Media ethicist Edward Wasserman to become new journalism school dean

Edward Wasserman, an authority on the ethics, evolution and ownership of the news media, will become dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley on Jan. 1.

“The field is being shaken up, from top to bottom,” said Wasserman, who will be the school’s sixth dean. “This is a time of immense opportunity in journalism, and there’s never been a more exciting time to be preparing young people to enter the field.”

Noting the journalism school’s global reputation as an outstanding, well-led academy committed to professional excellence, Wasserman said its record of success suggests “that it can accomplish yet more — that the world-class talent and resources it already commands can be encouraged to aim higher still, and to be even better.”

New Graduate School of Journalism Dean Edward Wasserman. (Miami Herald photo)

Wasserman is currently the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., where since 2003 he has taught courses on journalism ethics, media ownership and control and the relationships between the media and the poor. Also at Washington and Lee, Wasserman launched a student-run website that spotlights American media coverage of poverty.

He will continue to write a nationally and internationally distributed biweekly column published in the Miami Herald and numerous other outlets, sharing his takes on journalistic issues ranging from political campaign coverage and plagiarism to WikiLeaks.

Wasserman earned a B.A. in economics and politics from Yale University in 1970. While attending Yale, he taught in a remedial program for inner-city children in New Haven, Conn., and was an associate editor at the country’s oldest humor magazine, the Yale Record. Wasserman earned a license in philosophy from the University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, in 1972.  He received his Ph.D. in media politics and economics from the London School of Economics in 1980.

He worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Maryland, Wyoming and Florida.  Wasserman also has served as the chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of American Lawyer Media’s Miami-based Daily Business Review newspaper chain, and as editorial director of Primedia Inc., which publishes weekly trade and consumer magazines.

As journalism dean, he follows Neil Henry, who now leads the campus’s Regional Oral History Office.  Tom Goldstein, a former dean of the school,  is serving as interim dean until Wasserman arrives on campus.

“By temperament, intellect and experience, Ed is well suited to lead the journalism school through challenging times and to make sure the school earns its spot as the premier place to study journalism in this country,” said Goldstein.

Wasserman also got a warm welcome from George Breslauer, UC Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor and provost, and a professor of political science.

“I very much look forward to working with Ed Wasserman to sustain the preeminence of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism in changing and challenging times for the journalism profession,” said Breslauer. “Ed has all the background, skills and personality to provide outstanding leadership toward that end.”

The journalism school, located in North Gate Hall, is the only place within the UC system that offers a degree in journalism.  The school’s two-year master’s program emphasizes advanced reporting and technical skills for traditional print and broadcast as well as multimedia. Students can explore specializations in politics, business, environment and science, photography, documentary film or investigative reporting.

The school has an enrollment of about 100 students.  Spring semester courses range from one on narrative writing taught by acclaimed author Adam Hochschild and another on reporting about conflict and catastrophe with veteran war journalist Mark Danner. Others focus on mobile reporting, reporting from Myanmar and a class that will turn students into adjunct writers and editors for the San Quentin News at the state prison in Marin County.

“Berkeley has always stood for intellectual stature, independence of mind and passionate social engagement,” said Wasserman, “and nowhere are those qualities better exemplified than they are in the Graduate School of Journalism.”