Dear Berkeley Journalism Community,
I am thrilled to be the first woman of color—indeed, the first woman—to serve as dean of Berkeley Journalism.
After working for nearly 30 years as an investigative reporter, a foreign correspondent and a political reporter—in beats dominated by white men, I know how hard it is to have your work recognized, to be offered equal opportunities for advancement when perceived as other. I know how hard it is to rise within a system that makes it harder for you and your talents to be truly seen.
I have succeeded beyond my wildest imagination because so many people reached down to lift me up. When I was frustrated, beaten down and made to feel less than for being born a woman, for being Indian, for possessing an accent, there were reporters and editors who took it upon themselves to fight for my story to run on Page One, push for me to get promoted on the grounds of merit, insist I be hired at UC Berkeley as a full professor with tenure—and most recently, encourage me to raise my hand for consideration as dean. Indeed, at times they recognized the potential in me before I saw it in myself.
Many of my champions were women and people of color—Adrian Walker at the Boston Globe, Elyse Tanouye and Rebecca Blumenstein at the Wall Street Journal, Lydia Chavez here at Berkeley. Many others were white men—Mike Siconolfi, Paul Steiger, Caleb Solomon at the Wall Street Journal, David Barstow at The New York Times, and here at Berkeley. I know I wouldn’t be here today as dean of Berkeley Journalism if these women and men, and many others, hadn’t used the privilege of their position and experiences to open doors historically closed on the basis of sex and race so that I could rise.
And yet the pain of not being seen has afforded me a kind of costly wisdom, proving incredibly valuable to me both as a human being and as a leader. It is my entire lived experience that I bring to this position, my success and humiliating discrimination that fuel my determination to transform not just our school but also our industry so that women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community are seen, supported, and unencumbered in their pursuit of success.
For Berkeley Journalism, that doesn’t mean just admitting a diverse student body. We already do that. Half of our students are people of color—and more than 60% are women. What we mean by supporting our first-generation students, our students of color, women and our LGBTQ+ students, is making sure they have the financial, emotional and academic support to succeed here and beyond.
My immediate predecessors, from Ed Wasserman to Neil Henry, to Orville Schell and Tom Goldstein, made big strides in building this school and supporting our students. And yet so much work remains to be done.
The tragedy of George Floyd’s death was met with the global call to end systemic racism, not only within the rank and file of law enforcement but across all institutions. For their part, our students told us in angry, painful letters how the pangs of structural racism are felt here on our campus. They told us how they have struggled to get the education that Berkeley Journalism promises while also working almost full time to pay for basic living expenses. Some have even fought eviction or just plain hunger while attending classes here. This is hard for them to say. This is hard for us to hear. But we heard them.
We have been working as a community since June to develop a plan to transform our school to address systemic racism. We are now engaged with a steering committee of our faculty, staff, students and alumni to strengthen that plan and implement it. That plan would have us raise money to provide substantially more financial aid to our students—and emergency assistance to meet urgent expenses that arise in their day-to-day lives.
But the faculty and I want to do much, much more. The fact that so many Americans were shocked that a Black man could be killed in broad daylight, as was the case with George Floyd, illustrates how journalism has failed to tell all stories. Certainly, prior to the video of his death being broadcast across the world, people of color had known the pervasiveness of the brutality he suffered at the hands of law enforcement sworn to protect and serve. The fact that journalism missed the deep support Donald Trump had in 2016 also reflects that failure of journalism to truly see, understand and empathize with the suffering of alienated white Americans. The fact that it is mostly a privileged class of white men directing our news coverage means that journalism has missed critically important stories—or failed to recognize their significance, their pervasiveness, their consequence on the whole. Diversifying the race and gender and class of journalists is essential to making sure all stories get told to give this country a chance to see the many grave injustices that remain—and address them.
Berkeley Journalism intends to be a leader in diversifying journalism by raising a $100 million endowment to make the school tuition free. Journalism is an essential public service, vital for a democracy to thrive. We must reduce the barriers of entry in our profession to ensure first generation students, BIPOC students, the children of immigrants, and gay and nonbinary students can become journalists. If our financial model is to graduate students with $70,000 in debt into a profession that is low paying, we will deter the very people whose voices need to be heard from even considering joining our school and our industry. Understanding this problem deeply, our faculty voted two years ago to work toward making our school tuition free. Today I am committing our school to this mission, the first I know of in journalism graduate education.
At Berkeley Journalism, we are expanding on the pivot to publishing that began this past spring with our partnership with The New York Times to cover the pandemic. More than 50 of our students, comprising half of our student body, were published in this unprecedented partnership. We are continuing that partnership in covering the elections with The Times, CalMatters, KQED and others. In the months ahead, we will continue to strengthen the publishing infrastructure at our school to give even more of our students the experience and credentials to get hired into great journalism jobs.
