Dean’s Letter – November 2016

November 1, 2016

November 16, 2016

Warm greetings from North Gate Hall:

The fall term is hurtling toward an unusually eventful close. The electoral outcome not only triggered fevered talk about press failings, social media power, and the need for a courageous Fourth Estate. It also touched off several nights of raucous street protest in Oakland, which J-students staffing the Oakland North news site, under Lecturer Kara Platoni’s direction, mobilized to cover. A tough challenge. Second-year student, photographer Kyle Ludowitz, ended up in the Alta Bates emergency room after some black-clad citizens who were busting into a storefront decided he was taking their picture. He wasn’t, but they turned on Ludowitz anyway, stomping him and his gear and kicking him in the face. He didn’t look too bad the next morning when he showed up back at the J-School for an internship interview with Reuters. All and all, evidence that whatever their differences the anarchist left and the paleo right agree in their hostility toward the news media. 

Unfortunately, they’re not alone, and in the election’s aftermath teachers and students here are anguishing over the media’s election coverage–the priority given to entertainment values and name-calling trivialities, the scant attention to policy choices and, above all, the utter failure to reflect the mood of the voter. More to come.

For now, it’s a good moment to recap notable accomplishments from the year that’s coming to an end: a Student Oscar for 2016 graduate Daphne Matziaraki for her remarkable film on the refugee crisis in her native Greece; the record 28 Emmy nominations in news and documentary for faculty, lecturers and alums; two more top Online News Association nominations and the seventh win for a J-School graduate in eight years; recent graduates sharing an Edward R. Murrow award for their multimedia thesis project on stolen cell phones; a Pulitzer for Lecturer T. Christian Miller; new books by Prof. Mark Danner and Lecturer Adam Hochschild (and books in the works by Prof. Michael Pollan and Lecturer Mark Schapiro); 10 graduates honored by the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California (NorCal) chapter; three films screened at Telluride by J-School teachers, alums and former visiting scholars; and the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP), under Prof. Lowell Bergman, forming an innovative production house, Investigative Reporting Productions Inc., to make documentaries for commercial release.

2016 News Doc Emmys Collage.jpg
The record five professors, four lecturers and eighteen alums nominated for News & Documentary Emmy Awards.

We’ve also introduced curricular enhancements for our core master’s program, including courses incorporating travel to Japan and China and, this spring, to Cuba, and a continuing build-out of our J200 intro to journalism curriculum to include classes emphasizing subject-matter expertise–alongside our proven local news sites for Oakland and Richmond–and an expanded array of courses offering digital competencies. Plus, we re-entered undergraduate education this summer with the successful launch of our Minor in Journalism, which we’re looking to retool and enrich for the coming summer term.

We are eager to widen the J-School’s educational reach beyond our core MJ program. Our UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute (BAMI), founded as the foundation-supported Knight Digital Media Center a decade ago, continues its successful pivot into a market-based provider of specialized training. It’s offering seminars and workshops for mid-career journalists and customized programs for media organizations such as Consumer Reports and private companies keen to train their employees in everything from visual storytelling, data visualisation, and podcasting to virtual reality. To learn more about BAMI, contact (510) 642-6049 or

The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) is launching a series of intensive professional workshops for independent filmmakers who are looking to sharpen their skills and bulletproof their stories from litigation. The first workshop will take place Feb. 5-7

Support for that IRP initiative is coming from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which are among a widening number of philanthropic organizations and individuals who have stepped forward with generous support in recent months. A recent gift from the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Family Foundation, led by J-School alumna Wendy Schmidt, will fund modernization of our radio studios into a full-blown center for audio journalism instruction and production, under veteran producer and Lecturer Ben Manilla. The Heising-Simons Foundation, directed by journalism alum Liz Simons, has re-upped with student fellowship funding, and a commitment from the Reva and David Logan Foundation and the Jonathan Logan Foundation is enabling us to renovate the School’s storied library into a media-enabled center from which we will be able to reach wide audiences with the top-tier public events we routinely hold there. (We’re also hopeful that we can rent the space to other campus units to help fill the School’s perpetual funding needs.)

