• John and Douglas Fang: Amelia Williams
• Tori Minton: Robert Jalon
• Bob Brown: Sylvie Sturm
• Robert Cushing: Amelia Williams
• Otto Bos: Celine Wuu
• Frank McCulloch: Janett Perez
• Stacey Doukas: David Rodriguez
• Greg Robinson First Place: Niko LaBarbera
• Greg Robinson Second Place: Janett Perez
• Fran Ortiz Photojournalism Grant: Joel Angel Juarez
• John and Douglas Fang: Amelia Williams
A journalism student with a drive to bring more diversity into the media landscape is the winner of the 2018-2019 Otto J. Bos Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Journalism.
Growing up in Santa Clara, Celine Wuu was first inspired to pursue journalism when she discovered that white men far outnumber women and minorities in newsrooms. That awareness ignited her desire to make a change.
“I've been intrigued to enter a field where a diverse range of perspectives are necessary from both sides … those being reported on and those doing the reporting,” Wuu said.
In her scholarship-winning essay, Wuu suggested that a more diverse media could even have prevented the election of the current president, Donald Trump.
“By including the viewpoints of smaller communities from a reporter with a similar understanding of where they come from, and articles that pertained to how policy changes could affect these communities, it could have an incredible impact in voter outcome,” she wrote.
After graduating in spring 2019, Wuu said she hopes to become an audience engagement editor to help publications better understand audiences and “restore trust” in the media.
“I think that it is vital for the future survival of the industry to be able to listen to what the public is experiencing or demanding and respond with stories or news that are relevant and relatable,” Wuu said.
The annual scholarship honors the memory of Otto J. Bos, who was a 1970 graduate of the department, editor of its award-winning newspaper (then named Phoenix) and an All-American soccer star. Following graduation, he covered politics and government for The San Diego Union.
He became a key staff member of San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, who later was elected a U.S. senator and then governor of California. At the time of his death of a heart attack in 1991, Otto was Gov. Wilson’s director of communications and public affairs.
Family and friends created the scholarship, which covers a full year’s in-state tuition fees – currently approximately $7,250. The department’s largest scholarship has been awarded to a current or incoming journalism student since 1992.
Wuu said she was shocked and move to tears when she learned she’d won.
“This scholarship signified a moment of personal triumph and affirmation that my forward outlook in pursuing a career in the journalism world was supported,” she said.
When SF State journalism lecturer Joanne Derbort found out on April 16 that she and her news team at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for coverage of the Sonoma County fires, she was overwhelmed with joy.
“I was so incredibly happy for my former newsroom team that all our hard work was recognized and rewarded,” Derbort said.
But that joy was quickly dampened by the sad reminder that the award-winning coverage had documented one of the worst tragedies to befall her community.
On Oct. 9, 2017, a firestorm began raging throughout the region, and over the next three weeks, destroyed 6,190 homes, killed 40 people and forced tens of thousands to abandon their homes to the fire in order to save their own lives. It was the most destructive fire ever in California.
“So very many people lost so much and are still hurting,” Derbort said.
It all started well before dawn as the Tubbs fire, propelled by gusting winds and dry land, swept across the hills of Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties and into Santa Rosa city limits.
The Press Democrat’s team of reporters, photographers and editors quickly went to work providing the community with some clarity in all the chaos.
For three weeks, their unrelenting coverage delivered critical news to the region’s residents through its website, live video feeds, social media channels and cellphone push alerts — even when the chaos entered the newsroom.
“For the first few days… colleagues would bring their exhausted, evacuated families into the newsroom; spouses would nap on the armchairs and couches, kids and dogs would be running up and down the aisles of the newsroom,” Derbort said.
Reporters and photographers on the front lines “risked a lot” to get stories, often at great personal expense, she said. They drove through downtown Santa Rosa with headlights on to better see through the thick smoke and ash raining down. And everyone had respirator-rated masks that they never took off when outside.
Reporters livestreamed video footage in gusting winds, surrounded by flaming structures and grassland, often only a few meters from their feet. One video segment ended with an unseen man warning others that he’d spotted a gas line and they all needed to “get out of here.”
Meanwhile, everyone in the newsroom faced the reality that their homes could be evacuated at a moment’s notice, Derbort said.
