The University of California Berkeley has announced it has appointed Edward Wasserman, a veteran newspaper editor and writer and currently the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, as dean-designate of the Graduate School of Journalism. Wasserman is scheduled to start Jan. 1.

His decision to join the journalism school is contingent on whether Wasserman becomes eligible for tenure. A university faculty committee will make the final decision on his tenure-eligibility by the fall, Wasserman said. Interim Dean Tom Goldstein will continue to serve in his position until the end of this calendar year.

Janet Broughton, vice provost for the faculty at UC Berkeley, sent an email Tuesday morning announcing the appointment.

“Ed will be a worthy successor to a long line of Berkeley deans who have specialized in the study of press ethics — Ben Bagdikian, Tom Goldstein, and Neil Henry,” Broughton wrote in the email.

Henry Brady, the dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, who is the head of the search committee, said the committee looked for candidates with a strong body of work, a great understanding of journalism, on-the-ground experience, and a vision for the industry.

“I think he’s a great candidate,” Brady said. “I’m extremely pleased.”

The Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations, an academic personnel committee, will examine Wasserman’s work, academic journal writings, letters of recommendations, among other things, to ensure Wasserman meets the standards for tenure, Brady said. “I don’t see any problem. He looks really good.”

Wasserman has taught courses on media ethics, political economy of the media, and poverty and journalism at Washington and Lee, according to his curriculum vitae (link opens PDF).

Wasserman has given lectures in the U.S. and abroad on “media rights and wrongs,” technology changes, and media ownership, according to his website. He also writes a biweekly syndicated column on media ethics and economy for the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 1972.

Wasserman received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics in 1980. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. He has held positions as CEO and editor-in-chief of American Lawyer Media’s Daily Business Review, executive business editor of the Miami Herald, and city editor of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune.

a high profile

Wasserman has been critical of the media for remaining silent about the unprecedented prosecutions by President Barack Obama’s administration of whistleblowers for leaking classified information to journalists. In a column published in the Miami Herald, Wasserman wrote, “When President Obama addressed the American Society of News Editors convention last month, the real news was what didn’t happen. The watchdogs didn’t bark. No discouraging word from the gathering of 1,000 of the country’s top news people, facing a president whose administration has led a vigorous attack on journalism’s most indispensable asset — its sources.”

When it comes to issues of national security, Wasserman told a packed auditorium during the 6th annual Reva & David Logan Symposium, the Obama administration doesn’t believe in providing whistleblower protection.  And, he warned the gathering that the administration has made it clear it doesn’t have to subpoena journalists to find out who their sources are. In the digital age, journalists leave a trail of emails, cell phone calls and more, which allows investigators to pinpoint sources.

“We have six prosecutions of media sources as compared with three under all previous administrations,” he told the group in April.

Wasserman urged journalists to learn a little “tradecraft” as it’s called in the clandestine world of spying. The danger is obvious.

Wasserman also raised eyebrows when he convinced Jayson Blair, a former New York Times reporter who resigned from the paper after an internal investigation found Blair had plagiarized or fabricated 36 of the 73 articles he wrote during his four years with the Times, to be the keynote speaker at the university’s annual Journalism Ethics Institute. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Wasserman said he hoped Blair’s participation could help shine a light on why Blair plagiarized and made up parts of his stories.

“My expectation is that he’ll talk not just about his own susceptibilities, but about the pressures and temptations that might induce ambitious and talented young journalists elsewhere in the business to do the wrong thing,” he told the Journal.

on how j-schools should train tomorrow’s journalists

Wasserman, in a phone interview, said at a time when the journalism industry is facing tremendous challenges, it’s important that journalism schools train students not just for their next jobs, but also to lead within their newsrooms.

“This means they will advance as journalists … advance in not only doing stories, but they are running the organizations,” he said.

It’s essential for journalism schools to provide students with the educational background and training to be proficient across media platforms. “Students should be able to find and tell stories in compelling ways … and not be confined to a particular genre,” he said. “[Schools] should be equipping them with a deeper understanding of what the media is supposed to do.”

Here’s a recent interview with Wasserman from the Knight Foundation:

Edward Wasserman, Knight Chair in Journalism Ethics, Washington & Lee University from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Rosa Ramirez (@rosamramirez) has covered immigration, food policy, health and Hispanic affairs for various publications including HealthyCal.org, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Rocky Mountain News, Birmingham Post-Herald and Hispanic Link News Service. She’s currently completing a dual masters program in journalism and Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley.

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