Pulitzer Prize winner David Barstow to lead UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program

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David Barstow, one of only two journalists to win four Pulitzer Prizes and a former senior reporter at the New York Times, will become the new head of the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Dean Edward Wasserman of the Graduate School of Journalism said the school is “aware of just how accomplished he is as a reporter” and is “tremendously attracted to having someone of his caliber join our school.”

During his 33 years as an investigative journalist, Barstow won Pulitzer Prizes for his work unearthing evidence of President Donald Trump’s “tax dodges” in 2019, documenting Walmart’s use of bribery in its efforts to expand in Mexico and exposing the Pentagon’s underground tactics involving news coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barstow also won a Pulitzer Prize for working alongside Lowell Bergman to spotlight employers who perpetrated workplace safety violations that led to worker injuries and deaths, according to a UC Berkeley press release.

“The reason I’ve been able to do the things that I’ve done … is because I’ve had incredible mentors and teachers who shared with me their secrets and shared with me their battle scars,” Barstow said. “I want to give back to this thing I love so much.”

Leaving a full-time position at the New York Times, Barstow will assume his new role at the journalism school in a month’s time.

Barstow and Bergman, the founder of the IRP, “go way back,” according to Barstow. Barstow said he admires the “teaching hospital model” that the program has developed. As a leader of the program, Barstow hopes to cultivate more diversity in his field. He said the profession has missed important stories as a result of limited perspectives. Barstow emphasized that expanding the diversity of the investigative field is critical for the future of his profession.

In his new position, Barstow is enthusiastic to work with the “energy and the spirit of these amazing young people” whom he said he has made contact with when he has traveled to Berkeley in the past.

“What we were amazed and impressed by, beyond (his accomplishments), is that he’s a tremendously affable and appealing person who has a genuine warmth and interest,” Wasserman said.

In advising aspiring investigative journalists on how to develop their careers, Barstow noted two main challenges in the profession. The first challenge is knowing what kind of storyteller one is, he said. The second is figuring out what to investigate.

“How do you figure out … the form of storytelling that best fits who you are as a person, what you’re passionate about, and what you’re good at?” Barstow said. “I think that’s something that’s a huge part of journalism education.”

Barstow also emphasized the importance of engaging with one’s surroundings. According to Barstow, the profession requires a “deeper level of engagement.” It is not effective to simply sit in front of the phone and wait for a story to come to you, he said. He said he looks forward to eventually seeing his mentees at the school publish their works on the front page of the New York Times.

Wasserman added that the department is hopeful that the work Barstow engages in at the university will be of interest to the New York Times and could potentially encourage collaboration.

“I feel a deep sense of honor to be stepping into this role,” Barstow said. “I think there’s a really impressive legacy that already exists. I am really excited, and I just can’t wait to get started.”

Contact Sasha Langholz at [email protected].