Dean’s Letter – November 2015

November 1, 2015

November 18, 2015

Warm greetings from North Gate:

The intensity and creative richness of the Graduate School of Journalism never cease to impress me, as I’m sure they do you as well. From tales of injustice and unchecked power to stories of wrongs righted and corruption exposed, North Gate Hall produces an uninterrupted flow of powerful multimedia, audio, documentary film and printed work. Recent J-School faculty and students exposed sexual predation against female office cleaners nationwide, explored the right-to-die debate in California, and helped inmate voices to be heard from San Quentin Prison. In the weeks and months to come, our teachers will have books and films coming out on the Oakland Police Department, human perception, the state of the food industry, and Americans who served in the Spanish Civil War. The scope is vast, the enterprise stunning.

In strategic news, the School is taking a big step into the field of undergraduate education this summer with the launch of a new Minor in Journalism. Beginning in June, Berkeley undergrads and students from elsewhere in the UC system will be offered an intensive sequence of five 6-week courses, either in a single summer or spread across two, that will earn them a minor.

The minor–the first journalism degree Cal has offered in nearly 35 years, has been developed in partnership with UC Berkeley Summer Sessions, and seeks to serve undergraduates even if they do not intend to practice journalism professionally. The idea is to train them in digital communication proficiencies that will serve them in their lives and their careers, whether they’re doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, bench scientists or public servants. The minor enables students to acquire the contemporary equivalent of what literacy was in the print age.

Veteran journalist David Thigpen, a former Time magazine correspondent and a J-200 lecturer at the J-School, has led the organizing effort as acting director of undergraduate programs. Initial funding was provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, led by alumna Liz Simons (’82). Enrollment opens in February.

Meantime, the fall term featured a wave of events, notably the two-day Berkeley Narrative Journalism Conference, an annual gathering conceived and organized by Constance Hale (’90) and held Nov. 7-8. The conference drew some of the country’s top longform writers and editors, among them: Rebecca Solnit (’84), author of 17 books; Douglas McGray, editor-in-chief of both Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine; Julia Turner, editor-in-chief of Slate; James Marcus, executive editor of Harper’s Magazine; and science writer and soon-to-be J-School lecturer Rebecca Skloot (she’ll be with us spring term while work proceeds on bringing her 2010 best-seller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, to the screen.) This year’s conference sold out in a record 10 days.

On the philanthropy front, David Eckles’ and Minette Nelson’s Filmmaker Fund has donated an additional $45,000 to our $500,000 Fine Cut Fund campaign, which helps defray the hard costs of student filmmaking and multimedia projects—travel and shooting expenses, outlays for equipment and research.

Also making recent gifts for which we are hugely grateful: Susan and Stephen Chamberlin,Yossie HollanderBob Mansbach (‘77), Craig Newmark, Jack and Dorothy Edelman, and Laurie and George Zimmer.

Rock legend Carlos Santana has joined with the estate of the late photographer Jim Marshall and FTC Skateboarding to create limited collectors’ edition skateboard decks featuring iconic photos that Marshall took of Santana at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. All sale proceeds will be shared by Santana’s Milagro Foundation, which benefits underserved and vulnerable children and the J-School’s Jim Marshall Fellowship, which supports student photojournalism. Special thanks to Amelia Davis of Jim Marshall Photography LLC for championing this unique way to support the School.

Speaking of supporting the School, it’s a good moment to remind you we have an annual budget of $9 million that we must meet in spite of the growing gap between our operating expenses and state funding. Without private giving, the Graduate School of Journalism would never be able to meet its obligations, so we are deeply grateful to those of you who honor us with your financial help.

The semester has seen a spike in the publication and recognition of student work. Mara Van Ells, Naomi Nishihara, Nina Yanni Zou and Nadine Sebai (all ‘16) published their remarkable bilingual multimedia project Legalizing Death, about the right to die in California, on Univision’s Noticias website. This began as a project from their Online News Packages class.

