The culture of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is revealed in our heritage. It also offers some insight into our future.
While the University has offered a journalism major since 1937, the professional school was launched in 1968.
Holding the powerful accountable
1968. A tumultuous year marked by political unrest, violence and fading trust in the country’s leadership and institutions. Citizens were demanding the truth.
And Berkeley was the epicenter of many dramatic events. “We frequently had to evacuate the building because it was full of tear gas,” recalls Edwin Bayley, our first dean.
Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, a catalyst for the decade’s upheaval. The police car from which philosophy major Mario Savio spoke on October 1, 1964 was parked outside Sproul Hall, then the home of Berkeley Journalism.
A heritage of fresh thinking
In 1981, the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism moved to its current home in North Gate Hall, which had housed the College of Architecture since 1905. It was the informal home of the Bay Region Style, a movement noted not for rigid principles, but by using the “local truth,” ignoring rules as the space and environment require. For example, the north windows break the roofline, violating the traditions of “correct” architecture for a simple reason – the spaces inside needed light.
It’s a perfect metaphor for aspiring journalists – sometimes, to shed light, you need to re-think traditional standards.
Embracing this principle is central to our heritage:
We focus on practical skills rather than traditional theory.
Our instructors traditionally are celebrated journalists who act as mentors for their students.
We established the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) in 2006 under Lowell Bergman, the first non-profit newsroom at a university.
In 2007, the IRP hosted the first Logan Symposium in Investigative Reporting, the only one of its kind.
Building on our heritage of encouraging students to publish their work, we launched three hyperlocal news sites in 2008.
These examples underscore why our history matters today. From the start, we’ve been dedicated to helping journalists tell important stories, pursue and disseminate the truth, and act as a catalyst for justice, human rights and meaningful change.
And our heritage is very much alive. We have seen an explosion of new platforms for journalists and storytellers, from streaming outlets for documentaries to all manner of podcasts. In response, we have created new curricular innovations, and also launched initiatives like the Advanced Media Institute offering digital media training to mid-career journalists.
Which shows that our history does not bind us – it frees us to innovate, to get better, to enable like-minded journalists to tell the stories that can change the world.
Spotlight on women in journalism
Rebecca Solnit (‘84)
Rebecca Solnit (‘84) is a writer, historian, and activist who has emerged as one of the leading public intellectuals in the contemporary media landscape. In 2017, the New York Times named her “the voice of the resistance.” In addition to her role as a columnist for Harper’s Magazine, Solnit has authored 20 books on feminism, western and Indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and disaster. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award. Today, she writes for the New Yorker and the Guardian.
Harriet Nathan (‘41)
Harriet Nathan (‘41) was the first woman to serve as managing editor of the Daily Californian. From the 1950s to 1987, she prepared public-affairs reports on state and regional policy issues at the Institute of Governmental Studies. In 1966, she began working at the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO). For nearly 40 years, Harriet interviewed nearly 50 subjects, including philanthropists, civic leaders, Bay Area artists, and five Berkeley chancellors. She holds the record for the longest oral history produced by ROHO: she interviewed the founding dean of Berkeley's business school over the course of 12 years.
Tamara Keith (’01)
Tamara Keith (’01) is a White House correspondent for National Public Radio and co-host of the NPRPolitics Podcast. On Mondays she joins the PBS NewsHour for its weekly Politics Monday segment. Previously, she covered Congress and business for NPR and before that worked at member stations KQED, KPCC and WOSU. She got her start in journalism while in high school as an essayist for NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, thanks to an effective letter-writing campaign, and after completing her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, became the youngest person to graduate from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.
Geeta Anand is the first woman - and woman of color - to serve as dean of Berkeley Journalism. She is a journalist and author whose stories on corporate corruption won the Wall Street Journal a Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Geeta wrote the non-fiction book, The Cure, about a dad’s fight to save his kids by starting a biotech company to make a medicine for their untreatable illness, which was made into the Harrison Ford movie Extraordinary Measures in 2010.
Terry McMillan (‘77)
Terry McMillan (‘77) has garnered critical acclaim for plumbing the depths of human nature and bringing Black women protagonists to the forefront. Her novels tell the stories of complex Black women navigating romance, personal relationships, family drama, high-powered careers, and new stages of life. All 10 of her novels, including this year’s “It’s Not All Downhill From Here,” have been New York Times bestsellers. “Waiting to Exhale” (1992) and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (1996) were made into films, and “Disappearing Acts” (1989) and “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (2001) became made-for-television movies.
Carrie Lozano (‘05)
Carrie Lozano (‘05) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist. Currently, she is director of the Documentary Film Program at the Sundance Institute. Previously, she was executive producer for documentaries at Al Jazeera America and senior producer of the network’s investigative series “Fault Lines,” where her team earned numerous honors, including an Emmy, a Peabody and several Headliner Awards. Carrie produced the Academy Award nominee “The Weather Underground,” which premiered at Sundance and aired on Independent Lens, and produced and directed the Student Academy Award-winning film “Reporter Zero,” which aired on MTV LOGO and premiered at Berlin.
Sarah Monique Bloom (’04)
Sarah Monique Bloom (’04) is a nationally recognized author and journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and O, The Oprah Magazine. A native New Orleanian, she began her writing career as a newspaper journalist working in Rhode Island, Dallas, and Hong Kong (for TIME Asia). As a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Whiting Award for Creative Nonfiction, Broom gracefully interweaves the personal tragedy of being uprooted with the political discontents of the United States in her first book and memoir, The Yellow House.
October 3, 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ unanimous approval of a resolution by Regent Samuel F. Butterworth: “That young ladies be admitted into the University on equal terms in all respects with young men.” The first women were admitted in 1870, and Rosa Scrivner became the first woman to graduate in 1874 with a Bachelor's degree in Agriculture. Since then, countless women have graduated from UC Berkeley. Staff, faculty, and community members have made invaluable contributions to the campus and the world beyond.
Learn more about the 150 Years of Women at Berkeley project.
Marlon Riggs was born in Fort Worth, TX in 1957. His parents worked for the military, so he traveled extensively. He confronted prejudice in the deep south, but also found greater tolerance in Bavarian state of Nurnberg, where he created an interpretive dance about American slavery and was President of the Varsity Club. He eventually graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, then earned a graduate degree at UC Berkeley. While in the Bay Area, he worked on many independent documentaries, eventually winning a National Emmy Award for the film Ethnic Notions, as well as the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.
Why are we telling this story? Because we hired Marlon Riggs in 1987 to teach documentary filmmaking. As a non-traditional member of our faculty, Marlon Riggs exemplified everything about our School, as both a student and an instructor, and as a courageous storyteller who used his craft to confront injustice. Sadly, he died of AIDS in 1994.