Journalism has never been more attacked than during the past four years of the Trump presidency when even the most deeply reported stories are denounced as fake news. The idea of a society based on facts hangs in the balance. The truth needs reinforcements. Berkeley Journalism stands ready to shore up our profession and defend our democracy by sending the most diverse, best trained and most passionate revealers of truth and injustice into our troubled world.
I am humbled, honored and excited to serve as your next dean of Berkeley Journalism. To team up with you to build the support systems in our school that I know from my own experience are essential to succeed and to lead. Together, we will ensure that the stories being told reflect all of the American experience.
Dean and Professor
Robert A. Peck Chair
Graduate School of Journalism
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Wesley Lowery is joining Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program as Special Projects Editor this semester. Lowery is leading a team of graduate students investigating police misconduct in the United States, and he’s offering advice and guidance on other IRP investigations.
The IRP is excited to announce that it has hired eleven J-School students to work as research assistants for the fall 2020 semester. They are: Jesse Bedayn (’21), Brian Howey (’22), Subuk Hasnain (’22), Daniel Lempres (’21), Julia Kane (’21), Bashirah Mack (’22), Anne Marshall-Chalmers (’22), Steven Rascon (’22), Daniel Roman (’21), Arijit Sen (’22) and Melissa Perez Winder (’22). In addition, Brett Simpson (’21) is our graduate student researcher for the 2020-21 academic year.
All 12 students are working up to 10 hours per week on groundbreaking, high-impact investigative reporting projects under the supervision of IRP reporters and editors.
Thanks to all of you who applied for these positions. We received several dozen applications, so it was a highly competitive selection process. We’ll be accepting applications for the spring semester research assistant positions in January 2021.
The IRP is seeking two full-time editors to join our team.
IRP’s Managing Editor of Documentaries Carrie Lozano is leaving to lead Sundance Institute’s documentary film program.
It is with this strong sense of purpose that we stepped up to cover the current public health crisis. In March, the IRP forged an unprecedented partnership with The New York Times to report on the pandemic’s impact on California’s 58 counties. IRP Director Geeta Anand and I mobilized 100 graduate students and faculty into small reporting teams, working mostly remotely. In a few short months, 38 students received bylines, tag lines and photo credits in The Times, including two front-page stories, one by Ali DeFazio (’20) and Brian Wollitz (’21) and another by Katey Rusch (’20)and Casey Smith (’20). Three students, Yuriria Avila (’21), Barbara Harvey (’20) and Alex Leeds Matthews (’20), made important contributions to a historic Times front page listing those who died of Covid-19. (Scroll down to see the actual front pages.) Much of our coverage focused on vulnerable populations, including farmworkers and homeless older adults. In case you missed it, The Times wrote about its unique partnership with Berkeley Journalism in a recent article on page A2 in the print edition.Forty-two students have also been published in other outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, San Francisco Chronicle, CalMatters, NPR, KQED, PBS FRONTLINE and PBS NewsHour. You can find all of the student work here. We could not be more proud. Special thanks to Berkeley Journalism advisory board member Angela Filo (’99) and George Zimmer, who provided core financial support for the Covid reporting project, as well as professors Michael Pollan and Elena Conis for their contributions. Our reporting has continued through the summer — with 15 of the IRP’s 28 summer interns focused on covering the pandemic, as well as the fallout from George Floyd’s death, including a recent piece by Betty Márquez Rosales (’20) about an anti-violence program in Stockton, Calif. Please watch this 90-second video about the students’ extraordinary reporting effort. If you’d like to lend support to this vital reporting and learning, please give here. THE TRIALS OF GABRIEL FERNANDEZ
Weeks before the pandemic upended the country, the IRP’s six-part documentary “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” began streaming on Netflix and debuted at #1 in the U.S. The docuseries examines the brutal death of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez by his mother and boyfriend, and the government systems that failed to protect him. It’s the culmination of years of reporting by the IRP’s Garrett Therolf, who was the series’ producer and also appears in the docuseries. Students Cecilia Lei (’19), Casey Smith (’20) and Alyson Stamos (’20) contributed research. To support our continued reporting on vulnerable children, the IRP has established “Gabriel’s Fund,” which has already received many donations from those who were moved by the Netflix docuseries. Meantime, Garrett and a team of students are about to publish another gut-wrenching investigation about child abuse. Stay tuned.