Mara Van Ells, Naomi Nishihara, Nina Yanni Zou and Nadine Sebai

(From left to right) Nina Yanni Zou, Mara Van Ells, Nadine Sebai, Naomi Nishihara | Photo by Alex Kekauoha (’16)

New Media student Zainab Khan (‘16), was profiled on NPR’s Code Switch about her website, a pop culture news site for Muslim millennials.

Jeremy C.F. Lin (‘16) completed a prestigious Google Journalism Fellowship. This is the second year one of our students was awarded this scholarship.

Student leaders have won a university grant to offer in-depth cultural sensitivity and social justice training–designed especially for journalists–to J-School students, teachers and staff. The $7,500 grant from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion funded Oakland-based consultant Tammy Johnson’s training of second-year students Lakshmi Sarah, Shaina Shealy, Gabriela ArvizuSasha Lekach, Harriet Rowan,Naomi Nishihara and Zainab Khan. These trained students in turn led a workshop for the incoming first-year students as part of their orientation, and plan more workshops, to be led by local leaders, experts, and journalists. Students have continued to run bi-weekly equity chats to continue the conversation.

In faculty news, veteran Prof. William Drummond (’65) received the prestigious John Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award for Public Service, presented to outstanding alumni of the White House Fellows Program, for his work with The San Quentin News. The ceremony took place at a gala at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and was attended by more than 600 leaders from government, business, the military and the media. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the award to Prof. Drummond.

Prof. Michael Pollan, who holds the Knight Chair in Science Journalism, is away on a Radcliffe Institute fellowship at Harvard this year. A two-hour PBS special, “In Defense of Food,” based on his New York Times bestselling book, will be broadcast Dec. 30. “In Defense of Food” recently won the Grand Prize at the International Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague, and was named an official selection at the Sedona International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival. Pollan is also working on a four-hour Netflix series based on his book Cooked, which is being produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

J-School lecturer and historian Adam Hochschild’s new book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, will be published in March by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Pre-enrollment is strong for Adam’s spring term class in nonfiction bookwriting, which he is teaching for the second time next semester.

Prof. Ken Light’s new monograph What’s Going On?, about America from 1969-1974, was released in November. A corresponding exhibit opening and panel discussion was held Nov. 13 at the J-School with former ’60s SDS radical student leader Mark Rudd and Youth International Party (Yippie) co-founder Judy Gumbo. Light will be making appearances around the country, including book signings at the Bronx, N.Y., Documentary Center on Dec. 3, the International Center of Photography in New York on Dec. 4, and Classic Photographs in Los Angeles on Jan. 30. The exhibit will be on view in the Reva and David Logan Gallery in the halls of the J-School through Jan. 5. (Note: The building is closed for the holiday break: Dec. 24 – Jan. 4.)

In December, Basic Books will release J-School lecturer and veteran science reporter Kara Platoni’s (‘99) first book. In We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time , Platoni discusses whether technology can improve the basic human senses. She chronicles the cutting edge of sensory enhancement, and explores the latest innovations and research on pain, emotion, time, and virtual reality. “I ran around the world with my notebooks, heading for labs, military bases, biohacker basements, hospitals and wherever else they would let me hang out to learn about cutting-edge perceptual technologies,” says Platoni, who has succeeded Prof. Cynthia Gorney as head of our J-200 team. “Along the way I met perfumers, picklers, soldiers, body modders, cyborgs, robots, surgeons, clockmakers and bartenders.”

Prof. Jon Else, former director of the documentary film program, completed camera work for Alex Gibney on the documentary version of Michael Pollan’s book Cooked, and is executive producing alum Peter Nicks‘ (’99) new feature documentary about the Oakland Police Department.

Assistant Professor Richard Koci Hernandez, and Continuing Lecturer Jeremy Rue (’07) recently published their co-authored Principles of Multimedia Journalism : Packaging Digital News (Routledge, 2016.) The book presents an incisive taxonomy of the emerging range of the powerful world of online longform story packages, as well as a historical look at the evolution of multimedia storytelling over the last several decades.

Longtime radio producer Ben Manilla, head of our audio journalism program, worked with a team that included Jason Marsh (’05), Sukey Lewis (’15), Lynne Shallcross (’15), Caitlin Esch (’10) and Laura Klivans (’16) to produce a unique hour-long radio special, along with eight 90-second spots. “The Science of Gratitude,” hosted by Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon and distributed by PRI, will be heard on public radio stations across the country this holiday season. The project is a co-production of The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley and the J-School.

