Dean’s Letter – November 2018

November 8, 2018

November 8, 2018

Warm greetings from North Gate Hall:

It has been a nervous time at the School in the run-up to the U.S. elections, the news of mailed bombs, a murdered journalist in Istanbul and the slaughter in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and, for our day jobs, trying to create and refine new journalistic forms and practices suited to the frenetic informational environment in which our students will practice. That said, I suspect a good many of the people reading this would be cheered to see the quality and the fierce commitment of the next generation of journalists—almost enough to reassure people like me that the future might actually be in good hands.

Now the news from North Gate Hall:

Filmmaker Lauren Schwartzman (’18) took home the bronze medal in the Student Academy Awards for a riveting and imaginative documentary titled, “Dust Rising,” which began life as her master’s thesis last spring. In the previous two years Berkeley students won two gold medals for their work; the third year in a row that an alum has either won or medaled in the prestigious national competition.

Lauren Schwartzman

In the most recent round, the 2018 thesis films produced by four graduates—Grace Oyenubi, Alan Toth and Nani Sahra Walker, along with Schwartzman—accounted for three of seven finalists in the Student Oscars documentary category. Schwartzman took home the medal on Oct. 11. Watch her elegant acceptance speech here.

And earlier this month, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?—a production of our new Investigative Studios premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival to rave reviews; two lecturers Adam Hochschild and Mark Schapiro have exciting new books out and we’ve made strides expanding the reach of student work via new relationships with publishers.

In August, The Atlantic published seven 2018 multimedia master’s theses exploring racial and economic inequality in Fresno, Calif. They were the work of Rachel Cassandra, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Briana Flin, Alexandria Fuller, Margaret Katcher, Mary Newman and Reis Thebault (all ‘18), and ran as a weeklong series “Fresno’s Ugly Divide.” Bay Area public broadcasting station KQED then posted the original versions, and included another work by Sawsan Morrar (‘18), as an online multimedia collection of photographs, videos, audio stories, animations, data visualizations and writing. The student work was an exciting collaboration and a model of students working on a single topic of grave public concern—in this case, inequality in California’s Central Valley. That collaborative model is one that we hope to replicate in the future. Special thanks to the innovation and leadership of multimedia instructors Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue, and John Temple of the School’s Investigative Reporting Program, who spearheaded and facilitated this complex undertaking.

Alex Nieves and Simon Campbell (both ’19) won 2018 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards—recognizing the best collegiate journalism in Region 11’s Radio Sports Reporting category. Alums Alexandria Fuller and Reis Thebault (both ’18) won for “Justice for Who?” a months-long investigation of the criminal justice system in Fresno, Calif.

Drew Costley (’19) won not one, not two, but three National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence Awards.

Drew Costley

Costley also received the annual $10,000 Jim Marshall Fellowship for documentary photography. This year’s fellowship was funded by former reporter and legendary ad-man Jeff Goodby and Wells Fargo & Co. through Jim Marshall’s estate. The prior three years’ fellowships were funded by Goodby, the Toyota Foundation, and other individual donors.

North Gate Radio on KALX won second-place in the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) national student awards for its “Renegades” episode by Susie Neilson, Padmini Parthasarthy, Lee Mengistu, Nikka Singh, Zoë Ferrigno, Kaitlin Benz, Nuria Marquez Martinez and Francesca Fenzi (all ’19). Listen to the show here.

Photographer Marian Carrasquero (’19) was profiled in The New York Times after her work ran on the Times’ front page while she was interning there last summer.

Amy Mostafa (’20) was awarded the $5,000 Bilquis Moosavi Memorial Scholarship from the Islamic Scholarship Fund.

The greatest (journalism school) soccer team in the world 7-0-0! (From top left to right): Sam Goldman, Max Brimelow, Simon Campbell (+ daughter Verena), J.P. Dobrin, Drew Costley. Kneeling: Yutao Chen, Brandon Yadegari. (Not pictured: Caleb Hampton, Wesaam Al-badry, Jessica Ofelia Alvarenga, Laurence Du Sault, Erin Stone.)

Caron Creighton and Francesca Fenzi (both ‘19) traveled to Brussels in October as part of the European Union Delegation to the United States’ annual Study Tour of U.S. Graduate Journalism Students. The visit was intended to help them learn more about how the EU works.

Tsanavi Spoonhunter

Tsanavi Spoonhunter (’20) was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Native American Journalists Association and Facebook Journalism Project.