A six-month investigation led by the IRP last fall is particularly resonant in the wake of recent protests against police brutality. “California’s Criminal Cops” exposed hundreds of police officers with criminal convictions across the state, some of them still on the job. The project was published on the front pages of 35 California newspapers on the same weekend in November 2019. Laurence DuSault (’20), Katey Rusch (’20) and Ali DeFazio (’20) were key members of the reporting team. Our in-depth look at police misconduct continues with another groundbreaking investigation — the culmination of two students’ master’s thesis project! — coming soon.
All this is part of a larger effort to put students at the very center of what the IRP does. In fact, we’ve flipped the script on what the IRP has traditionally done. Instead of inviting a small number of students to participate in projects by IRP staff, we hired three dozen students (pictured right) and created an infrastructure that supports investigative projects conceived and executed by students. Our goal is to encourage and empower our incredibly diverse student body to dig into the kinds of stories that have long been overlooked or ignored by newsrooms everywhere. Special thanks to Richard Logan of The Reva & David Logan Foundation for providing funds for student projects, and to the MacArthur Foundation for believing in our mission.
On the teaching front, I’m wrapping up my first academic year here at UC Berkeley as the Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism. I’ve had the privilege of teaching investigative reporting to nearly 60 students — roughly half the student body — and I look forward to teaching two seminars this fall — albeit online, due to a campus mandate to begin the semester with fully remote instruction.
As you know, due to Covid-19, we made the difficult decision to cancel the 14th Annual Reva & David Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting, scheduled for this past April. Thanks to our invited speakers, planning committee and sponsors, especially The Reva & David Logan Foundation and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, for their steadfast support of this beloved gathering. We look forward to convening with all of you when it’s safe to do so.
As many of you already know, IRP Director Geeta Anand was appointed interim dean of Berkeley Journalism this month. I cannot think of anyone better to lead our school through this historic moment and help transform our industry into one that truly reflects the diversity of this country. I plan to continue working closely with Geeta to create the best training ground for young diverse journalists.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The road to solving racial inequality in journalism is long and steep, and we still have a long way to go. But the task has never been more urgent, and with the racial and social reckoning prompted by George Floyd’s death, the opportunity to vanquish the status quo has never been closer. We hope you will join us in our collective effort to remake and reimagine investigative journalism.
Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism
IRP Director Geeta Anand has agreed to serve as interim dean of Berkeley Journalism, beginning July 1, 2020.
The New York Times profiles its Covid-19 California reporting initiative with IRP & Berkeley Journalism in this Times Insider piece.
The IRP has established a reporting fund in memory of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend in Palmdale, California after months of torture. His murder was the subject of the Netflix docuseries ‘The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez,” which is based on in-depth reporting by the IRP’s Garrett Therolf.
Money raised will support continued reporting on vulnerable children, led by Therolf.
With the country in the grips of a devastating pandemic, the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley has joined forces with The New York Times to help meet the need for comprehensive reporting on how this crisis is affecting California.
Under the leadership of the School’s Investigative Reporting Program, more than 80 students and nearly 20 journalism instructors have been organized into small reporting teams to cover how the novel coronavirus is impacting each of California’s 58 counties. The teams are producing stories that will run in either the main edition of The Times or in its five-day-a-week newsletter, California Today, which reaches several hundred thousand readers.
UPDATE 4/6/20: The fellowship program is suspended due to a campus-wide hiring freeze. We apologize for any inconvenience.
We’ve begun accepting applications for the 2020-21 IRP Fellowships. We’re hiring 2-3 full-time fellows in investigative reporting. These positions are designed to enable select journalists with a proven ability to tell complex stories in the public interest to pursue a story for one year by providing them with a salary, benefits, office space and editorial guidance, the assistance of graduate student researchers and up to $10,000 for approved expenses.
“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez,” a six-part documentary series based on reporting by the IRP’s Garrett Therolf, began streaming on February 26 and was #1 on Netflix in the U.S. in its first week.
Geeta Anand, acting professor of reporting at the Graduate School of Journalism, has been named director of the School’s Investigative Reporting Program (IRP). Prof. Anand had been serving as interim director since July under Prof. David Barstow, who leads the IRP as the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism.
David Barstow, a senior writer at The New York Times and the first reporter to ever win four Pulitzer Prizes, is the new head of investigative reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Barstow will lead Berkeley Journalism’s prestigious Investigative Reporting Program, founded by Prof. Lowell Bergman, who retired in June after 28 years of teaching at UC Berkeley.
Yoav Potash, director of the award-winning documentary Crime After Crime, wrote in Videomaker magazine about his decision to take the IRP’s Professional Workshop for Independent Filmmakers and how it helped him improve his investigative skills. Potash writes that even after his previous success, he learned invaluable information about journalism and bulletproofing his stories.