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Meet the new reporters

on September 22, 2009

This fall, Oakland North welcomes a new staff of 18 reporters, all members of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s class of first-year students.

Got story ideas? Questions? Complaints? Please drop us a line at

S. Howard Bransford

S. Howard Bransford is a lifelong resident of Northern California. Prior to moving to the East Bay, he worked as a staff reporter in the town of Marysville, just north of Sacramento, and later as an independent writer for newspapers and magazines all over the Western U.S.  His work has appeared in L.A. City Beat, Pasadena Weekly, the Sacramento News & Review and elsewhere.

BIO_CallahanLauren Callahan

Passionate about politics from a very early age, I spent my undergraduate years at the University of Texas at Austin interning and campaigning for various politicians, including Texas State Representative Bob E. Griggs, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards. Upon graduating, I spent a semester as a correspondent for UWIRE, covering youth-related stories during the 2008 campaign. I also spent my final semester at Texas interning at CBS 42-KEYE TV in Austin, where among other events I covered a CNN Democratic Primary Debate between then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that was held on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

A proud native of Canton, Texas, I moved to California during the summer of 2008 and have enjoyed getting to know my new home. I am excited to be attending the Graduate School of Journalism and am looking forward to covering Oakland stories in interesting and innovative ways.

BIO_flynnMary Flynn

Originally from Lakewood, WI, I’ve lived (mostly) in the great city of Madison, WI, for the past 8 years. I arrived in Berkeley just before the start of the fall semester, and already I’m learning to love the California sun when it shows its face (especially when we get to point and laugh at fog-enshrouded San Francisco across the bay). I have a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) in English and Communication Arts, TV/Film/Radio. I come to Berkeley having recently completed an 8-year stint (whew!) as a broadcast journalist in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I served a year-long tour in Iraq in 2004 as a broadcast journalist, and then another year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as Media Relations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC). Although I’ve been very proud to apply my skills set in service to my country, I’ve chosen to hang up my patrol cap in favor of the journalist’s pen for a while. I look forward to each day that gives me an opportunity to meet new people in the East Bay, learn their stories, and then explore new ways of reporting those stories to the North Oakland Community.

BIO_furloniMario Furloni

I grew up in a farm some distance away from the city of Rio de Janeiro, crisscrossed by a wide brown river where I used to swim as a kid. When I left Brazil in the early 2000s I alighted in the strange and cold state of Maine, where I completed my undergraduate instruction. My background is in literature and video production. I’m married to a copy editor from North Carolina, and we’ve just recently arrived on the west coast. It is a privilege to live in and to cover a city as fascinating as Oakland.

BIO_grennanJohn Grennan

I’ve lived in Northern California for two decades, including the last four years in Berkeley. I’ve plied my trade as a writer and editor dealing with politics and international affairs, including work at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. For the past two years, I worked at the Saint Mary’s College communications office in Moraga writing for the college’s magazine and website. When not reporting, I love delving into Oakland and San Francisco’s past. I hold degrees in history from Georgetown and Duke University.

BIO_gormanTom Gorman

I grew up in upstate New York but have spent the last few years living in the fabulous borough of Brooklyn, NY. I am coming off nearly two years working with documentary filmmaker Ric Burns at Steeplechase Films so I am very excited about bringing lots of video and multi-media to Though new to the East Bay, I am looking forward to getting to know the area and discovering all of the great political/development/cultural/foodie/bike/unknown stories around the neighborhoods. See you out there!

Sam Laird

I was born and raised in Berkeley and feel very lucky to be at the Graduate School of Journalism learning from and with such a bright, committed, and creative group of teachers and students.  I am most interested in reporting on the different ways that various people see and navigate the world, and the external circumstances that effect and shape their experiences.  I have worked at UC Santa Cruz’s campus newspaper City on a Hill Press, a couple of publications in Ecuador, and Via magazine in San Francisco. I welcome any feedback you have on my stories and would really appreciate any ideas sent my way about North Oakland related subjects you think deserve coverage.

Puck Lo

I’m an East Coast transplant who has lived in the Bay Area since 2004. For the last two years I reported for and produced two radio shows — Free Speech Radio News and Making Contact — covering migration, labor, housing, gender, policing and prisons. In my life before radio I’ve worked as (amongst other things) a sheepherder, dishwasher, tree-cutter, picketer, farmer, bike messenger, fire-breather, telemarketer, magazine editor, and youth mentor.

Kate McLean

A native of Northern California, Kate McLean lives in San Francisco, where she has been working in documentary production. She was an associate producer for public television programs, including The Fire Next Time (by The Working Group for the PBS series P.O.V.), Tulia, Texas (by Exit 77 films for the PBS series Independent Lens) and the forthcoming PBS primetime special The Botany of Desire (by Kikim Media, based on the book by Michael Pollan). She received her BA at UC Santa Cruz, where she also reported for The Santa Cruz Sentinel and hosted the local afternoon newscast at public radio station KAZU in nearby Pacific Grove. Now in her first year at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, she plans to study documentary. In her dwindling spare time, she enjoys knitting hats and attempting to repair and play a dilapidated 1959 Hammond H100 organ.

BIO_mongeauLillian Mongeau

I grew up in the Boston area, and California is the eighth state I’ve lived in.  So far it’s winning major points!  My undergraduate degree from Barnard College is in English and creative writing.  After graduating in 2004, I spent some time as a ski bum and part-time nanny before moving to Roma, Texas (a Mexican border-town) to teach seventh grade English as a Teach for America corps member.  I am still very interested in education and I look forward to reporting on Oakland’s schools this year and am always interested in hearing from readers about issues and events that deserve some press-time.  In my free time, I am an incessant reader.  I also love to ski, bike, run, swim, and eat.

