Dean’s Letter – March 2018

March 23, 2018

March 22, 2018

Greetings from North Gate Hall:

Spring Welcome is the annual visit of students whom we’ve admitted, and it’s our chance to pitch the School to a lustrous group of aspiring journalists. It’s also a look ahead at the state of the profession in the years to come, something I’m often asked about by people who fear that the combination of financial frailties from within and vilification from without has put journalism’s future under a deep cloud. I can say, with confidence, that in my now five-plus years as dean of a graduate program (and 10 years before that teaching journalism to undergrads) I’ve seen no falloff in the quality and enthusiasm of people going into the profession. The 60-some students who were here as I wrote this, from as far away as Brazil and as close by as Oakland, are brimming with the same energy and determination that drew me and my contemporaries to the field during the Watergate era. We all should take some comfort in that.

We’ve got a strong flow of good news to report, including documentary Oscar nominations for an alum and member of our Advisory Board, two new books featuring the photography of the head of our New Media efforts, the forthcoming 12th annual Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting, and the announcement of our Class of ’18 commencement speaker, New York Times reporter and best-selling author Jodi Kantor, whose work exposed the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

From left: Rachel Loyd, Pablo De La Hoya and Briana Flin.

Students Pablo De La Hoya, Briana Flin and Rachel Loyd (all ’18) received fellowships from the Hearst Foundation. The Foundation’s grant is being distributed over three years and will help support nine highly-qualified Berkeley Journalism students.

Helzel Fellowship winners, from left: Alex Nieves, Alondra De La Cruz, Abené Clayton and Sarah Hoenicke. Mallory Newman not pictured.

Five first-year students—Abené Clayton, Alondra De La Cruz, Sarah Hoenicke, Mallory Newman and Alex Nieves (all class of ’19) —have been awarded the School’s first Helzel Fellowships. The fellowship program was established in 2017 by the Helzel Family Foundation.

NABJ members, back row from left: Nebiat Assefa Melles (’18), Rachel Loyd (’18), Ryan Lindsay Arrendell (’18), Lee Mengistu (’19), Abené Clayton (’19), Jailyn Anderson (’19), Alexandria Fuller (’18), Grace Oyenubi (’18). Front row, kneeling from left: Caleb Hampton (’19) and Alex Nieves (’19). Photo: Yesica Prado (’18).

Alex Matthews (‘19) profiled our chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) for the School website. The chapter, established in 2008, is one of four affinity groups at the J-School and advocates for student journalists of color. In addition to bi-weekly meetings, NABJ hosts panels that explore reporting on race, politics and inequality, among other controversial topics, and holds networking events for students to meet with alumni, recruiters, and other professionals.

Multimedia reporter Alondra De La Cruz (’19) is the latest J-School student to win a White House Correspondents’ Association scholarship. In addition to the scholarship, she will be heading to D.C. for the press association’s annual dinner on April 28. Sawsan Morrar (’18) received the scholarship in 2017.

Sarah Hoenicke, Sarah Cahlan and Drew Costley (all ’19) collaborated on an A1 story in the East Bay Express on black infant mortality in the East Bay. Read it here.

The Guardian’s Best Photographs of 2017 include one of Rosa Furneaux‘s (’18) remarkable images of Oakland Fire Department recruits.

In December, a group of students from the J-School spent 10 days exploring and learning about Israel and the Palestinian territories with the support of the Jerusalem Press Club as part of a 15-week fall seminar, “Covering Israel and the Middle East,” taught by veteran foreign correspondent Tim McGirk (’74).

The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) held its third Professional Workshop for Independent Filmmakers Feb. 4-6. A dozen filmmakers from throughout the country attended sessions taught by veteran producers and reporters, including IRP founder Lowell Bergman, IRP director John Temple, media attorney Gary Bostwick, award-winning documentary filmmaker and attorney Dawn Porter, and Kerry Smith, senior vice president of editorial quality for ABC. The workshops are funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

On Jan. 16, PBS Frontline aired an updated version of the IRP-led documentary, Rape on the Night Shift. The film, which was developed as part of a groundbreaking investigation partnership between the IRP, Frontline, Univision, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, and KQED radio, exposes sexual harassment and abuse of women in the janitorial industry.

On the events front, we’ve had some terrific speakers this winter in our newly renovated library, which now comprises the Logan Multimedia Center thanks to a generous gift from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. The modernization project is almost complete, awaiting only installation of the big French doors that will enable the entire space to be opened up to the North Gate courtyard to accommodate events with elegance and flair.