“The fires were so massive and their direction so unpredictable,” she said.
Through it all, Derbort worked with a small team of three other editors directing, assigning, and conceptualizing the coverage, and editing it as it came in.
“There were so very many moving parts to the story, and it changed so quickly,” she said. “We were updating our website constantly as well as putting out a daily paper.”
Everyone worked 16 hours a day and never took a break, Derbort said. And they would probably have gone without eating too, if not for the thoughtfulness of other newsrooms throughout the U.S. that had covered huge disasters themselves.
“They sent us food,” she said. “It was an amazing feeling of being taken care of by peers who knew firsthand what it feels like to be covering an ongoing disaster… That went on for weeks.”
The Pulitzer Prize Board rewarded the news team’s heroic efforts by naming the Press Democrat winner of the breaking news prize for its “lucid and tenacious coverage of historic wildfires that ravaged the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, expertly utilizing an array of tools, including photography, video and social media platforms, to bring clarity to its readers — in real time and in subsequent in-depth reporting.”
The Press Democrat beat out the other two finalists: The Houston Chronicle for its Aug. 2017, coverage of Hurricane Harvey devastation, and The New York Times for its Oct. 2017, coverage of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas.
Derbort found out her team had won while she was at SF State University, working with students on the coming [X]press Magazine, a student publication. This allowed a few lucky students to celebrate along with her.
The prize is not only profoundly meaningful for Derbort and her team, but acting chair Venise Wagner believes it also hits on three key takeaways for students.
First, it models excellence for the students, she said. Second, it reminds students that journalism serves an important purpose. And third, it’s aspirational.
“If you know somebody who’s accomplished something really cool like this, it puts it in your mind, ‘Well maybe I can do that, too,’” Wagner said.
We’ve all been told that the American Dream is a winning formula: work hard, invest earnings, pass wealth on to your children so they can build on it and pass it on to their children, and so on. How can you lose?
Generations of African-Americans have been frozen out of the American Dream, and instead relegated to a system of financial and social barriers, according to a research paper by Michael K. Brown, research professor of politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, titled “Divergent Fates: The Foundations of Durable Racial Inequality, 1940 – 2013.”
Brown’s research shows that just as accumulated wealth increasingly benefits each generation of white families, barriers imposed upon African-Americans impede each successive generation from building wealth and achieving higher economic status.
This injustice is at the heart of San Francisco State University Journalism Department Interim Chair and Associate Professor Venise Wagner’s research article, “Living Red: Black Steelworkers and the Wealth Gap,” which just won the 2018 Best Journal Article by the United Association of Labor Education.
“It’s so easy and it’s so common for people to look at a group of people and say, ‘They’re poor, or they don’t have anything because it’s their own doing,’” Wagner said in an interview. “People make bad decisions all the time, but the consequences of those bad decisions vary.”
Wagner’s article is actually the beginning of a book she’s writing about her grandfather, Robert Elkins, a U.S. Steel boilermaker in Chicago from 1942 to 1976, who was blocked for decades from a promotion to journeyman despite watching his white ethnic trainees get promoted above him.
Wagner knew that her grandfather finally did receive journeyman status, but she only recently discovered that the promotion was thanks to a disgruntled company supervisor, who, just before quitting, made it his last mission to rectify this injustice and give Elkins his long-deserved promotion.
“I was like, ‘Oh, now that’s an interesting story!’” she said. “From there on in, I was hooked. I was like, ‘OK, I had to figure out what was going on.’”
Her research, which has so far led her to Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin, focuses on Chicago steelworkers in the 1950s. The article highlights a litany of inequalities between black and white steelworkers by focusing on the impact of one historical event, the 1959 Chicago steelworkers strike.
The four-month strike resulted in black steelworkers filing for bankruptcy at much higher rates than white steelworkers. One important factor was the union’s own policies, which secured coveted positions for white steelworkers, while blocking black steelworkers from the same opportunities.
“I think the bigger crime is the unions,” Wagner said. “While saying that they were, you know, all brotherhood and wanting to support all workers there, the system was established as a way of maintaining white supremacy… Even though Klan robes might not be involved, it’s sort of the thinking that, ‘I am better and so I’m entitled to what those people shouldn’t be entitled to.’”
