Dean’s Letter – March 2016

March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016

Warm greetings from North Gate Hall:

Sometimes things happen the way they’re supposed to, and virtue is rewarded. We’ve been having a strong run of good news, I’m pleased to report, from faculty and alums nominated for Oscars and drawing stellar reviews for new books and TV productions, to current students honored with prestigious fellowships and publishing work in the country’s top media outlets, to innovative programs–like our new summer minor in journalism–that are drawing an exceptional response.

More on all that in a moment. But amid this rich flow of recognition and honor was somber news, the death in December of Paul Grabowicz, the much-loved veteran teacher and mentor. Grabs, among many other accomplishments, was the prime mover behind the School’s early and continuing leadership in educating students for journalism’s digital revolution. He was crusty and fiercely committed to his students and colleagues, and he’s greatly missed. We held a remembrance for him in the International House in January, and were determined to stock it with enough food and drink and good stories, well told, that Grabs himself wouldn’t have minded attending. Some 300 people turned out. You’re welcome to watch the speeches and donate to his fund.

Fan Fei, Brett Murphy and Jieqian Zhang

From left: Fan Fei, Brett Murphy and Jieqian Zhang.

Among Grabs’s beneficiaries are the three second-year students who won prestigious Google News Lab Fellowships in February. The national competition drew 1,800 applicants, of whom only eight were selected, with Berkeley’s three the most of any school. Our winners are Fan Fei, who will be at ProPublica; Brett Murphy, at Investigative Reporters & Editors, and Jieqian Zhang, at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Jeremy C.F. Lin 林辰峰 (’16) capped off his internship last term with The New York Times with a front page story in February on the Flint, Mich., water scandal.

Daphne Matziaraki, James Pace-Cornsilk

From left: Daphne Matziaraki, James Pace-Cornsilk.

Second-year students Daphne Matziaraki and James Pace-Cornsilk reported in January for PBS NewsHour on why wildlife preserves in Kenya resemble war zones.

Gina Pollack (’16) is the inaugural recipient of the Jim Marshall Fellowship for Photojournalism, named for the renowned visual chronicler of the rock era.

The School’s local reporting websites Oakland North and Richmond Confidential have joined forces in the production of a new podcast called “Tales of Two Cities.”

Two current students, Levi Bridges (’17) and Alissa Greenberg (’16), were among 15 winners selected nationally in February for Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholarships.

The J-School’s Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) recently produced major stories on both coasts. The first was a front-page Washington Post article in January by IRP reporter and lecturer Abbie VanSickle, who investigated how the U.S. government failed to track unaccompanied minors streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving the children vulnerable to traffickers.

VanSickle, along with IRP managing editor Tim McGirk (’74) , also contributed heavily to a San Francisco Chronicle piece by former Daily Californian editor in chief Kimberly Veklerov about the University’s admission of liability in the death of a Cal football player after a strenuous workout. The story originated with a tip and documents received by the IRP.

A third IRP story, co-authored by investigative reporting student Alissa Greenberg (’16) and published in The Los Angeles Times in December, examined whether video shot by an anti-abortion activist could be considered undercover journalism protected by the First Amendment. Fellow J-School students Ted Andersen (’16) and Gabriel Sanchez (’16) also contributed to the story.

And in February, IRP Fellow Anabel Hernandez scored an exclusive interview with the wife of Mexican cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The interview resulted in a broadcast on Telemundo and an article in The Los Angeles Times, in which Emma Coronel Aispuro told of her fear for her husband’s life and her devotion to the drug kingpin as a loving family man.

In faculty news, Prof. Orlando Bagwell, head of the School’s documentary program, made the 2016 Oscar documentary nomination shortlist for 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets, a film he executive-produced about the murder of a black Jacksonville, Fla., teenager by a middle-aged white man who objected to the loud music coming out of the youth’s SUV.

Science and ethics writer Rebecca Skloot is conducting a seminar on longform writing at the J-School as a visiting lecturer this term while work proceeds on bringing her 2010 best-seller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, to the screen as an HBO feature film with Oprah Winfrey.

Prof. Mark Danner’s forthcoming book, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War (Simon and Schuster), on a nation altered in fundamental ways by 9/11–including 14 years of continuous armed conflict–will be published in June.

Photography Prof. Ken Light’s new collection, What’s Going On: 1969-1974 received the Judges’ Special Recognition in the University of Missouri’s 73rd Pictures of the Year International Competition in the Best Photography Book category. It was also highlighted in Vogue magazine’s December list of “Best Photo Books to Give This Season.”

In January, the Investigative Reporting Program’s director, Prof. Lowell Bergman, attended a special celebration of the Pulitzer Prize Centennial in Washington, D.C. Prof. Bergman won the 2004 public service prize for a New York Times worker safety series he co-authored.

Prof. Michael Pollan, who holds the J-School’s Knight Chair in Science Journalism, starred in a two-hour special, In Defense of Food, based on his New York Times bestselling book, which was broadcast Dec. 30 on PBS. In addition, a four-hour series based on Pollan’s book Cooked, produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, debuted in February on Netflix.

