Berkeley Journalism audio students honored in national College Broadcasters competition

November 24, 2023

Two Berkeley Journalism radio projects recently took top honors in the College Broadcasters National Student Production Awards “Best Documentary” category, for stories about indigenous Ohlone land and dis/misinformation in politics.

Professor Shereen Marisol Meraji’s students took the top spot for their piece “Ohlone Land” on Northgate Radio, which examines the City of Oakland’s successful resolution to return five acres of land to the Ohlone, making history as the first municipality in the nation to return city land to an indigenous group that is not federally recognized.

Bria Suggs, Jenna Hards, Max Harrison-Caldwell, Laura Isaza and Laura Fitzgerald. Photo: Shereen Marisol Meraji.

Students Bria Suggs, Laura Fitzgerald, Laura Isaza, Max Harrison-Caldwell, and Jenna Hards contributed to the series that aired in December 2022, unpacking Oakland’s resolution as well as examining other East Bay efforts to repair harm done to local indigenous communities.

Listen to it here:

“These students chose an incredibly complicated issue to report on and did the work with thoughtfulness and care,” said Meraji, about the pieces that aired on KALX in Berkeley and KALW’s “Crosscurrents,” a public affairs show. “Prizes are nice but the real reward is knowing how they approached the topic with humility, wanting to learn as much as they could before sticking a microphone in someone’s face.”

Suggs said she’s grateful that her classmates worked so well together, helping each other with reported segments and making sure that the individual stories flowed into a cohesive piece. With extraordinary support and editing from Meraji, she says the team was able to produce a series about an important story.

“The Land Back story is really significant because what happened right here in the Bay set a national precedent,” Suggs said. “The City of Oakland showed that change and forms of reparations can happen at the local level.”

Berkeley Journalism students also took second place in the documentary category for one of their stories in the Northgate Radio series, “The Health of the Internet.”

Professor Queena Kim and award-winning investigative reporter Aaron Glantz taught a multidisciplinary class, which was half journalism students and half law, public policy, and information school students as part of the university’s “Our Better Web” initiative. The class explored Section 230, a law that helped create the Internet as we know it today and its role in sowing disinformation and misinformation on the web. The award-winning radio piece was produced by Hanisha Harjani (‘23) with reporters Lola Proctor (’23), Celina Avalos Jaramillo, Steven Rascón (’22), Danielle Elliot, Olivia Zhao and Forogh Bashizada (’23).

Listen to it here:

Kim said the class was full of “super talented and interesting people.” She noted that the multidisciplinary composition of the class enabled healthy debate and was a perfect meld of students who knew how to tell stories and others who brought disciplinary substance. 

“As journalists we come from a certain perspective. Information is our bread and butter. And maybe we’re a little more skeptical than the other groups,” said Kim. “It was a healthy tension and made for a better class of interrogating the pros and cons of Section 230.” 

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