Lowell Bergman, renowned investigative reporting professor, announces retirement

Lowell Bergman/Courtesy

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After more than 25 years at UC Berkeley, Lowell Bergman, investigative reporting professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, or J-School, announced his retirement to the campus community.

In June, Bergman will step down as the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism. He will, however, return as an emeritus chair and continue working with the Investigative Reporting Program, or IRP, which he founded in 2006.

According to Bergman, he made the decision to retire in order to pursue other ventures and aid the J-School in turning his current professorship into a full-time position. Bergman will continue to create film projects, mentor students and begin work on a memoir.

Bergman began his five decade-long career in muckraking journalism in 1968, when he was still a history of philosophy graduate student under renowned philosopher Herbert Marcuse at UC San Diego. After the attempt by the local newspapers and then-governor Ronald Reagan to pressure the campus into dismissing Marcuse on the basis of his political philosophies, Bergman and other graduate students launched the San Diego Free Press and Street Journal. The creation of the journal marked his entry into investigative journalism.

“There was no alternative media in San Diego at that moment and a group of us graduate students and some other people in San Diego decided to create a newspaper,” Bergman said. “And then we began to do investigations into who actually ran the city and county of San Diego and that resulted in hooking me to the kind of journalism that looks behind what appears to be true as opposed to what is actually true.”

Bergman went on to work with numerous reporting agencies, such as The New York Times and ABC News, where he was one of the original producers of the weekly television broadcast “20/20.” Among his many achievements, Bergman cites his perseverance in a conflict with CBS News executives over a “60 Minutes” investigation into the tobacco industry — later depicted in Michael Mann’s movie “The Insider” — and an award-winning collaboration between The New York Times and “Frontline” as his most well-known accomplishments.

While Bergman was still working for The New York Times and “Frontline,” he established the IRP at the J-School in 2006. The IRP started out as a seminar and later expanded to include a nonprofit newsroom, the annual Logan symposium, multiple courses and a post-graduate fellowship program.

“Professor Bergman is the reason the IRP exists. He has been its leader, its force,” said IRP director John Temple. I think the reason people come to work here is largely for the opportunity to work with a journalist of his caliber.”

The search for Bergman’s replacement will start soon, said J-School Dean Edward Wasserman. The school will be looking for candidates with strong credentials in investigative journalism as well as experience in fundraising and editorial leadership.

“Prof. Bergman’s stature and accomplishments have been hugely valuable to the growth and prestige of Berkeley Journalism and have enabled a generation of students to take part in creating powerful, high-impact journalism while working for their degrees,” Wasserman said in an email.

Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.