On Jan. 22, we hosted a dazzling showcase of student work titled “Visioning the World,” as part of UC Berkeley’s Arts + Design Mondays at the stunning new downtown Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA.) The evening focus was on visual journalism—documentaries, New Media, video journalism and documentary photography. Associate Professor Richard Koci Hernandez served as the Master of Ceremonies before a packed house. Lecturer Monica Lam (’04) and Logan Professor of Photojournalism Ken Light made strong presentations of student work, which was climaxed by a showing of Brad Bailey’s (’17) moving documentary profiling disabled rights pioneer Hale Zukas, which won last year’s Student Academy Award. Bailey and Zukas, who were in the audience, drew a standing ovation. The event was so successful we’re already planning to do it at BAMPFA again next year.

On Feb. 8, we joined KQED in hosting a 30th anniversary celebration of legendary Bay Area radio host Michael Krasny of KQED’s “Forum.” Watch it here.

On Feb. 20, the award-winning investigative team that produced “Rape on the Night Shift,” including Professor-in-Residence of Visual Journalism Andrés Cediel and Daffodil Altan (both ‘04) presented a candid discussion about covering sexual assault and harassment in the workplace before, and now during, the #metoomovement.

Inaugurating the Wojcicki Lectureship, from left: UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, Kara Swisher, Tad Taube, Esther Wojcicki and Edward Wasserman. Photo: Jacqui Ipp (’16).

The week of Feb. 26, the School launched an annual lectureship funded by philanthropists Tad and Dianne Taube in honor of alum and journalism educator Esther Wojcicki (’61). The inaugural lecturer, technology journalist Kara Swisher, spent the week at the School holding master classes and interviewing tech sector notables. Her work culminated in a Thursday evening talk and discussion, titled “Can Silicon Valley be Tamed?” between Swisher and columnist Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times.

Lynn Sweet, Paul Kane, Maureen Orth, Jake Sherman and Carl Hulse.

On March 14, a panel convened by Cal alum and Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, and top D.C. reporters Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times, Carl Hulse of The New York Times, Jake Sherman of Politico, and Paul Kane of The Washington Post talked about “Covering Congress and a White House in Perpetual Crisis.” Watch it here.

The Investigative Reporting Program presents its 12th annual Logan Symposium on Investigative ReportingApril 13-14. This conference, endowed by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, brings together top journalists, law enforcement and government officials to address critical issues confronting this specialized field. It also unites media executives from non-profit and commercial organizations, as well as media attorneys, academics, major foundations, and philanthropists who support journalism in the public interest.

Highlights will include panels on the #MeToo movement, the Russia-Trump story, and coverage of race and hate. Featured speakers include Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted First Amendment scholar and dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, and Richard Gingras, vice president of Google News, who also serves on the J-School’s Advisory Board. Parts of the symposium will be live-streamed here.

The symposium receives generous support from the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Facebook, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, The Intercept, Common Sense News, ALACO, and Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP.

Associate Professor Richard Koci Hernandez

In faculty news, Associate Professor Richard Koci Hernandez‘s extraordinary street photography is featured in two new books, 100 Great Street Photographs and the cover of Mobile Street Photography. You can hear him discuss shooting black and white photography on the iPhone and tell how he built his cadre of 271,000 Instagram followers (@koci) on “Photography Radio.”

Writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild wrote articles on the Ku Klux Klan in The New York Review of Books, in Mother Jones about a shadowy general who pioneered U.S. government surveillance of dissenters, and a book review-essay in Foreign Affairs. He also gave talks at two Cal State campuses and at the annual Conrad Lecture at the Conrad Festival—a book festival in Krakow, Poland, where Joseph Conrad once lived. You can read all about it—in Polish—here.

In February, lecturer and alum Jennifer Kahn (’00) gave a talk on the promise and peril of gene-editing at the World Government Summit in Dubai. She also had a cover story, “Should Some Species Be Allowed to Die Out?” in The New York Times Magazine on March 18.

Author, foreign correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Geeta Anand is our Nirupama Chatterjee Teaching Fellow, leading the India Reporting Project this spring, which includes a reporting trip to India over spring break.

Prof. Ken Light‘s exhibit “Religion and Resistance” hangs at the Doug Adams Gallery at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union through May 24. He will also be part of a show in New York called “Documentary Photography Now,” from March 24 to April 21.

Actor Bob Odenkirk talks about playing late Berkeley Journalism Dean and Professor Ben Bagdikian in the recent motion picture “The Post.” Bagdikian, who died two years ago at age 96, is not the first Berkeley J-School professor to be depicted on the big screen. Lowell Bergman, who runs the school’s Investigative Reporting Program, was memorably played by Al Pacino in the 1999 film, “The Insider.”

