New app connects Berkeley students with tumultuous history of Telegraph Avenue

A new app called TelegraphTour promises to help Berkelyans learn about the history of the famous avenue.

A new app called TelegraphTour promises to help Berkelyans learn about the history of the famous avenue.

A new app developed by students at UC Berkeley’s journalism school will connect students and Berkeley residents with the remarkable history of Telegraph Avenue.

The app, called Telegraph Berkeley Tour, collects 11 audio histories of key moments and people in the avenue’s history, including an interview with Andy Ross, the long-time owner of Cody’s Books, which was firebombed in 1989 for carrying Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and a story about Telegraph Avenue being the first street to install sidewalk ramps for the disabled.

Telegraph Berkeley Tour is available on both the Apple and Android app stores. It uses geolocation to alert users when they walk by a store or corner with historical significance, and offers to start playing an audio clip through the phone’s speaker or headphones.

“With this app, people can hear the stories and see why Telegraph is a household name for so many people,” said Stuart Baker, the head of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, which hired Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism to produce the audio recordings. “Everyone knows the obvious stories about People’s Park and the Free Speech Movement, but there are a lot of other things that happened.”

Journalism graduates, working for the school’s Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, made it a priority to talk with their subjects on Telegraph Avenue, so the final studio interviews would have some local flavor, said Roia Ferrazares, an assistant dean at the journalism school who oversaw the project.

“We were really drawn to the recording of history aspect of this,” she said. “There is a moment of time where if you don’t leap in and record those interviews, they are going to be lost.”

The project, which was funded by a grant from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, also gave new journalism graduates a chance to get real-world experience recording audio and editing it into digestible snippets.

“I think it’s really comparable to reporting anything, which involves going out, understanding the story and then having a really good conversation and distilling that down to something that is going to be compelling for people that aren’t familiar with this history,” said Graelyn Brashear, a 2017 graduate of the journalism school who interviewed Doris Moskowitz, the current owner of Moe’s Books, about the history of the funky, countercultural bookstore.

“I was here on campus for two years and I didn’t know about the history, so it was really fascinating,” Brashear said.

Baker said he hoped the app would give students and parents a better understanding of the Telegraph Avenue, even before they visit campus for the first time.

“Here is this opportunity for the parents and the children of the perspective students can view the app from the comfort of the home,” he said. “They can understand the significance of the area where their child is going to be spending some time for the next four years.”

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu