

 Thomas Peele (center) and East Bay Times reporters react as they learn of their Pulitzer Prize win for breaking news. Photo: Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

Thomas Peele (center) and East Bay Times reporters react as they learn of their Pulitzer Prize win for breaking news. Photo: Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I also must mention the promotion, days ago, of assistant professor Richard Koci Hernandez, co-leader of our New Media program, to associate professor, the first time in more than 30 years that an instructor at the School has been granted tenure. (Other instructors have been hired from outside into tenured positions.) Good news for Koci, an outstanding teacher and a nationally recognized digital media innovator; great news for the School.

We’re also pleased to announce a film deal between Amazon’s streaming video service and Investigative Reporting Productions Inc., a newborn nonprofit spun off from our Investigative Reporting Program to create new opportunities for making and distributing public interest documentaries produced by faculty and students. IRP founder Prof. Lowell Bergman and his team were the first to run an investigative newsroom out of a public university, a successful model under which students publish routinely as a part of their training.

Over the years, the IRP has anchored major collaborations with PBS Frontline, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, The Los Angeles Times, Univision, KQED, NPR and many other news organizations. Now, under this “first look” deal, Amazon Prime Video will pay to consider and develop stories from IRP’s new production company before any other outlet sees them.

In other IRP news, software from a startup Managing Editor John Temple co-founded called PuzzleMe recently became the exclusive crossword platform for The Washington Post.

In the audio journalism realm, our latest in the “On Mic” podcasting series consists of a conversation between lecturer Deirdre English and Professor Michael Pollan on the politics of food and teaching narrative writing.

This summer, members of the Class of 2018 landed internships at organizations including Harper’s magazine, NBC and ABC News, Reuters and Reveal, The Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. We’re grateful for the continuing relationships the success of prior internships has earned us with those outfits and for the incalculable benefit they give our students.

In April, three second-year students went to New York to compete as finalists in a national documentary pitch competition organized by the Pulitzer Center, New York Times Op-Docs, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Lacy Jane Roberts, Luisa Conlon and Hanna Miller won the $10,000 grant to make their film about the efforts of a Syrian refugee and his father to make a new life in Canada.

The same three students were also among the J-School’s winners and finalists in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2016 Mark of Excellence National competition, where they were joined by Rosa Furneaux (’18) and Reis Thebault (’18), as well as by ’16 grad Nadine Sebai.

Sawsan Morrar - White House

White House Correspondents’ Association Scholar Sawsan Morrar (’18) at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ dinner in April.

In other student honors, reporter Khaled Sayed (’18) was awarded a National Association of Black Journalists’ Visual Task Force Scholarship; Marcos Martínez Chacón (’17) received a Foreign Press Association Scholarship; Sawsan Morrar (’18) was named an Islamic Scholarship Fund Scholar; Kate Harloe (’17) and E. T. Sonner Kehrt (’18) were among 12 journalism students and early-career journalists chosen by Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) to participate in a two-week summer program in Germany and Poland. The program uses the conduct of reporters and other media professionals in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on contemporary journalism ethics.

Levi Bridges (’17), Stefanie Le (’18) and Peter Bittner (’17) received fellowships from the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley to work with PRI (Public Radio International), the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and the Ger Community Mapping Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

For the second year, the School received support from Google to enable students to attend media tech conferences, where they learn and network. This summer’s Google Digital Media Travel Fellow is Brian Krans (’18) who will attend the IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) Conference in Phoenix this month.

Sawsan Morrar (’18) wrote a well-received op-ed for The Washington Post pegged to her selection as White House Correspondents’ Association Scholar. Its title: “When I’m honored for my journalism, everyone will see one thing: My headscarf.”

Graelyn Brashear (’17) interviewed director/producer Jeffrey Plunkett (’05) about his career in documentaries and Showtime’s “The Circus.”

Leah Rosenbaum (’18) wrote a penetrating look at trauma among Oakland firefighters for STAT, the health and medicine news website.

Lacy Jane Roberts (’17) interviewed her grandfather in Montana for “When You’re a Journalist, and Your Grandpa Doesn’t Trust the Media;” part of a new KQED News series, “Start the Conversation.”

Cassady Rosenblum (’18) wrote for The Guardian of London about former coal miners who are determined to put Kentucky on the tech map.

Finding our students irresistible, UC Berkeley published two profiles from the Class of 2017, a profile of Joe Bush (’17) “New J-School grad aims to bridge the gap between military vets, civilians,” and a piece on Levi Bridges (’17), “For Levi Bridges, life on a farm led to Russia, Mexico — and journalism.”

The Class of 2017 is already getting their thesis projects before the public. Matt Beagle‘s (’17) project on the Golden State Warriors and the 1997 controversy involving star Latrell Sprewell and coach P.J. Carlesimo aired on WBUR’s “Only a Game” on NPR.