In late October, Lakshmi Sarah (’16) and Knowles Adkisson (’16) worked with Manilla and socio-political comedian W. Kamau Bell on a live radio/social media event for KALW radio, “Kamau Right Now.” The program was an experiment in live broadcasting that relied heavily on social media interaction to shape the content.

In other experimental projects, Manilla’s weekly series, Philosophy Talk, which normally features a conversation between two engaging Stanford philosophers and their guests, produced a program with the Vancouver Symphony and violin virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers centered around Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto, “Serenade,” based on Plato’s Symposium.

In response to the burgeoning worldwide interest in podcasts, the J-School is in the early stages of creating a Center for Audio Journalism. Our location is ideal for this proposed venture, since the Bay Area is a virtual Petri dish for podcasting, art, experimentation, and technology. A new fundraising drive for the Center will allow us to continue offering training in the expertise students need to produce outstanding audio across media platforms, including traditional radio, podcasting, satellite radio and internet radio. To help, click here.

Assistant Professor Richard Koci Hernandez spoke at this year’s Power of Storytelling conference in Bucharest, Romania, alongside other luminaries like Robert Krulwich from WNYC’s RadioLab. Koci’s talk, “Mastering Your Visual Voice,” offered insights on meaningful visual stories, no matter what the medium.

KQED Public Radio’s Joshua Johnson began teaching at the J-school this semester.

Lecturer Tom Peele was honored with the John Gothberg/Meritorious Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Peele was recognized for outstanding contributions and excellence in the area of freedom of information.

Longtime political reporter and former J-School director Rob Gunnison is coming back in the spring semester to teach a boots-on-the-ground course on political reporting.

Lecturer Bob Calo recently contributed a chapter to Drawn to Landscape, the Pioneering Work of J.B. Jackson , which included the re-release of his 1989 PBS documentary “J.B. Jackson and the Love of Everyday Places.”

New Media Lecturer David Cohn recently left his executive producer role at AJ+ to become senior director at Advance Publications, which comprises Condé Nast, Advance Digital, and American City Business Journals. Cohn is teaching advanced multimedia this year alongside two other co-instructors from AJ+, Dolly Li and Anna Flagg.

Documentarian Bernardo Ruiz has joined the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) as a Filmmaker in Residence this fall. The IRP is providing Ruiz with special support to work on a feature-length documentary about an international forensic anthropology team.

Lisa Aliferis and alumna Lisa Pickoff-White (‘09) of KQED won a Society of Professional Journalism (SPJ) Excellence in Journalism award in innovation for “PriceCheck,” a tool for crowdsourcing information about medical costs. The results are used in news articles, and the wider public can access the database to search for costs in medical care and compare prices.

Alumnus Mark Luckie (‘07), formerly Twitter’s manager of journalism, launched a new online digest called “Today in #BlackTwitter” to help people catch up on trending topics happening on Black Twitter. This is in addition to Luckie’s second published book, DO U, about several young men navigating life at a historically black college.

Mike Milano (’15) received an IDA award nomination for his thesis project “The Blue Wall” on a November 2012 Cleveland police chase that ended in 137 bullets being fired into two unarmed citizens. The David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award recognizes exceptional achievement in non-fiction film and video production at the university level, and brings greater public and industry awareness to the work of students in the documentary field.

New Media alumna Lynne Shallcross (‘15) won an Online Journalism Award (OJA) for best individual/small multimedia story for her Master’s Project on mobile health apps. This is the 6th time in seven years one of our students has won this prestigious national award.

Lynne Shallcross Online Journalism Award

(From left to right) Alexandra Garreton, Lynne Shallcross, Chris Schodt at ONA on 9/26/2015

National Geographic published the Master’s Project from New Media alums Alexandra Garreton, Jake Nicol and Chris Schodt (all ‘15) about the international black market in stolen cell phones. As students, they traveled to Brazil to document the smuggling of phones across the border and into urban stores.