Another practice undermining African-American communities, she writes, was Federal Housing Administration policies delineating neighborhoods by race, which limited housing opportunities for black families, creating low supply and high demand, and inflating prices. Policies also blocked African-Americans from conventional mortgages, making more susceptible to predatory lending.
Also hindering African-American upward mobility were banking and credit policies that imposed unfavorable terms and much higher interest rates than for the white population.
“Such grievous credit policies kept many black petitioners shackled in debt,” Wagner wrote.
The United Association of Labor Education honored Wagner for advancing efforts to analyze the divisions that make it difficult to work in solidarity.
“In both developed and developing countries, workers face poverty, unsafe working conditions, environmental destruction and the undermining of pro-worker policies in the service of global capital,” according to the association mission statement. “Together, we can identify strategies for taking on these challenges.”
Wagner said she was stunned to have received the award, and she appreciated the boost of confidence while still in the early stages of writing her book. She hopes to submit a book proposal to a publisher by the end of 2019.
“In many ways it gives me a boost of confidence that this is really a worthy project,” she said. “The other thing this does is it elevates this issue.”
Wagner hopes that readers will see that there’s universality in the theme of oppression. Although there’s certainly a racial structure around who is provided opportunities and who is not, “race has also gotten in the way of some working class whites to recognize the commonality that actually exists,” she said.
“Because those in power have used race as the wedge.”
Wagner’s ultimate goal, however, is to instill empathy.
“What I’m trying to get people to see is the experiences of others and that they put themselves in those experiences,” she said. “And I think that’s when we start coming together.”
Xyza Cruz Bacani catches people unaware, which is surely one of the secrets behind her powerful street photography.
As the Hong Kong-based documentary photographer walked to the front of a room full of San Francisco State journalism students on Feb. 26, her presence seemed understated at first.
The diminutive 31-year-old, dressed all in black, was a little frazzled from a hectic schedule that, over the previous weekend, brought her from London to New York then onto San Francisco to showcase her work at Photofairs SF.
But once she started speaking and displaying her images onto a large screen behind her, it took only a few moments to realize Bacani is a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m still a street photographer, a hunter,”
she told about 40 students.
Originally from the Philippines, Bacani a domestic helper nearly 10 years. Despite her dim prospects, she never gave up on her dream of being a professional photographer, and refined her skills every day by taking shots of people and scenes that caught her eye.
“There’s crippling self-doubt that will visit you at two in the morning,” she said. “Doubt is good, but don’t let it cripple you.”In 2014, she turned her lens to other migrant Filipino workers in Hong Kong who, unlike her, horribl abuse while suffering what Bacani calls “modern slavery.” documented the physical and emotional scars of women living in a shelter for abused domestic workers.
Winning documentary photographer Rick Rocamora came across her work on Facebook mentoring and connections.
Her photo essay of domestic workers appeared in the New York Times Lens Blog in 2014. Then in 2015, she received the prestigious Magnum Human Rights Fellowship, which landed her a CNN interview. That year she was also named one of the BBC’s “100 Women of 2015,” and she made Forbes Asia’s “30 Under 30.”
The stories Bacani told helped some of the victims fight for justice. One striking example was Shirley, a domestic worker who appeared in Bacani’s series showing back severe burn scars. Shirley’s employer had poured boiling soup on her, then refused her medical leave and fired her.
Shirley’s subsequent lawsuit was going nowhere until her story was featured during a CNN interview with Bacani. After that, Shirley won her case, and a -million-peso settlement.
While Shirley’s legal victory is uncommon, her story is not.
Bacani,a book that highlights social injustices suffered by migrant workers throughout Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. It’s titled, “We Are Like Air.”
“Migrant workers are like air, invisible but necessary,” Bacani said.
Sometimes being a human rights photographer makes a political lightning rod. Her recent series of images of Occupy Hong Kong protests were viewed as especially antagonizing by the notoriously secretive government of China.
She insists, however, that she had no political statements to make about the protests.
“I’m only there to document,” she said. Despite the challenges her elevated profile may bring, Bacani remains undaunted.
“You’ll meet a lot of people in your life who’ll say ‘It’s better to do this,’ or, ‘It’s better to do that,’” she said. “Be gracious, but follow your gut.”