California Magazine asked multimedia instructors Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue (’07) if augmented reality is the future of journalism—or dead on arrival. Read what they said here.

Prof. Michael Pollan’s new book How to Change Your Mind– What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, will be released in May. Read Publishers Weekly’s Starred Review here.

Lecturer and BuzzFeed News reporter Peter Aldhous appeared on a CAR Conference (IRE and NICAR’s annual conference devoted to data journalism) panel “Getting started with machine learning for reporting” in Chicago on March 8.

Prof. Jon Else‘s recent book True South: Henry Hampton and ‘Eyes on the Prize’ is a finalist for the Marfield Award for Arts Writing, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in Nonfiction. Else is also editing a new documentary about John Adams’ and Peter Sellars’s historical opera, “Girls of the Golden West.”

Director of Audio Ben Manilla’s recent podcast series, “The Science of Happiness” produced with the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, debuted in the iTunes Top Ten and went all the way to number 2.

Manilla is also featured in a new documentary, “New Wave: Dare to Be Different,” chronicling the history of legendary New York City radio station WLIR-FM that airs on Showtime at the end of March. Manilla was an on-air personality and production director at WLIR for six years.

North Gate Studios has a new Manager: Chris “Topher” Routh. He’ll be showrunning our radio and TV studios and the new Logan Multimedia Center in the library. Welcome to the J-School, Topher!

In alumni news, Jason Spingarn-Koff (’01) of Netflix, was on the producers team that received three (!) Oscar nominations for the documentaries “Heroin(e),” “Icarus” and “Strong Island.” They took home the gold for “Icarus,” a remarkable profile of doping among world-class Russian athletes. Rachel de Leon (’14), coordinating producer on “Heroin(e),” was also part of the nominated team.

Erica Hellerstein (’14) won a Southern Environmental Law Center award for an investigative series about the social and environmental impacts of North Carolina’s commercial hog farming industry.

Lisa Pickoff-White (’09) of KQED was awarded an SPJ NorCal citation for public records/data journalism-fueled stories on ICE detentions, struggling desegregation efforts in San Francisco schools, and the devastating North Bay fires of 2017.

Libby Leyden (’17) was named editor of the Press Banner in Scotts Valley, Calif.

As the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2014, award-winning documentary filmmaker/alum Pete Nicks (’99) embedded with the Oakland Police Department for two turbulent years. Watch as alum Kelly Whalen (’01) of KQED Arts goes Behind The Lens of Nicks’ award-winning documentary.

Jason Hanasik‘s (’17) thesis film, “How To Make A Pearl”—documenting one man’s life plunged into darkness by a rare photosensitivity–premiered Feb. 21 in London. Watch it on the Guardian website here.

We make it a point of celebrating the continuing success of Berkeley Journalism graduates and using their careers to guide those who follow them. We assigned Sam Goldman (’19) to profile NPR editor and correspondent Ron Elving (’78), and asked Rosa Furneaux (‘18) to write a portrait of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Sam Green (’93), whose work has been broadcast nationally on PBS, included in the Whitney Biennial and nominated for an Academy Award. I trust like me, you’ll be inspired by these game-changers.

For the sixth year, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) is hosting a spring semester course on international environmental reporting taught by lecturers James Fahn and Mark Schapiro. The course offers students travel grants to report on original environmental stories from overseas during spring break.  Read the stories, along with those from previous years. This year’s work is supported by the Kendeda Fund and the Mays Family Fund.

March 23 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of UC Berkeley. The Podcast Services Division of our Berkeley Advanced Media Institute (BAMI) has just released a series called “One Bold Idea” that highlights some of UC’s accomplishments. Produced by Graelyn Brashear (’17), the podcasts are also the work of a host of other students and recent graduates, in conjunction with the UC Office of the President. You’re welcome to stream the episodes via Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher.

A Podcast Services team led by Lacy Roberts (’17) and Coby MacDonald (’17) also produced an interactive, GPS-based walking tour of Telegraph Avenue.

Upcoming events and dates of interest: Don’t miss “Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s” by Joseph Rodriguez in the Reva and David Logan Gallery for Documentary Photography in the halls of the School March 16-May 1. … The deadline for admissions to the Class of 2021 is Dec. 1. … Undergraduates began signing up for the third summer journalism minor on Feb. 1, 2018. … More BAMI workshops: we’ve added an Advanced Video Editing and Storytelling workshop June 21-22, 2018. Sign up here.

In closing, a warm thanks to all of you who contribute intellectually or financially to this School. We can’t do what we do without your support.

Wishing you a rewarding and hopeful spring,

Edward Wasserman

About this communique: 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.

Have alumni news or accomplishments to share? Please send it, along with a high-res headshot to us at


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