Google too has renewed funding for its successful pilot program, the Digital Media Travel Fellowships. The money will send additional students from the School’s New Media program to top conferences around the country, including those of the Online News Association, the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and SXSW Interactive.

The Class of 2018. (Photo: Gabriel Tolliver ’17)

In student news, Luisa Conlon (’17) was awarded the Jerry Jensen Memorial Scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences NorCal.

And a report by her fellow second-year students Angélica María Casas and Jennifer Cain on a drive to register eligible Latinos to vote in Arizona ran nationally on the PBS NewsHour.

Akira Olivia Kumamoto (’17) produced a report for NBC News on people with multiethnic and multiracial backgrounds who are sometimes unsure how to self-identify. Contributing to the report were fellow students Mahlia Posey, Manjula VargheseAngélica María Casas, Isara Krieger, Mariela Patron, Katherine Rose and Paayal Zaveri.

Alexandria Fuller (’18), Brad Bailey (’17), Waringa Kamau (’17), Mahlia Posey (’17), Gabriel Tolliver (’17) and Cameron Clark (’18).  (Photo: Joe Bush ’17)

Diversity is getting greater attention in its own right at the J-School. Affinity groups such as the National Association of Black Journalists(NABJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), and the NLGJA, the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists, are increasingly active locally, and seeking support for greater outreach to enable more effective networking and job placement.

NBC Diversity Fellows Mariela Patron, Mahlia Posey, Paayal Zaveri, Akira Olivia Kumamoto and Angélica María Casas (all class of ’17) with NBC producer & J-School alum Aliza Nadi (’06) in New York.

Graelyn Brashear (’17) was featured on Capital Public Radio’s Insight program, talking about Nevada ballot measures ahead of the election. On Election Day, she covered Reno and surrounding Washoe County, Nev., for CPR.

Matt Beagle (’17) recently reported two features for KQED’s California Report. He also helped launch the J200 podcast, Tales of Two Cities, which features student audio work on news stories from Oakland and Richmond. The podcast continues today and provides opportunities for first-year students to contribute.

A story about rodeos by Lacy Jane Roberts (’17) went Bay Area-wide on KQED’s California Report and nationally on NPR and WBUR’s Here and Now. Lacy is also producing a new series of podcasts from the J-School on noteworthy events at the School.

Libby Leyden (’17) is one of 10 students nationally selected for the 2016-2017 Planet Forward Correspondent program, an effort to encourage science and sustainability journalism led by former CNN correspondent Frank Sesno, who directs the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

In faculty news, Viking will publish in January Prof. Jon Else‘s book True South: Henry Hampton and the Legacies of “Eyes on the Prize,” the landmark 1987 PBS series on the civil rights movement that both Else, former director of our documentary program, and current documentary program director Prof. Orlando Bagwell worked on. The J-School will host a special event on Jan. 24, 2017, to celebrate the book’s release.

Award-winning lecturer/alum Dan Krauss’s (’04) documentary The Kill Team will be recreated as a feature film, to star actors Nat Wolf and Alexander Skarsgard. Krauss will write and direct this version of his film about an Army whistleblower, which is currently in pre-production. His last film Extremis has been nominated for both International Documentary Association (IDA) awards and Cinema Eye Honors, following the news he made the shortlist for this year’s Academy Awards. Films by Krauss and alum Alexis Bloom (’01), former visiting scholar from Paris Stefania Rousselle (’09), and former lecturer Mimi Chakarova were screened this year at Telluride.

Prof. Michael Pollan has been nominated for an International Documentary Association (IDA) award for Best Limited Series for “Cooked,” produced for Netflix with Alex Gibney.

Audio program head and lecturer Ben Manilla‘s latest project for Studio 360 at WNYC, produced with the Library of Congress, will include features on George Carlin’s album, “Class Clown,” Wilt Chamberlain’s legendary 100-point NBA game, and the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier.

Thomas R. Burke, lecturer in media law, supplemented his book, Anti-SLAPP Litigation (The Rutter Group, 2016) and recently represented a group of media clients (including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Dow Jones & Co., ABC and CNN) in an amici brief filed in the California Supreme Court in Baral v. Schnitt. Burke spoke on FOIA issues at Southwestern School of Law’s conference “Freedom of Information Laws on the Global Stage” in November.

