(From left to right: 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 Alexander Nieves–have been awarded the first Helzel Fellowships at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The fellowship was established in 2017 by Deborah Kirshman and Larry Helzel, board members of the Helzel Family Foundation.

“To get behind a program at Berkeley that wants to train young journalists to not only seek, but speak the truth, really appealed to us,” Helzel said. “[We wanted to] have a direct and immediately positive impact on helping develop the next generation of journalists who won’t be bought and sold by the highest bidder.” The Helzel Fellowships help students cover their tuition and other school expenses.

The fellows have spent their first semester reporting on issues such as homelessness in the Bay Area, local government in the city of Richmond, the impact of specific health care laws on Californians, and the intersection of art and social justice.

“I see journalism as a public service, where I can spread vital information to historically underserved communities,” said Abené Clayton, who works the arts and culture beat for the School’s local news site, Richmond Confidential.

Alexander Nieves, who came to Berkeley interested in environmental journalism, has focused much of his effort a this semester on investigative reporting and politics in Richmond. “I didn’t anticipate wanting to be an investigative reporter, but I’ve been captivated by the process,” he said.

“Being on the crime, courts and justice beat is more challenging than any other writing I’ve done,” said Sarah Hoenicke, a reporter for the School’s second local news site, Oakland North. “I’ve felt my range expand as a result.”

Alondra De La Cruz has enjoyed learning to “use text and video to tell human stories that affect under-represented communities.” Much of her recent work has been about Oakland’s homeless community and struggles faced by DACA recipients, who are people brought to the United States as children and now subject to deportation because their parents’ immigration status is disputed.

As part of an introductory journalism course covering criminal justice, Mallory Newman has spent her semester reporting on the San Francisco Police Department. “I came into this program with a background in a variety of industries, but with no real journalism experience,” Newman said. “I am learning every day through interactions with an incredible group of peers.”

Donors Kirshman and Helzel hope to have a positive impact on the field of journalism. “I wanted to explore how we might make a difference in the study and practice of journalism today,” Kirshman said. “In an era of fake news and shoddy reporting, we hope that our investment in Cal’s journalism students will support the highest level of reporting around the world.”

By Caron Creighton (’19)