Human Behavior

Confessions of a Crime Reporter: Call it Gallows Humor. Hell, It Was Plain Survival

I had pizza delivered to a crime scene once. A computer engineer had bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and 12-year-old son to death and then slashed his own throat.

A group of us reporters stood at the edge of the cordoned-off street for hours, waiting for the police to come out and tell us what was going on. We’d already run the plates of the cars in the driveway and figured out who the occupants of the house were, and knew that the man who lived there had co-invented a famous video game. But we needed confirmation that he was the killer before we filed our stories. Read more about Confessions of a Crime Reporter: Call it Gallows Humor. Hell, It Was Plain Survival »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Giving Credence: Why is So Much Reported Science Wrong, and What Can Fix That?

In January, David Broockman, then a political science Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, found something unusual about a study he and fellow student Joshua Kalla were trying to replicate. The data in the original study, collected by UCLA grad student Michael LaCour and published in Science last December, had shown that gay canvassers, sent door-to-door in California neighborhoods, could, after a brief conversation about marriage equality in which the canvassers disclosed their own sexual orientation, have a lasting impact on voter attitudes on the subject. Read more about Giving Credence: Why is So Much Reported Science Wrong, and What Can Fix That? »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of an Online Journalist: How I Killed My Profession

In the fall of 1994, when I was a young reporter struggling to pay the rent, I wrote a cover story for the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Plugging In: An Idiot’s Guide to the Internet.” I explained why a 14.4 baud modem was a great deal, and reported that the Internet was a fantastic resource because “all kinds of information are available.”

I am so, so, sorry. Read more about Confessions of an Online Journalist: How I Killed My Profession »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself?

When I first started writing my sex column, I was what one might consider “sex positive.” As a kid growing up in rural Maryland, I had been influenced by the sexually liberated Bay Area—the place that elected the first openly gay mayor, inspired famous sex writers Susie Bright and Carol Queen, and, of course, was home to the Sexual Freedom League of 1966, a UC Berkeley student organization that campaigned for legalized abortion and held massive orgies in protest of sexual stigma. Read more about Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself? »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things

Robert Glushko’s job is to think about the organization of, well, everything: Ikea, zoos, spice racks, even crime families. He tries to get at the concepts behind how and why we arrange things, and what makes certain arrangements better than others. Take a bus, for example, says the UC Berkeley School of Information professor—it’s really just a vehicle traveling on a series of points on a graph. “If you replaced it with a spaceship, it wouldn’t matter,” he says. The ideas behind plotting a route would be the same. Read more about Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert

Your journalism crowdfunding platform, Spot.Us, the first of its kind, was acquired by American Public Media in 2011 and has since been “retired.” What do you think went wrong, and what does it mean for the viability of crowdfunding for journalism in general? Read more about Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Are Journalism Schools Just Whistling Past the Graveyard—or Resuscitating the News Biz?

The keynote speaker at the 2014 commencement of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism—an elite institution that prepares students for a profession in which the prospects are, let’s face it, a little touch-and-go at the moment— was a former small-time drug dealer and heavy-duty coke addict who had been in and out of rehab five times, a “fat thug” (in his own words) who’d been known to beat women and wave a gun around on occasion. Read more about Are Journalism Schools Just Whistling Past the Graveyard—or Resuscitating the News Biz? »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication. Read more about Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Huge Hand-Crafted Holiday Display Outlives Its El Cerrito Creator—a Sikh Immigrant

 

 

On Saturday morning, El Cerrito firefighters working on their own time will haul scores of handmade stucco and plaster statues uphill from their storage site to the corner of Moeser and Seaview. There, Boy Scouts from Troop 104 will arrange them to create a massive tableau of Bethlehem: Wise Men, goats, donkeys, camels, camel drivers, more than 60 sheep tended by shepherds and sheep dogs, village people, and the village itself, including 110 hand-painted buildings, minarets and domes. Read more about Huge Hand-Crafted Holiday Display Outlives Its El Cerrito Creator—a Sikh Immigrant »

Rising from Ashes Like a Phoenix, Burn Survivor Aims to Lift Others With Her

Kiki Vo and two of her four sisters scurried down the dirt road leading from their family’s hut in Hiep Thanh, Vietnam, a flickering kerosene lamp lighting the way past sleeping chickens. The sisters were on a mission to smuggle some late-night candy from their mother’s shop after a day of studying. They whispered about the possibility of rain the next day, imagining they could shed their clothes and run wild in the downpour. Read more about Rising from Ashes Like a Phoenix, Burn Survivor Aims to Lift Others With Her »

Pet Therapy: Students Increasingly Bringing “Emotional Support” Animals to College

Americans have not only embraced the Shultz dictum that happiness is a warm puppy: They’re applying it to warm rabbits, kangaroo rats, pot-bellied pigs, cockatiels and ferrets. And for that matter, to decidedly tepid ball pythons, Cuban rock iguanas and Chilean rose hair tarantulas. The issue here isn’t the type of beastie; it’s that animals equate to happiness, whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or in the stressful milieu that is the modern academy. An increasing number of students believe they benefit from having pets for emotional support or comfort. Read more about Pet Therapy: Students Increasingly Bringing "Emotional Support" Animals to College »

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.” Read more about Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley's Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere »

The Selfless Quarterback: Cancer Intercepted Joe Roth’s Career, Not His Enduring Legacy

In 1975, two years before Tom Brady was born, another Golden Boy burst upon the football scene. He was a Cal quarterback named Joe Roth, and he had it all: looks (6-foot-4, with wavy blond hair and, in the words of his girlfriend, Tracy Lagos McAllister, “a super-cute smile”), brains, and an abiding Catholic faith that led him to take the Golden Rule seriously. Read more about The Selfless Quarterback: Cancer Intercepted Joe Roth's Career, Not His Enduring Legacy »

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