In alumni news, a work by Mike Milano (’15) has been selected for New York Times Op-Docs, via a Sundance Institute MacArthur Foundation grant. His film will build from his thesis project on fatal shootings involving the Cleveland, Ohio police department.

Producer Sasha Khokha (’04) of KQED’s The California Report, Rachel de Leon (’14) of Reveal and editor Catherine Winter (’87) of APM Reports’ “In The Dark” podcast were awarded national RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards. Winter also won a Peabody Award for “In The Dark.”

Gina Pollack‘s (’16) moving master’s project “Undue Burden” was selected for New York Times Op-Docs and debuted during the Tribeca Film Festival’s special N.O.W. screenings series in April. Megan Mylan‘s (’97) “Taller Than the Trees,” produced by fellow alum Emily Taguchi (’06) with cinematography by former Berkeley Journalism lecturer Michael Chin, also screened at the prestigious New York festival.

Cassandra Herrman (’01) won the SXSW VR award for “After Solitary,” a collaboration between Emblematic Group and PBS Frontline that uses photogrammetry and volumetric video capture to tell the story of a recently released inmate who spent years in solitary confinement. The film also won grand prize at the World VR Forum in Switzerland, and is screening at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and AFI Docs this month.

Alissa Figueroa (’11) won a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a Fusion TV documentary she produced, “The Naked Truth: Rigged,” on election-fixing.

Gina Pollack and Daphne Matziaraki (both ’16) have been shortlisted for BAFTA Student Film Awards following the recently announced international expansion of the prestigious British film Awards. Their work will compete with some 45 films selected from over 400 submissions from 15 countries.


Daphne Matziaraki (right) and Lindsay Crouse of New York Times Op-Docs celebrate the Peabody Awards

Daphne Matziaraki (right) and Lindsay Crouse of New York Times Op-Docs celebrate the Peabody Awards win by Matziaraki’s “4.1 Miles,” already an Academy Award finalist.

Carrie Ching (’05) created an animated video depicting the unseen victims of offshore finance for The Panama Papers project with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reporters, editors, and artist Arthur Jones. In April, the Panama Papers won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting, and awards from IRE, ONA, George Polk, Bartlett and Steele, and several others.

Three documentary alums won Northern California Emmy Awards: Gabriela Quirós (’98), coordinating producer of KQED’s web science series “Deep Look: The Snail-Smashing, Fish-Spearing, Eye-Popping Mantis Shrimp;” Monica Lam (’04), senior producer of “KQED Newsroom: Stand Up San Quentin;” and Kelly Whalen (’01), senior producer for KQED Arts: “Instead of Dividing, a Border Wall of Pinatas Brings Community Together.”

Christin Ayers (’04) won a regional RTDNA Murrow Award for “Harassed at the VA.”

Award-winning alum and Advisory Board member Carrie Lozano of the International Documentary Association spoke at the Cannes Film Festival’s “Doc Day” in May.

Mario Furloni (’11) and Kate McLean (’11) are finalists for SFFILM / Kenneth Rainin Foundation filmmaking grants.

April Dembosky (’08) of KQED News took the top prize nationally for beat reporting from the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Author Pendarvis Harshaw (’14) was the subject of a profile in The Los Angeles Times titled, “A young man in Oakland has captured the wisdom of his elders on a blog and in a book.”

Katherine Rose (’17) offered a portrait of award-winning documentary alum Michael Welt (’04) and his work producing with celebrated filmmaker Ken Burns.

Edward Wong (’98) of The New York Times, a member of the J-School’s Advisory Board, has been named a Nieman fellow at Harvard, where he will study the rise of modern empires.

Alum and Advisory Board member Pete Nicks‘ (’99) latest film, “The Force,” an acclaimed documentary about police reform in Oakland, has been acquired by the major international distributor, Kino Lorber.

Brett Murphy (’16) wrote a searing front-page report for USA Today about shocking conditions facing the port truckers who move goods for America’s most popular retailers. He began the project as a master’s project at the Investigative Reporting Program, where he worked with Abbie VanSickle, Tim McGirk and Lowell Bergman.

Alissa Greenberg (’16) wrote “Rat Lungworm, the Tropical Parasite That Took Hawaii by Surprise” in the June 12 New Yorker.

20 Weeks,” the latest film by writer/director Leena Pendharkar (’01), was screened at the LA Film Festival.

Stephen Hobbs (’14) of the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel, Andy Mannix (’15) of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Lillian Mongeau (’11) of The Hechinger Report were all named finalists for Livingston Awards. The awards honor the best reporting and storytelling by journalists under the age of 35 in print, broadcast and digital journalism.