Erin Stone (’19) wrote a powerful story for the front page of The San Francisco Chronicle, where she interned last summer. The story concerned a lax investigation into allegations of sexual assault on an intoxicated 22-year-old by a Cal Train conductor.

The National Book Awards longlist recognized alumna Rebecca Solnit (’84) for Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) (Haymarket.) In it, Solnit explores political life, electoral politics, police shootings and gentrification, the life of an extraordinary man on death row, the pipeline protest at Standing Rock, and the existential threat posed by climate change. And she somehow manages to counter the despair of our age with hope. Solnit is also a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. This prolific and irreplaceable writer continues to make us proud.

Producer Michael Welt (‘04) was awarded a 2018 Emmy Award for Outstanding Research for the documentary series, “The Vietnam War,” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Michael Welt. Photo: Marc Bryan Brown Photography

Pablo De La Hoya‘s (’18) thesis documentary “Caminos de Boyle Heights” premiered at the Awareness Festival in Los Angeles in October.

A beautifully written thesis project by Sonner Kehrt (‘18)—on the many hurdles families of missing indigenous people face—was posted on The Outline.

Grace Oyenubi and Nani Walker (both ’18) named one of five finalists for the David L. Wolper Student Award from the International Documentary Association (IDA) for their thesis documentary “Forced” about three women who symbolize the thousands of girls and women who were abducted, raped and displaced during the Boko Haram war in Nigeria.

Lecturer/alum Dan Krauss’s (‘04) new documentary “5B” premiered on the closing night of SF Film’s Doc Stories, Nov. 4 at the Castro Theatre as a special co-presentation with the Telluride Film Festival. He is also currently in post-production on a feature film adaptation of “The Kill Team,” starring Alexander Skarsgård and Nat Wolff.

Interactive journalism thesis projects by Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Alexandria Fuller and Reis Thebault (all ’18) were named finalists for 2018 Online Journalism Awards’ David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award.

Producer Shannon Service‘s (’11) documentary “Ghost Fleet” about a group of Thai activists risking their lives to find justice and freedom for enslaved fishermen made its World Premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. The film also screened at the San Francisco Film Festival on Nov. 3 at the SF Museum of Modern Art.

The thesis project of Liliana Michelena (‘18) on the U.S. losing soccer prospects as California talent heads back to Mexico in search of opportunity— co-reported with Lauren Hepler (‘18)— ran in The Los Angeles Times in September. The story, which required extensive field reporting in Salinas, Calif., and Mexico, was overseen by lecturer and Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Chris Ballard.

Director Alexis Bloom‘s (’01) new documentary, “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes,” premiered at the New York Film Festival in October. Watch Bloom discuss the film with The Hollywood Reporter here.

Luisa Conlon, Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller (all ’17) won best documentary at the Academy-qualifying LA Shorts International Film Festival with their New York Times Op-Doc “We Became Fragments.” The film has been shortlisted for an International Documentary Association (IDA) award. The trio recently screened the film during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly at an event hosted by the Government of Canada and the UNHCR.

Don’t miss this remarkably researched and superbly paced story on why justice never came for the U.S. soldiers responsible for a massacre at the Belgian town of Chenogne during World War II. It was produced for Reveal by alum Christopher Harland-Dunaway (’17), and grew out of a project he has been working on since J-School.

Lecturer and alum Anna Sussman (‘05), along with Shaina Shealy (‘16) and Jonathan Jones (‘05) of Snap Judgment, won the gold award for best documentary at the prestigious Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Competition. The team won for a remarkably ambitious project, “Counted: An Oakland Story,” which followed every homicide in Oakland, Calif., for an entire year. The result was an intimate portrait of those lost to the city’s violence. The story was co-produced by Pendarvis Harshaw (‘14) and Nancy Lopez (‘11). Abner Hauge (‘18) and Continuing Lecturer Jeremy Rue (‘07)—who is also assistant dean for academics–created multimedia components for the project’s website.

In faculty news, lecturer Edwin Dobb wrote an extraordinarily moving essay on adoption and “the ecology of indebtedness” in the October issue of Harper’s Magazine. He also reported on how deadly chemicals are now a weapon of choice for those who see lions, elephants, and other wild animals as threats to livestock and property, in National Geographic.

Lecturer and veteran investigative journalist Mark Schapiro‘s latest book, Seeds of Resistance: The Fight to Save Our Food Supply (Skyhorse), revealing threats to the long-term security of our food supply in the face of unprecedented climate volatility, has just been published.