How can a photojournalist capture images of people marginalized by society without exploiting them or portraying them in a degrading way?
Widely acclaimed documentary photographer Robert Gumpert told a group of 25 San Francisco State University journalism students on Tuesday, March 13, how he tries to achieve this goal during a talk titled “The Paradox of Representation.”
Describing himself as “an old white man,” Gumpert, 70, pondered whether it’s ethical for him to photograph his chosen subjects. His body of work answers that question. He has made a successful career photographing, working around “communities that are viewed badly,” as he puts it, and trying to dispel preconceived notions about the people within those communities by portraying them as multi-faceted human beings.
“Can I photograph a homeless woman in a meaningful way that deals with the issues that she has specific to being a woman on the street?” he asked. “I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect the answer is, I can’t. But I can take a stab at it.”
As he spoke, a series of black and white images on a large screen showed homeless people who were pushed out of downtown San Francisco in late 2015, to keep them out of sight during the Super Bowl.
One image depicts a shaggy-haired, bearded man staring intently at the camera. A blanket is tucked up to his chest as he lay against a guardrail beside the Bay under a cloudy sky. Bags and tarps piled high around him.
Another image from underneath the Division Street overpass shows a man with short-cropped white hair and beard and a snake tattoo covering his entire arm packing his possessions into a shopping cart.
Another captured twin middle-aged men looking at the camera while lying among a pile of blankets and pillows and disassembled cardboard boxes propped up around them for shelter.
Gumpert said his subjects have very little control over their space or their image, which creates an unequal balance of power.
A big question arising among photographers, he said, is whether to show faces because it’ll identify homeless people in a situation they might be ashamed of. His conclusion is that it’s not his job to decide what a person will or will not be ashamed of.
What he can do, he said, is depict the living conditions accurately and portray the people “without doing a character assassination,” but rather, with dignity.
“If I can take a picture that both speaks to the condition you’re living in and that you would like to have as a portrait, then I’ve done my job correctly,” he said.
Gumpert started his photojournalism career with a lens on labor. In 1974, he travelled to Appalachia to photograph and speak with coal miners and ended up documenting the coal miners’ strike in Harlan County, Kentucky for three months.
He walked away with an array of powerful images that depicted strikers walking the picket line, facing down police, and looking dejected during a union meeting. He also showed people going about their daily lives, sitting around a kitchen table, hugging their children, attending a memorial service or sitting around a coffee shop after work, still wearing miner’s hats.
Gumpert’s resulting book of photographs stood out as a true account of life in the region. He didn’t shy away from the poverty and struggle the people experienced, but he didn’t want to make it the center of his story, according to his interview with walkyourcamera.com.
He told the journalism students that he still has friends in Appalachia, and they are enraged by the persistent stereotyping of Appalachia as nothing but abject poverty and ignorance. Exceptionally hurtful was J.D. Vance’s bestselling 2016 book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” which told the story of his family’s struggles in Appalachia. The book is now being made into a movie directed by Ron Howard.
“Angry doesn’t even begin to describe their feelings of betrayal and exploitation about that book,” he said. “So this is something that you’re going to have to think about when you take a picture, or choose a picture, or frame a story.”
These days, Gumpert is excited about a project he began 13 years ago about prisoners. “Take a Picture, Tell a Story” includes photographs of men and women incarcerated in San Francisco’s county jails and audio recordings of vignettes about their lives. Gumpert told them to talk about anything they wanted to.
One man talked about his tattoos, how he got them while in prison, what they represent. A woman talked about the cookbook she wrote while incarcerated as a way of improving the terrible prison food. A 29-year-old man talked about losing five of his eight childhood friends, and the pervasiveness of PTSD in his Hunters Point neighborhood due to all the violence and killings.
Gumpert’s advice for gaining the trust needed to capture such personal stories is simple: listen.
“The more personable I am and the more interested I am, the better the story,” he said. “If I listen hard enough, I can ask follow-up questions, and hopefully I have gotten myself to the point where they are comfortable with those kinds of questions.”
“Take a Picture, Tell a Story” is one of the many projects Gumpert has undertaken throughout his career to try to make the invisible visible. And however futile that may feel for him at times, he doesn’t intend to give up anytime soon.