Lecturer Peter Aldhous‘s “Spies in the Skies,” published by BuzzFeed News in November, won twice in the annual media research firm Kantar’s Information is Beautiful awards–for best Data Journalism and overall Most Beautiful. In June, the same piece–coauthored with BuzzFeed contributor Charles Seife–won Data visualization of the year (large newsroom) honors in the annual Data Journalism Awards of the Global Editors Network. More here.

In alumni news, Teresa Chin (’12), April Dembosky (’08), Sukey Lewis (’15), Emilie Raguso (’06), Adam Grossberg (’13), Rachel de Leon (’14), Victoria Mauleon (’01), Ali Winston (’11) and Gabriela Quiros (’98) were all honored with SPJ NorCal awards. Melina Tupa (’16) won a NorCal student award for her thesis documentary “The Search,” about a woman’s search — dating back to 1978 — for her grandson, the child of her daughter who was slain during the Argentine government’s Dirty War against student activists opposing military rule.

Alums Daphne Matziaraki (’16) and Lecturer Dan Krauss (’04) have been named contenders in documentary film for the 89th Academy Awards, while five professors, four lecturers and 19 alums were nominated for various News and Documentary Emmy awards. Read about them here.

Author and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine Jon Mooallem (’06) appeared in The California Sunday Magazine’s “Golden State” extravaganza at the Greek Theater on Sept. 30.

Veteran journalist John Temple joined the IRP in June as its new managing editor. Temple comes with a deep and varied background in the news business, having served as longtime editor and publisher of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and managing editor of The Washington Post, among many other positions. Also joining the IRP is former Los Angeles Times reporter Garrett Therolf. Garrett will produce investigative stories that focus on children, education and poverty in a new partnership between the IRP and Common Sense News. Garrett recently published a piece in The Los Angeles Times about LA County probation workers who were promoted despite disciplinary problems.

The IRP’s collaborative investigation “Rape on Night Shift” helped to inspire a new California law that stiffens workplace protections against sexual assault and harassment. “Rape on the Night Shift,” which aired on PBS Frontline and Univision, investigated the sexual abuse of female janitors who often work alone late at night.

In an exclusive story for Civil Beat and HuffPost Hawaii, the IRP’s Jason Paladino (’15) and Zachary Stauffer (’08) reported that pilot error, lack of training and command problems were to blame for a deadly helicopter crash off Oahu in January. Paladino and Stauffer are working on a documentary about Navy and Marine 53E helicopters. Paladino and Mike Hixenbaugh received the 2015 Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists for “Sea Dragon Down,” an earlier investigation of the Navy’s most crash-prone helicopter.

In a report for Mother Jones, 2015-16 IRP Fellow and alum Steve Fisher (’14) reported on how bail bond companies are profiting off Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S.

Working on a tip to the IRP, alum Ted Anderson (’16) reported for The East Bay Times how the East Bay community college district apparently broke conflict-of-interest rules.

The IRP also provided editorial support to alum Laura Klivans (’16) on a series of reports for KQED News on Proposition 57, which among other things would end the practice of directly charging minors with adult crimes, and why and how kids end up in adult court. (Prop. 57 was approved overwhelmingly.)

Alum David Ferry (’12) recently won the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Keck Futures Award. Ferry was honored for his feature “The Fever [How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease]” in Mother Jones.

Alum Nadine Sebai (’16) was awarded an Ida B. Wells Fellowship from The Investigative Fund. The goal is to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color.

Alexandra Garreton, Jake Nicol and Chris Schodt (all class of ’15)

Thesis co-producers Alexandra Garretón, Jake Nicol and Chris Schodt (’15) won a Student Murrow Award for overall excellence from RTDNA (the Radio Television Digital News Association) for their New Media master’s project “Wiped, Flashed, and Rekitted” about the black market in stolen cellphones. It was also nominated for an Emmy in the New Approaches documentary category.

