Dear Berkeley Journalism Community,
I accept the job of interim dean at a historic moment when the pain, fury and activism unleashed by George Floyd’s death present us with the mandate and the opportunity to make transformative change.
Students, please know that we hear you. We support your request—indeed, your demand—that Berkeley Journalism act with utmost urgency to fight systemic, anti-Black and other forms of racism.
There have been too many statements of solidarity and not enough deeds. From now on, I urge you to pay more attention to what we do, rather than what we say. Hold us accountable. In the spirit of transparency, I will be sending you weekly updates and holding open office hours each week on Zoom.
Let’s move forward with the joint mission to make journalism—at long last—truly reflect the color, class, gender and sexual preferences of the people of this country. If we believe in journalism as a force for truth and justice, then there cannot be a more important mission. Let’s do everything in our power to ensure that the revealers of truth and justice reflect the lived experiences of all people. That they are Indigenous. That they are Black. That they are Latinx. That they are Asian American. That they are gay, bisexual, trans, and that they are women. Immigrants and poor. And yes, privileged and white male also.
As we journey together on this vitally important mission, let us hold each other accountable to the principles of community and dialogue. Let’s invite participation in this transformation not just from the bold and the loud, but also the reticent and the shy. Let’s agree that, “we won’t demean, devalue or ‘put down’ people for their experiences, lack of experiences, or differences in interpretation of those experiences.” For our mission to be successful, it is critical to hear all voices.
As I step into this role, our students in the National Association of Black Journalists have asked us to respond to specific action items for creating a truly anti-racist community. In response, 30 faculty members, lecturers and staff have volunteered to join working groups to develop meaningful plans. They will present them to me on July 15. I will then engage with students and alumni to further develop these plans. I will have no higher priority than implementing the recommendations that come out of this inclusive process.
As we all know, public universities—and indeed, Berkeley Journalism, have been severely resource-constrained in recent years. Where we once had 15 Senate Faculty members, we now effectively have only nine—and yet there could not be a more important moment for journalism in this country.
For almost four years, we have endured a president who continuously attacks journalists and calls them “the enemy of the people.” Scores of journalists have been arrested and injured in the recent protests. Journalism desperately needs reinforcements. Together with our incredible faculty, I will be reaching out to donors who care passionately about journalism and democracy, urging them to meet this moment by investing in this gem of a journalism school.
With new funding, we will seek to increase support for first-generation students, Black, Indigenous and other students of color, so they can afford to enter our profession.
This past spring, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, 20 instructors came together and within one week transformed our school into a newsroom with 80 students. More than 50 students got their work published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, KQED, Cal Matters, the Desert Sun and many more publications. Building off the spirit of innovation and camaraderie in that effort, I am asking all of our faculty and lecturers to participate in establishing a more permanent publishing infrastructure at our school.
At this moment when local journalism is struggling to survive, I will rededicate Berkeley Journalism to covering our communities. Not only is robust local news essential to democracy, but there is no better training ground for reporters. With this in mind, we plan this fall to hire editors for Oakland North and Richmond Confidential with the goal of having them serve their communities year-round.
And this is just the start.
I know the value of local journalism because I began my career as a reporter at a free weekly shopper on Cape Cod. I spent four years after that covering local government in Vermont before joining the Boston Globe where I became City Hall bureau chief. Day after day, I saw how the stories I did held the governments I covered accountable.
I also learned how hard it is as a woman and a person of color to enter professions traditionally dominated by white men. It was hard to convince my editors that I, an Indian woman who came to the U.S. as a college student, could cover politics, the domain of the Boston Irish. It was only when the Black City Hall bureau chief, Adrian Walker, noticed my talent and personally lobbied on my behalf that I was finally hired to do the job.
I went on to the Wall Street Journal where I became one of the newspaper’s best investigative reporters. But there, too, I had to learn how to fight to be paid well and how to gain recognition for my work. I learned these lessons from a female editor, Elyse Tanouye, who made it her job to teach me.
Most recently, after spending 10 years as a foreign correspondent in India for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, it was a female professor at Berkeley Journalism, Lydia Chavez, who heard about my work and invited me here to teach in 2018. When I was being considered for permanent faculty, it was Lydia who insisted I be tenured. Last year, it was she who floated the idea of my becoming director of the Investigative Reporting Program, and she is among those who have encouraged me to pursue the job of dean of Berkeley Journalism.
To be sure, I have had many wonderful mentors, including some who happened to be white men. But I know how hard it is as a person of color and a woman to break into publications that have been historically dominated by white men, even when they have the very best of intentions. I know that I am here today in part because people of color—most often, women of color—reached down to lift me up. They recognized my work when others didn’t. They pointed out the path to success. And they saw the potential in me when I hadn’t yet recognized it in myself.
Today, as I step into this role as your interim dean, I do so as the first woman of color—and indeed, the first woman to serve in the capacity of dean in the history of Berkeley Journalism. And I do so with deep gratitude to the people who gave me the support that was vital to my success.
Knowing so deeply from my own experience what it takes for women and people of color to perform journalism at the very highest level, and to become leaders, I pledge to strengthen this school in a way that gives historically disenfranchised people the support they need to succeed in what I consider the most meaningful job in the world today. I could not be more excited to seize this moment that demands we be brave and bold in our work together to reinforce and transform the work of journalism.
Interim Dean and Professor
Announcement: Interim Dean of Berkeley Journalism
June 29, 2020
Dear campus community,
After seven years at the helm of Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Edward Wasserman has announced that he will be stepping down as dean and rejoining the faculty full-time as a professor in media ethics. We are delighted to announce that Professor Geeta Anand has agreed to serve as interim Dean of Berkeley Journalism beginning July 1, 2020.
Geeta began teaching at Berkeley in 2018, and also serves as director of the Investigative Reporting Program. An esteemed veteran journalist specializing in narrative writing and investigative reporting, Geeta began her career covering local government in Vermont, before going on to become the city hall bureau chief for the Boston Globe, and later serving as a foreign correspondent in India for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the non-fiction book The Cure. She was a key member of the team of reporters that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for their coverage of the history and impact of corporate scandals in America, and wrote the lead story in a series that was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer prize for revealing how hidden decision-makers make critical choices about who gets health care. Among her other honors, Geeta is also the recipient of the Gerald Loeb award, the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting, and the Danny Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting.
The search for a new dean for Berkeley Journalism will continue on as planned. The priority review date for applications, June 30th, is approaching; we anticipate that a new dean will be announced during the fall 2020 semester. We are confident that Geeta’s journalistic excellence, leadership experience, and dedication to the School will help us to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
In closing, we wish to again express our gratitude to current dean Ed Wasserman for his service to the Graduate School of Journalism and to the Berkeley campus. Ed has been a tireless advocate for scholarly excellence and Berkeley Journalism’s mission of public service through journalism, and has been instrumental in maintaining the School’s standing as a top institution for graduate training in journalism.
Carol T. Christ
A. Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost