Class of 2013
William Harless is Bay Area investigative journalist whose work has been published by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the PBS NewsHour, The New York Times, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Huffington Post.
Harless served in the Peace Corps in rural, northeast Thailand from 2008-2010, teaching HIV/AIDS prevention to farmers’ wives, working with his village government on a youth development program and teaching English to primary and middle school students.
He has spent the fall and winter of 2012 filming a documentary about an inner-city high school football team in Richmond, Calif., which was his master’s thesis. In 2012, he received the Mark Felt Scholarship for Investigative Reporting from Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program, where he researched for FRONTLINE.
Since moving to California in 2011, Harless has broken news of the American Beverage Association campaign against a proposed soft-drink tax in Richmond; and, for The New York Times, written about how major banks let houses they had foreclosed on in low-income East Bay neighborhoods become dilapidated. For The Center for Investigative Reporting, he reported how the largest composting facility in California äóñ where cities including Los Angeles and Beverly Hills were sending their green waste äóñ allowed two young brothers to die while cleaning trash by hand in an underground sewage drain. He was the only American reporter to interview their mother.
In Nashville, Harless’s reporting led a longtime congressman to return $40,000 in campaign contributions, and it motivated the city council to pass new financial disclosure regulations for nonprofit organizations receiving city funds. He was known for breaking news there and, before writing for one of the daily newspapers, interned for Nashville Public Radio.
Harless studied English literature at Lipscomb University in Nashville, he has interviewed (briefly) Ke$ha and Taylor Swift (before she was famous) and, in Thailand, sung karaoke to Elvis, the Beatles and Billy Joel. His rendition of “Hey Jude” was a hit, but his performance of “Piano Man” was not.