Courtney Quirin (’15) won the Cine Golden Eagle student film award for her moving thesis film, The Georgia Girl about small-scale fishermen in British Columbia.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Niema Jordan and Sara Lafleur-Vetter (’15) have been namedsemi-finalists for the Windrider International Student Film Festival.

Vanessa Walker (’16) and alumna Greta Mart (’15) have each won a Goldie Award for best student radio from the Alaska Broadcasters Association.

The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) documentary “Rape on the Night Shift” received a 2015 Excellence in Journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter. The documentary, which aired on PBS Frontline and Univision in June, examines the rampant sexual abuse of immigrant women in the janitorial industry. The following current and former J-school students worked on the film: producers Andrés Cediel (’04) and Daffodil Altan (’04), radio reporter Sasha Khokha (’04); director of photography Zachary Stauffer (’08); associate producer Débora Souza Silva (’14); additional camera, production assts., fact-checkers, researchers and translators: Gabriela Arvizu (’16), Leah Bartos (’11), Steve Fisher (’14), Emily Gibson (’15), Noelia González (’16), Romin Lee Johnson (’16), Faviola Leyva (’16), Greta Mart(’15), Daphne Matziaraki (’16), Nadine Sebai (’16),Dan Steiner (’16), Melina Tupa (’16), Justin Whiteman (’16), and Ethan Bien (’16).

Former IRP fellows have been honored for work they did during their time with the program. Jonathan Jones (’08-09 and MJ ’05) received two Emmy Awards for his work on the PBS Frontline/ProPublica documentary “Firestone and the Warlord.”Caitlin McNally (’13-14) won an Online Journalism Award for her film ” Stickup Kid.” Daniel Alarcon (’12-13) received the Pen Center USA Award in the journalism category for “The Contestant,” which was published in The California Sunday Magazine.

Filmmaker Pete Nicks (‘99) has been named a 2015 USA Fellow. Each year, United States Artists (USA) awards $50,000 fellowships to the country’s most accomplished and innovative artists working in the fields of architecture & design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater & performance, traditional arts and visual arts.

In fundraising news, the Reva and David Logan Foundation has awarded the IRP a $2 million, two-year grant to build the IRP’s infrastructure and support innovative storytelling. The award will enable the IRP to establish a Major Projects Fund to provide initial research and reporting for stories, allow the IRP to retain editorial control over its work, and expand its investigative newsroom. The Logan Foundation has long been a generous supporter of the IRP, which was founded in 2006 by Prof. Lowell Bergman, thanks to the late David Logan’s original $1.5 million gift. The IRP is also supported by: the Wyncote Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rodriquez Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, First Look Media, Steve Silberstein, Yossie Hollander, and Janet Leahy.

The 10th annual Reva & David Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting at UC Berkeley has been scheduled for Friday, April 1 through Sunday, April 3, 2016. This invitation-only event, hosted by the IRP, brings together an exceptional array of the country’s top journalists, law enforcement and government officials to address the critical issues confronting the field.

Finally, as the holiday season nears, we ask that you consider the J-School in your end-of-year giving. Most of you received our annual campaign in the mail in October. Yet many did not act on it.

Now’s your chance: The Big Give, UC Berkeley’s 2nd annual 24-hour blitz of online fundraising, takes place starting at 9 p.m. tonight Wed., Nov. 18. During last year’s event, the campus raised over $5 million from more than 7,000 alumni, students, parents and friends. Your gift to the School of Journalism will have a bigger impact than normal during the Big Give, since the campus will reward us with matching gifts, based on the level of participation. We got a special boost this year from Craig’s List founder and friend of the J-School, Craig Newmark, and from my old friend, the comic Lewis Black, who impersonates a grumpy old malcontent on stage named Lewis Black, and who has also been a strong supporter of the J-School:

Lewis Black supports J-School and Big Give

Please encourage colleagues, family members and social media contacts to do the same. As the cost of a graduate education has skyrocketed, our students increasingly rely on us to raise financial assistance from generous donors. Please don’t underestimate the impact of your giving, at whatever level you can afford. The students deserve our help: donate now.

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.

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


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