In faculty news, lecturer Adam Hochschild will be speaking at the Sun Valley Writers Conference, the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, and at a book festival in Krakow, Poland. His forthcoming piece in The New York Review of Books looks at what we can learn from the period 1917-1920, a time of “the worst suppression of civil liberties the United States ever experienced,” Hochschild says. He also gave a riveting talk on “Remembering Past Wars” at the San Francisco Public Library in May. You can watch it here.

IRP reporter and lecturer Abbie VanSickle reported on new evidence in a landmark terrorism case in Lodi, California for The Intercept. For more info, watch our 2006 PBS Frontline documentary, “The Enemy Within” by Lowell Bergman, Oriana Zill, Nelli Black, Rob Harris (’05) and Marlena Telvick.

Teaching Professor Robert Calo, broadcast TV producer and head of visual journalism, retired in May to widespread lamentation after 16 years with the School. He’s already missed. Watch Joe Bush‘s (’17) commencement tribute to Bob here.

Watch documentary photographer/Professor Ken Light talk process and editorial choices when publishing photo books with Josh Haftel at Adobe Creative Cloud. Light and alum Jason Jaacks (’14) are part of the Oakland Museum of California’s Dorothea Lange retrospective through Aug. 13.

Professor Lowell Bergman hosted acclaimed Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui before a packed audience in an April event sponsored by the J-School’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapter and the Investigative Reporting Program. The sold-out talk was produced by chapter presidents Marcos Martínez and Angélica Casas (’17).


 Veterans U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Joe Bush ('17) and Gabe Tolliver ('17) offer tips on covering the military in a session to their fellow students in April.

Veterans U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Joe Bush (’17) and Gabe Tolliver (’17) offer tips on covering the military in a session to their fellow students in April.

Also in April, more than 300 journalists turned out for the 11th annual Reva & David Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting, hosted by the IRP. The two-day gathering, titled “Enemy of the People,” featured David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, who won a 2017 Pulitzer for coverage of Trump’s charitable giving claims; Susanne Craig, The New York Times; Tim O’Brien, Bloomberg; Brian Ross, ABC News; Shane Bauer, Mother Jones; Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica; Nicole Young, 60 Minutes; and Newton Minow, the former FCC chairman who famously called television a “vast wasteland” in 1961. Minow appeared via Skype to discuss the role of platforms in today’s media with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and media entrepreneur John Battelle (’92). You can watch the videos here.

The IRP has selected its 2017-18 fellows: filmmaker Brian Dawson; award-winning investigative reporter Jeff Gerth; and Russian investigative reporter Elizaveta Osetinskaya. Read their bios, as well as information about these unique fellowships, here.

Having populated an Advisory Board with some of the top names in American journalism, we’re looking forward to its first conclave in September.

I had the pleasure of hosting a conversation on fake news in San Francisco at the World Affairs Council of Northern California with Joaquin Alvarado, CEO of the Center for Investigative Reporting, and Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Middle East Correspondent for The Washington Post.

You may also be interested in the article I did on whistleblower protection, “Safeguarding News in the Era of Disruptive Sources,” in the current issue of the Journal of Media Ethics. If you don’t subscribe, the text is available on my website.

For those of you who are on the summer conference circuit, look for our students and our Admissions Director Camille Koué and special faculty guests at the Asian American Journalists (AAJA) conference in Philadelphia in July, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conference in New Orleans in August, and the Excellence in Journalism (joint NAHJ, SPJ and RTDNA) conference in September in Anaheim, Calif.

Some of you have heard of the J-School’s decision to withdraw from the ACEJMC’s (Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications) accreditation program for journalism schools. We actually made this decision a year ago, having concluded that ACEJMC accreditation is a valuable process for undergraduate programs, where it sets standards that negotiate sensibly between academic and pre-professional learning objectives. But for well-established graduate programs, the benefits are scant. Our core program has a strong reputation for innovation and quality, and submits to continuous self-examination, generated both by a restless internal culture of self-improvement and a stern and demanding campus and university. Independently of ACEJMC, we underwent an external review last year, mandated every eight years by the UC system, that was rigorous and strongly approving, and then underwent a second external review associated with some sweeping structural changes we were considering. So we get plenty of people kicking our tires–something we welcome and learn a good deal from.

When I consulted with faculty and campus about my wish to withdraw I heard no dissent. The School remains committed to the highest standards of excellence, and will continue to turn out, as it has for a half-century, graduates of sterling accomplishment and exemplary promise.

I’ll close, shortly before the end of our fiscal year, with sincere thanks to every individual, foundation and company that supported us intellectually and financially in the last year. You’ve stepped up for the J-School when it needed you not just because we needed it (and we do), but because you want to invest in all of the successes outlined above and assure this public institution’s continued greatness.

So I gently, but firmly, ask those of you who don’t yet support us to stop and consider the indispensability of journalism education. Doing so by June 30 will help us clear the year firmly in the black.

Wishing you and yours the very best,

Edward Wasserman



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