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Smile! You’re On Candid Camera Phone

It was many years ago, when I worked in a large city and I often had to walk several blocks from one large office complex to another during the course of the average work day. One afternoon I was trudging between buildings, head bent, lost in thought; I passed the entrance to a small, dark alleyway just as a new Porsche roared up from the gloom. The car fishtailed to a stop a few inches from my kneecaps, and I froze, immobile with fear. The driver was a budding Master of the Universe—thirtyish, well dressed, obviously used to money, privilege, and a certain quantum of power.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

Former Times Reporter Gambles on ‘Golden’ Opportunity

For a journalist it seemed the ultimate dream gig: working for the Great Gray Lady herself, the New York Times—but operating from a lovely California beach town, not the dreary main newsroom in Manhattan. And indeed, Mike McPhate appreciated his position as producer of the Times’ newsletter, California Today. He had, after all, paid his dues.

Q&A: Behavioral Finance Expert Terrance Odean on the Stock Market Drop

We accept that what goes up must comes down. What we don’t always understand is why. Like countless financial shakeups throughout history, this week’s stock market plunge has sparked widespread debate as to its causes. While there are no hard-and-fast answers, there are educated insights.

Q&A: Daniel Ziblatt on Trump and How Democracies Die

Daniel Ziblatt has spent a career studying why democracies develop and how they die. Along with his co-author and fellow UC Berkeley alumnus, Steven Levitsky, he has done so from a perch at Harvard, and his focus has always been different places and times: Ziblatt is an expert on democracy in modern Europe, including the age of Hitler and Mussolini, and Levitsky specializes in Latin America.

Journalist Sonia Nazario on Coming Out as an Activist

When Sonia Nazario was 14 years old, she and her mother came across a pool of blood on the sidewalk. It had been about a year since they’d moved from Kansas to her mother’s native Argentina, right at the onset of the country’s “Dirty War.” She asked her mother about the blood. “The military killed two journalists today, for telling the truth about what’s going on here,” Nazario recalls her saying.

Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted

For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.

I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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.

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.

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.

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.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

‘Bout That Action: How Marshawn Lynch Threw the Sports Media for a Loop

Marshawn Lynch is a jerk. And he’s also a hero. He’s ungrateful, immature, and stupid. And he’s a genius with a heart of gold. Lynch, star running back of the Seattle Seahawks and former UC Berkeley phenom, is all of these things and more—if the various media portrayals are to be believed. Just don’t ask Lynch himself if any of it is true, because he’s not talking.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Death to the Fascist Insect: Looking Back 40 Years, Does the SLA Make Any More Sense?

They were all in their 50s now, hair graying or even white, sitting in a courtroom in Sacramento, waiting to be sentenced for a crime they had committed nearly 30 years earlier. Near the judge’s bench stood a large color photograph of Myrna Opsahl, whose life had ended at age 42 on the morning of April 21, 1975. She had been killed by a shotgun blast during a robbery of Crocker National Bank in Carmichael.

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.
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