“Until we start treating people like they’re human beings, homelessness isn’t getting better, the jails aren’t going to get better,” he said. “The chances of that happening are zero, but I keep taking them.”
Photo Caption: Acclaimed photographer Robert Gumpert talks to San Francisco State University journalism students about his approach to depicting people who are homeless. Photo courtesy of Sylvie Sturm.
Being a student often feels like throwing cash down a bottomless pit. Everywhere we turn, we’re shelling out for tuition, books, equipment, transportation, not to mention simple everyday needs.
The prospect nearly caused me to give up on my wish to finish a long overdue bachelor’s degree in journalism. Imagine my relief when the Department of Journalism announced that I was the winner of the 2017-2018 Otto J. Bos Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Journalism. I could hardly believe it when I was told the award would cover a full year’s in-state tuition fees of $7,250.
And to think, I almost didn’t bother applying. Like many students, I was aware of SF State’s scholarship opportunities. But also like many students, I told myself I’d never make the cut against really stiff competition. I imagined that I would put in a ton of work only to be rejected.
Thankfully, journalism department Chair Cristina Azocar persuaded me otherwise. She urged me to apply saying that, as unlikely as it may seem, some SF State scholarships receive very few applications, or even none at all. So I dove in. It turned out not to be such a hard process after all. Once I got the hang of it, I ended up submitting half a dozen.
Each scholarship has specific requirements — some simply inquire about financial need, others require an essay. My winning entry asked for an essay analyzing the strengths, weaknesses or problems associated with news media performance.
So I’m a believer. It turns out that taking the time to fill some forms and craft a few essays really can land students anything from a few hundred dollars to a fully paid tuition. And the journalism department offers workshops to ease the way through any intimidating aspects. Watch for a schedule of workshop dates and places in your SF State email.
Students don’t need to take on the entire financial burden alone. There are plenty of opportunities for relief thanks to a wide variety of San Francisco State University scholarships. Deadlines are fast approaching, and students are urged to apply now for a helping hand in their education.
Photo courtesy of Sylvie Sturm.
America was at a boiling point of racial division in 1967. Fed up with police brutality, and unequal opportunities in education, jobs, housing, health and wealth, African Americans in 109 cities throughout the country took to the streets in protest. The media of the day rushed to cover the ensuing riots. But their predominantly white perspective merely reinforced the very stereotypes that African Americans were fighting against.
The unrest led President Lyndon B. Johnson to commission a report exploring what happened and why. The resulting Kerner Commission report was an unflinching look at the many ways American social structures failed people of color, including a scathing description of an egregiously biased news industry.
“The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and white perspective,” the report stated.
San Francisco State University Professor Jon Funabiki is deeply familiar with this bias, having seen it and made a study of it throughout his career. He participated in an event in Detroit, Michigan, on March 5 that commemorated the Kerner report’s 50th anniversary. The Ford Foundation held the panel discussion titled, Represent! Forging A New Future for Journalism and Media Diversity.
“The Kerner Commission report, which really criticized journalism — I mean, was pretty ferocious criticism — did have quite an impact on journalism and journalism education,” Funabiki said in an interview.
The report led to a number of strategies for recruitment in news organizations as well as education and recruitment in journalism colleges. It also led to revealing research into media performance.
Funabiki has been keenly aware of news media biases for nearly his entire life — first as a high school student in East Palo Alto, then as a journalism student in San Francisco State University, and throughout in his career.
“I grew up in a black community,” he said. “I can recall how stories in our local newspapers, if they were about our community or our high school especially, which was predominantly black, the stories were pretty negative. And they didn’t reflect the actual lived experience that I saw in the school.”
Media biases were further solidified for Funabiki when he researched the ways San Francisco newspapers during the Second World War wrote about Japanese Americans, who were then being forcibly placed in internment camps.
“Japanese Americans were called traitors and spies. They used the term ‘Jap.’ They quoted people saying, ‘You can’t trust Japanese Americans. You have to put them in concentration camps,’” Funabiki said. “I was absolutely shocked that journalists would do that… the overall bias — racism, really.”
During his career as a journalist, he witnessed media stereotyping in news firsthand, and how few people of color worked in the newsroom.