Former Dean Orville Schell and Lecturer and Assistant Dean for Students Kara Platoni.

Lecturer and Assistant Dean for Students Kara Platoni (’99) and former Dean Orville Schell talked about the world’s environmental future at the COAL + ICE event in San Francisco Sept. 9.

Adjunct Professor Dawn Porter has been nominated for an International Documentary Association (IDA) award for “Bobby Kennedy For President,” on the legacy of the man who helped redefine a country, on Netflix. Read the backstory here.

Lecturer Adam Hochschild has a new book out called Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays (University of California Press) featuring over two dozen updated essays and articles ranging from a California gun show to a Finnish prison, from a Congolese center for rape victims to the ruins of gulag camps in the Soviet Arctic. Hochschild also takes off the gloves on “thuggish strongmen” in politics both near and far in “American Devilry” in the October issue of The New York Review of Books.

Lecturer Thomas Peele was a featured speaker at an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Watchdog workshop in San Jose, Calif., in September, speaking on the California Public Records Act.

Continuing Lecturer Thomas R. Burke successfully defended Yelp in a closely-watched Internet speech case (Hassell v. Bird), in which the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Yelp enjoyed federal immunity when it refused to take down a user’s negative online reviews.

Prof. Ken Light returned to his contact sheets of 30 years ago to see what had changed along the U.S./Mexico border for an essay and two-page photo spread in The Washington Post. His remarkable pictures are also featured in a Harvard University exhibit at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts as part of the “Time is Now: Photography and Social Change in James Baldwin’s America,” through Dec. 30. (Harvard subsequently purchased one of Ken’s prints for its permanent collection.) Light also gave a talk, “The Other America, A Social Documentary Photographer’s Journey, 1969–2018” at the Berkeley Camera Club as part of the San Francisco Bay Month of Photography, and led a panel discussion at an American Photography Archives Group symposium with the new photography curator for Special Collections at Stanford.

Mary Kay Magistad

Award-winning radio correspondent and former East Asia correspondent for PRI’s “The World” and for National Public Radio (NPR) Mary Kay Magistad has been hired to head Berkeley Journalism’s audio program. Magistad succeeds Ben Manilla, a Peabody Award-winning producer who in 2014 was appointed head of audio and will continue to teach at the School.

Lecturer Abbie VanSickle examined two major criminal justice measures signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in his final days in office. In an investigation for The New York Times and The Marshall Project, she examined a legal doctrine called the felony murder rule, which allows prosecutors to charge people with murder, even if they aren’t the actual killers. In September, the governor signed a law that narrowed the rule. For The Marshall Project, she also covered the contentious debate around SB10, the new law that essentially ends cash bail in California.

In an imaginative road test, Intro to Audio this term is being co-taught by producer Ben Manilla and Jennifer Granholm, CNN commentator, ex-governor of Michigan and adjunct professor at Berkeley Law and the Goldman School of Public Policy. The class, which brings together students from Public Policy and the J-School, focuses on reporting on policy in an election year. A new radio show/podcast called “The Fix,” a special series from North Gate Radio, has been launched to highlight success stories from the world of public policy. Where are communities/individuals succeeding in solving the difficult issues facing society? The first episode aired in October on KALX Radio (90.7FM).

Jason Paladino and Zachary Stauffer. Photo: Marlena Telvick

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?” a powerful new documentary by producer/director Zachary Stauffer (’08) and associate producer Jason Paladino (’15), premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, where it won the Audience Award for Active Cinema. The film explores the 2014 Navy helicopter crash that killed 29-year-old pilot Lt. Wes Van Dorn and two other air crewmembers. It’s both a portrait of one family’s tragedy and an inquiry into the murky inner workings of the American defense establishment. The San Francisco Chronicle called the film a “riveting documentary” and one of Mill Valley’s “hidden gems.” The San Jose Mercury News called the film “an outrage-inducing… blistering exposé.” The Nation magazine said, “Every concerned citizen and every member of Congress should see this film. Lives depend on it.”

“Van Dorn” is the first independent feature documentary produced at Investigative Studios Inc., the affiliated production company of the School’s Investigative Reporting Program, which aims to create new revenue streams that will support and promote the work of the IRP, while maintaining intellectual property rights that benefit the University—creating a new, self-sustaining model for in-depth journalism in the public interest.