A 2016 New Media master’s project titled “Chasing Lithium: The Hidden World Behind the 21st Century’s Most Valuable Resource,” won first place in the The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award of the Online Journalism Awards (OJAs) of the Online News Association. The project was produced by Rachel Hiles and Nina Zou (’16) and covered the arc of lithium battery production from Bolivia to the U.S. and finally to China, where it ends as e-waste.

A Showtime series produced by alum Jeffrey Plunkett (‘05), “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” has been nominated as Best Limited Series Award from the IDA.

Two New Media master’s projects were nominated for Online Journalism Awards by the Online News Association. “The Wait: Inside the Lives of Asylum Seekers in Germany,” a project that used interactive 360-video to capture the stories of refugees, was produced by Lakshmi Sarah, Melissa Bosworth, and Fan Fei. And “Transplanted,” a report on undocumented immigrants’ seeking treatment for organ transplants, was the work of Noelia González, Brett Murphy and Jieqian Zhang. All nominees were members of the Class of ‘16.

Documentary grad Pallavi Somusetty (‘16) was named an Asian American Journalists Association Fellow. Her film “Escaping Agra” screened at the 3rd i 14th annual SF International South Asian Film Festival in November.

Alums Terray Sylvester (’15), Jimmy Tobias (’16), Rebecca Solnit (’84), Bonnie Chan (’16), Romin Lee Johnson (’16) and Sara Lafleur-Vetter (’15) have all been reporting from Standing Rock, photographing and filming the demonstrations for The Nation, Fusion, The Guardian and other outlets. Johnson, and Lafleur-Vetter, who was arrested while reporting in the field, are currently working on a documentary on the movement.

On the events front, in October Ken Light, the Reva and David Logan Foundation professor of photography, hosted an exhibit by photographer Stephen Shames marking the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party, culminating in a packed house presentation by Light, Shames and Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale. Watch the video here.

Five of the top editors in the country on ‘Think Like an Editor’ panel 10/28. John Bennet, The New Yorker, James Marcus, Harper’s, Paul Reyes, VQR, Sarah Crichton, Sarah Crichton Books, Jennifer Sahn, Pacific Standard. (Photo: Khaled Sayed ’18)

In November, the School once again hosted The Berkeley Narrative Writing Conference, our 3rd annual national gathering conceived and organized by alum Constance Hale (’90). The conference drew some of the country’s top longform writers and editors, among them: John Bennet, senior editor, The New Yorker; James Marcus, editor-in-chief, Harper’s; Paul Reyes, editor, Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR); Sarah Crichton, publisher, Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; Deirdre English, director of the Clay Felker Magazine Center at the J-School, and Jennifer Sahn, executive editor, Pacific Standard. Peggy Orenstein, most recently author of Girls and Sex, was the keynote speaker.

Standing room only for author Arlie Hochschild, speaking about her new book “Strangers In Their Own Land” with Prof. Deirdre English. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small ’17)

Upcoming dates of interest: Prof. Lowell Bergman and the Investigative Reporting Program will host the 11th Annual Reva & David Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting the weekend of April 28 at UC Berkeley. This invitation-only event brings together top investigative journalists from around the world.

The deadline for admissions to the Class of 2019 is Dec. 1. Undergraduates can begin signing up for the summer journalism minor on Feb. 1, 2017. In December, we will be announcing the formation of an Advisory Board made up of alums, donors, and industry thought leaders to serve as our intellectual partners in charting the future of this invaluable institution.

UC Berkeley’s annual Big Give donor outreach is Thursday, Nov. 17. At a time when costs are rising and the campus contribution to the J-School isn’t, we urge you to make contributions during this drive before your inboxes are firehosed with pleas from all kinds of deserving organizations. Donate here.

To say that we need to leap into a different league of fundraising, reliably bringing in double or triple the money the School used to raise, would be an understatement.

If you feel you’d like to put the J-School high among the meritorious causes you help fund, we’d be grateful. It’s an opportunity to help ensure the future of an unusual public asset: In the vast embrace of one of the world’s greatest universities, a boutique training academy for journalists, one that subscribes to a nearly-archaic model of immersive education and which, in return, has a long record of producing terrific young professionals who don’t apologize for believing that the purpose of journalism is to make the world a better place.

Wishing you a warm holiday season,

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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