During the Ford Foundation discussion, panel members each emphasized that there’s still a long way to go to achieve balance when it comes to minorities in the newsroom.
“Journalists of color feel isolated when they’re the only person of color. When you’re the only person representing every minority, it can be daunting,” said Martina Guzmán, board chair of Feet in Two Worlds, which, for the past 14 years, has brought the work of immigrant and ethnic media journalists from communities across the U.S. to public radio and the web.
More diverse newsrooms would help to achieve the ultimate goal set out by the Kerner Commission: to better reflect the realities of minorities and help heal the harmful racial divisions that existed 50 years ago and in some places, remains today.
“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal,” the report stated.
Panelist Ed Lewis, who co-founded Essence Magazine in 1970 “to celebrate the beauty and intelligence of black women,” said the Kerner report warning holds just as much weight today.
“I honestly believe, with Trump being in the White House, that people of color should have no illusions about where they stand. They should understand that there are a large number of people who don’t like us,” Lewis said.
That means it’s incumbent upon people of color to “have our interests assessed and dealt with within our society,” he said.
But with such meager progress made over 50 years, how do activists remain optimistic? asked moderator Farai Chideya, novelist, multimedia journalist and radio host.
Guzmán admitted to feeling frustrated early on, when she wasn’t seeing “radical transformation right now.” Then a mentor gave her a pep talk that broadened her awareness of the fight for equality.
“We fight and we pass the torch onto the next generation,” Guzmán said. “You’ve just got to keep chipping away at that wall.”
Funabiki said that while he’s also frustrated with complacency in the media and in the community, he’s also optimistic.
“This is actually the most exciting time to be in the media,” he said. “A lot of the old rules are starting to fall aside because journalists and other media makers realize it’s not working very well and we’ve got to try some new things. So there’s where I want to place my bets.”
To that end, in 2009 Funabiki founded Renaissance Journalism, an organization dedicated to breaking boundaries between journalists and the community, thereby bringing diversity and social justice into reporting.
Funabiki told the panel about one of the organization’s initiatives called On The Table, which asks Bay Area journalists to host a dinner conversation with people in the community — “just plain folks” — during candid conversations about a difficult topic, such as the housing crisis, gentrification and the meaning of home.
“You’d be surprised the different kinds of conversations we have when we’re breaking bread and chatting rather than interviewing and sticking a mic in someone’s face,” Funabiki said. “It really does change the journalist’s understanding of what people are concerned about.”
Photo courtesy of Allan Dranberg and the Ford Foundation
A veteran bi-national journalist will bring her passion for journalism, teaching and the Spanish language to create the perfect fit as San Francisco State University’s newest journalism department faculty member.
Ana Lourdes Cárdenas will lead the launch of San Francisco State University’s new Spanish-language journalism program in the fall of 2018. She leaves her current role as an assistant professor in journalism at New Mexico State University to help develop a curriculum thats designed to meet the interests of a growing Latino/a population in the country.
The Latino population is expected to make up 25 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of them prefer Spanish-language news, and they have informational needs that the mainstream media doesn’t usually address, Lourdes said.
“I’m convinced that the Spanish-language journalism in the U.S. must have the same good quality that distinguishes American journalism,” she said.
The program will result from collaborations with her new journalism department colleagues, other SFSU departments focused on the Latino population, and Spanish-speaking media in the Bay Area through internships and shared reporting projects.
Lourdes has already made strides in standardizing Spanish-language media with the mainstream. She recently joined two professors from the University of Arizona and California State University Northridge to publish an academic paper comparing Spanish-language media with English mainstream media in using Twitter during breaking news situation.
Raised in Mexico City, Lourdes fell into journalism accidently, but once she got a taste for it, she quickly realized that she had found her niche. It was 1986, and with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in hand, she offered to write some historical vignettes for a local newspaper in Oaxaca. The managing editor, however, had another idea.
“They offered me a job as a reporter,” Lourdes said. “I had no idea how to report and write news stories, but the editors helped me a lot, and I loved the job from the very first day. I knew that I had found my passion in giving voice to people who usually are not heard.”