J-School lecturer and historian Adam Hochschild’s new book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), will be published in March. This semester Hochschild is teaching a class on writing book-length nonfiction for the second time.

Lecturer and Bay Area News Group investigative reporter Tom Peele was honored with the Beverly Kees Educator Award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in recognition of the class he has taught for the past six years on using public records. Peele’s course features practical advice he has gathered from the 1,000 public records requests he files every year. The course was designed by former J-School Director Rob Gunnison and the late Paul Grabowicz.

Need a reminder of why artists teach? Watch this “Through the Lens” interview of Assistant Prof. Richard Koci Hernandez from Adorama.

J-School lecturer and veteran science reporter Kara Platoni (’99) has been doing multiple media appearances since her first book, We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time (Basic Books), was published in December to starred reviews.

In audio storytelling news, lecturer and veteran producer Ben Manilla, head of our growing audio journalism program, recently produced a podcast on white privilege for public radio’s Philosophy Talk.

Dr. David Tuller, who coordinates the joint Master of Journalism/Master of Public Health degree program, has made transatlantic news with a 14,000-word, three-part article for Virology Blog that criticizes a highly influential British trial of a controversial treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. Science magazine, the Guardian and others have covered the fallout from Tuller’s critique.

In alumni news, a film executive-produced by alum Pamela Harris (’07) and Vivian Kleiman, a friend of the J-School who founded the Marlon T. Riggs Fellowships for documentary students, received an Oscar nomination. The film was a black-and-white animated documentary titled, “Last Day of Freedom.”

The late professor and alum Marlon T. Riggs (’81) will be featured in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture opening in September on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

David Ferry (’12) was a finalist in the reporting category for a National Magazine Award–the Oscars of the magazine world. He was nominated for his feature “The Fever: How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease” in the January/February 2015 issue of Mother Jones.

Jason Paladino (’15), a fellow of the J-School’s Investigative Reporting Program, won the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Student Award for an NBC Nightly News story titled “Sea Dragon Down: The Human Cost of the Navy’s Most Crash-prone Chopper,” a project he began as a student here.

Alum Rob Lewis (’08) received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award for “NYPD Bruised.” The series of investigative radio reports for WNYC used data analysis to illuminate questionable practices of the New York City Police Department. The judges called it “fair, balanced, sharp and complete–original and valuable.”

J-School lecturer Jennifer Kahn talking about gene drives at TED 2016

J-School lecturer Jennifer Kahn talking about gene drives at TED 2016.

Lecturer and alum Jennifer Kahn (’00), a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, was a featured speaker at TED 2016 in Vancouver, BC, in February. Kahn discussed gene drives, a powerful new technology that can rapidly spread a trait to an entire species and which could potentially eliminate malaria, Zika, and other diseases. In addition, Kahn’s article, “The Happiness Code,” ran in the Times Sunday magazine in January.

Alumna Esther Wojcicki (’64), an award-winning author, journalist and founder of the renowned Palo Alto High School Media Arts Program–the largest scholastic media program in the United States–also spoke at ‎TED 2016.

Peter Nicks, Daffodil Altan, Andres Cediel

From left: Peter Nicks, Daffodil Altan, Andres Cediel.

The J-School is offering ten $10,000 postgraduate Food and Farming Journalism Fellowships in a program established by Knight chair Michael Pollan. The fellowships are supported by a grant from journalism alumna Wendy Schmidt’s (’81) 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation. The deadline is March 15.

The IRP will host its prestigious 10th annual Reva & David Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting on campus, April 1-3. This year’s theme is inequality, and the symposium will include panels on reporting on the super-rich and the poor, as well as the traditional shoptalk and discussions on “how the sausage is made.” Speakers include: Jane Mayer, The New Yorker; Sheri Fink, The New York Times; Alex Gibney, filmmaker; Neil Barsky, The Marshall Project; Jason Mojica, VICE News; Jill Leovy, The Los Angeles Times; Terrence McCoy, The Washington Post; Lee Glendinning, Guardian US; Betsy Reed, The Intercept; Tabitha Jackson, Sundance Institute; and Brian Storm, MediaStorm.

Preparations continue for the J-School’s re-entry into undergraduate education with the launch of Berkeley’s first summer-only undergraduate minor. Student response has been greater than anticipated, with more than 300 enrollments in the five courses that will constitute the minor.

I’ll close by saying those of you who keep up on the news will have seen coverage of the fiscal constraints affecting the entire University of California system, and particularly UC Berkeley. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks was pressed in a public radio interview in February conducted by Marketplace anchor (and former J-School student) Kai Ryssdal, and indicated that the future of Cal’s smaller, professional graduate schools was of special concern. These are trying, game-changing times to be sure, so if you’ve meant to invest in the J-School but haven’t yet, this would be an excellent time.

Wishing you all the very best,

Edward Wasserman, Dean

About this communiqué : News from the Desk of Edward Wasserman is a quarterly email newsletter sent to alumni, donors, students, faculty, media partners and others in the J-School’s broad community. Should you wish to follow ongoing developments, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ucbsoj.

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