Funding for the documentary was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program and Investigative Studios, including the Reva & David Logan Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. While the filmmakers are seeking distribution, they are focused on additional festivals and screening in military communities.

The IRP welcomed two new fellows, Susannah Breslin and documentary filmmaker and Berkeley Journalism alum Débora Souza Silva (‘14). They joined returning fellow Elizaveta Osetinskaya, publisher of the Russian independent news outlet The Bell.

Ben Manilla, Michael Barbaro and Edward Wasserman.

On the events front, Michael Barbaro of The New York Times podcast The Daily, gave a talk to a packed audience at North Gate Hall. Listen to the podcast—produced by Lee Mengistu (’19) here. Read the Daily Cal’s coverage here.

Emma Schwartz, Dawn Porter and Geeta Anand.

Two new faculty members at the Graduate School of Journalism–Geeta Anand and Dawn Porter–discussed the importance of women in leadership positions in the rapidly changing world of journalism in a campus homecoming event called “Women, Leadership, and Vision in the Media Industry” on Oct. 12. It was moderated by Emma Schwartz (’19), leader of Berkeley Journalism’s student-run Women In Media group.

Lynn Walsh, Edward Wasserman, Audrey Cooper, Craig Newmark, Lily Jamali.

In “A Way Forward: Restoring Public Trust in Journalism in the Age of Trump”—a panel co-hosted with the First Amendment Coalition—panelists Audrey Cooper, editor, San Francisco Chronicle; Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies (and Berkeley Journalism Advisory Board member); Lynn Walsh, project manager of Trusting News, moderator Lily Jamali, host of ‘The California Report’ (KQED) and I took part in a conversation that evolved beyond shoegazing to concrete actions journalists can take to combat the anti-press agenda and restore public trust in the post-truth age. Watch it here.

Lee Mengistu, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Nieves, Darren Scioneaux, Jailyn Anderson, Abené Clayton, Drew Costley, Donté Clark, Otis Taylor Jr.

Berkeley Journalism’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) held a screening of the documentary “Romeo is Bleeding,” and a post-documentary dialogue with the film’s main character Donté Clark, and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis Taylor Jr., in October. The conversation focused on how reporters can responsibly report on communities that they are not from, with an emphasis on communities of color.

Edward Wasserman, Alexa Koenig, Félim McMahon, Christiaan Triebert. Photo: Carlos Mureithi (’19)

On Oct. 18, I joined with the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s Alexa Koenig and Félim McMahon—top experts on exposing and documenting war crimes and human rights atrocities via the Internet— to discuss the potential and perils that lie ahead for open source investigations with UK-based Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert. Watch it here.

Recent “On Mic” podcasts, brought to you by Berkeley Journalism and produced by student Lee Mengistu (’19), under the supervision of Ben Manilla, include The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor, authors Mark Danner, Michael Pollan and more. Be sure to subscribe to this terrific source for lively discussions—many of them hosted by lecturer and former Mother Jones editor Deirdre English— coming out of Berkeley Journalism. Technical facilities for “On Mic” are underwritten by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation.

Roy Baril, the School’s Director of Technology since 1998, retired earlier this year. In addition to taking care of the School’s technology needs for two decades, Roy scored the music for 18 student documentaries. We thank him for his long service and dedication to the School and wish him the very best.

Upcoming events and dates of interest: On Nov. 14, we’ll be hosting “Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays,” a conversation with lecturer and best-selling author Adam Hochschild and Elizabeth Farnsworth—a filmmaker, foreign correspondent, and former chief correspondent and substitute anchor of PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer— in the Logan Multimedia Center (formerly the North Gate Hall Library). … The deadline for admissions to the Class of 2021 is Dec. 3. Our next Advisory Board meeting is February 1-2. … We will be hosting a showcase of recent student work at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) as part of UC Berkeley’s Arts + Design initiative on April 8, 2019, following a very successful sold-out show in 2018. … The annual Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting will be held April 26-28.

In closing, it’s the time of year when we hope that you’ll consider making a tax-deductible contribution to our annual campaign, in amounts large or small, to support the training of the next generation of journalists, and in the longview, the vital contribution that Berkeley graduates are making to this invaluable profession, especially now.

The need for probing, intelligent, well-grounded and ethical journalism has never been greater, and as we have done over the past 50 years, Berkeley is forging the future leaders of the journalism a functioning democracy demands.


Ed 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 Berkeley Journalism’s broad community. Should you wish to follow ongoing developments in real-time, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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