Her work brought her to the United States in 1993 when she became a Los Angeles correspondent for the Mexican news agency, Notimex. And while covering the region’s Latino population, she also attended the University of Southern California, earning a master’s degree in journalism in 1996. Her devotion to learning also led her to become a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2000, and 10 years later, she earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Meanwhile, Lourdes’ career continued on an upward trajectory. Between 2001 and 2013, she spent two years as a producer for CNN’s Mexico City bureau, four years as city editor of Al Día, a Spanish publication of The Dallas Morning News, and she founded and edited SomosFrontera, an El Paso Times website focused on the Latino community in the El Paso region.
Among her proudest accomplishments is her 2016 book on the legalization of marijuana, entitled “Marihuana: El Viaje A La Legalizacion.” The book is the result of in-depth reporting in Colorado focusing on a cross-border blight, which Lourdes hopes her work will help alleviate.
“I’m from a country in which the war on drugs has killed thousands of people and has created unbearable pain for many families,” she said. “I see my research on this topic as a contribution in the search for possible solutions to the problem.”
She continues to research and write about issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border, including immigration, trade, drug trafficking and violence as well as legalization or decriminalization of drugs. All the while, she also indulges her other passion: teaching.
Throughout her five years as assistant professor of reporting, writing and storytelling through multimedia, she has reveled in the energy and the enthusiasm of her students, as well as their accomplishments.
And she said she’s eager to continue guiding burgeoning journalists in the Bay Area while also experiencing “the beauty and the energy of San Francisco.”
A veteran, award-winning journalist returning to school to help herself and the news media muscle up for today’s challenges has been named the recipient of the Otto J. Bos Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Journalism.
The winner is Sylvie Sturm, who currently works as the managing editor of Synapse, the student news website at the University of California at San Francisco. Already the recipient of an associate of arts degree and journalism certificate from Langara College in Vancouver, Sturm has enrolled at San Francisco State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Sturm has more than 15 years of print and online experience in the United States and Canada, including the Kamloops Daily News, Prince George Citizen Newspaper—where she became the first female managing editor in the publication’s 100-year history—and the Squamish Chief Newspaper. She also has taught English in Nicaragua.
The annual scholarship honors the memory of Otto J. Bos, who was a 1970 graduate of the department, editor of its award-winning newspaper (then named Phoenix) and an All-American soccer star. Following graduation, he covered politics and government for The San Diego Union. He became a key staff member of San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, who later was elected a U.S. senator and then governor of California. At the time of his death of a heart attack in 1991, Otto was Gov. Wilson’s director of communications and public affairs.
Family and friends created the scholarship, which covers a full year’s in-state tuition fees – currently approximately $7,250. The department’s largest scholarship has been awarded to a current or incoming journalism student since 1992.
Sturm, who moved to San Francisco in 2014, said she is returning to school because the industry has changed so much since she earned her AA degree in Vancouver.
“I lost my last job when the daily newspaper I worked for shut down after 100 years,” she explained. “Journalism is all I've ever wanted to do since I was very young, so I didn't want to give up on it despite all the negativity around newspapers ‘dying off’ and such.”
In an essay submitted as part of her application, Sturm noted that journalism is facing huge business challenges and political attacks, notably from President Trump, who has described journalists as the “enemy of the people.”
Journalists themselves are to blame for some problems, including sensationalizing stories, lazy research and even faking news stories, she said.
“Trump also has the benefit of scorning traditional media when it’s seen as increasingly obsolete,” Sturm wrote. “Part of the problem is that the media did not keep up with the times. Consumers wanted something relevant to them. But instead of understanding consumers, the media became the cranky old man who resents those kids these days.”
Nevertheless, Sturm said society needs journalism more than ever, especially to stand up for people who don’t have a voice in society. While managing editor of the Prince George Citizen, Sturm launched an editorial campaign to get the police and government of British Columbia to protect Aboriginal women who, because of the lack of public transportation options, were forced to hitchhike along highways, where they were attacked and murdered.
The scholarship’s mission is to support meritorious students who are committed to journalism and public service. The applications are judged by a three-member panel comprised of former friends and colleagues of Bos. They include Lynn Ludlow, a retired journalism instructor, and Mike Grant and David Kutzmann, both of whom worked with Bos at The San Diego Union.