BIO_moorheadLaurel Moorhead

My background consists of editorial work for San Francisco-based travel and photography magazines and as a writer and editor for etc. Magazine, a publication run through the City College of San Francisco that focuses on student-related issues.

I grew up in Berkeley and thanks to my father who insisted his children travel at very young ages, I now struggle with an unceasing urge to globe-trot, which I remedy as often as my bank account will allow, most recently with trips to Southeast Asia and Japan.

I adore kids and my work with them runs the gamut (from summer camp director to San Francisco school volunteer) and my passion for issues concerning children is paramount. Health, environment, transportation, and the arts are emerging interests. I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to explore all these topics in my writing and for the chance to work with such a talented group of writers and editors for the Oakland North website.

BIO_palmstromBecky Palmstrom

I’m originally from Wales, and my itchy feet have led me to interview displaced persons in the Caucasus,  to a political theater company in Tokyo,  and to a stint in Bangladesh with Save the Children’s Cyclone emergency relief team.

My first degree was in International Relations at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. My first real adventure was a year spent in South America when I was 18. One of my first inexplicable loves is Myanmar (Burma), where I spent the past year writing for a newspaper covering the humanitarian relief efforts since Cyclone Nargis.  As a Rotary World Peace fellow at Berkeley,   I am hoping to explore further how story-telling can be a tool for empathy, understanding and peace.

At Oakland North specifically I’m hoping to wrap my head around the cultural differences that any Brit in the states struggles with: why there is a health care debate, why the Californians are so ridiculously friendly, and how on Earth do you pronounce the word “aluminum?”

BIO_ParksRichard Parks

I grew up in East Hollywood but have lived in a cottage in somebody’s back yard in North Oakland since 2008. We share a cinderblock wall with a 24-hour gas station pumping some of the town’s cheapest petrol, which I use to fuel my white 1985 Yamaha Riva scooter. I have reported on issues local to North Oakland for papers including the East Bay Express and the Oakland Tribune and this past spring, I authored what I believe is the longest investigative article ever written about flower-poaching in the Rockridge district.  I’ve also been editor at two small-town newspapers and served as associate producer on an Emmy-nominated documentary film aired on PBS last summer. My writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Oxford American, Paste, No Depression (RIP), and elsewhere. I have contributed to a clothing company blog, composed music for chewing gum commercials, and cut grass to support these efforts.

BIO_ricksPaige Ricks

I am a first year graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. As a recent undergraduate and a Bay Area native, I am eager to be back home. I grew up in Pittsburg, Ca, but went to Carondelet High School, a Catholic school in Concord, Ca. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading fashion magazines and attending a gymnastics classes to tumble around when I can. I’ve spent the last four years going to college at Fresno State University, where I graduated with a B.A.  in Journalism, and I’m  interested in untold stories about different religions and cultures. There are constant talks about the future of journalism, but I feel secure, thankful and happy to be where I am right now.

BIO_schonekerJake Schoneker

I am a recent transplant to the Bay Area, having grown up outside of Philadelphia, PA. I graduated in 2008 from Villanova University,  where I studied Political Science, focusing on environmental issues and social justice. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel and live abroad while  was an undergrad, spending a semester in Shanghai, China and another in Belém, Brazil. In the year since I graduated I’ve worked for a national non-profit organization called City Year. I was a full-time volunteer in a middle school in North Philadelphia, where I tutored and mentored students and started an after-school art program. I’m passionate about education, art, and community service, and I think that they should talk more. I’m a musician and an avid song-writer, and I consider music one of the few objective goods in this world. I also like to play ultimate frisbee, hike, and ski. I will miss being able to watch my Philly sports teams, but I am fascinated and exhilarated by Oakland and all that it has to offer, and I am so glad to be covering it. I’m also excited by new gadgets and technology, especially in how they can make communication easier and better. Eventually I plan to learn Chinese again and return to China, in search of more tasty noodles.

BIO_ServiceShannon Service

I have nearly ten years of media experience as a producer, host and news director on projects for HBO, PBS and Free Speech TV.   My video work has ranged from un-embedded reporting in Baghdad to transmitting a live broadcast from the side of Mount Everest.  I entered Berkeley’s journalism school in 2009 to both sharpen my visual storytelling and delve into other mediums.

Jun Stinson

I spent my childhood in Oakland and BIO_stinsonadolescence in Kobe, Japan, before living along the Mississippi river in Illinois, in the Inland Empire of California, and the “rebel county” of Cork, Ireland. I came to journalism through working with a Kobe radio station that developed out of necessity after the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake, to broadcast daily information in foreign languages to immigrant communities. My experience there made me aware of the important role the media has in distributing information locally. Eventually I came back to the Bay Area and interned with KQED Radio’s Forum and The California Report. I’ve helped coordinate a citizen’s media center at the 2008 Hokkaido G8 summit and have volunteered in children enrichment programs in the U.S. and Japan. I love exploring new communities and am continuously amazed at how complex our world is. Although I’ll always love radio and its historic ability to reach the masses, I’m excited about exploring the many ways that multi-media platforms can connect with a diverse range of people.

BIO_wasserbergerLindsay Wasserberger

Hello, North Oakland. My journey west started in New York, New York. I stopped in suburbia, Florida, and Italia along the way. I returned to NY to attend college at Columbia University and stayed in NY to work in film and television despite longing to live in CA.  Before moving to the East Bay to pursue my decade-old desire to be a journalist (and to see nature again), I associate produced “Julie Menin’s Give and Take,” a web-based interview program. I enjoy good music and good stories — there isn’t a song or story I don’t want to hear — as well as traveling, rock climbing and many other “ing”s. I relish words and images equally (okay, maybe one a little more than the other) and am thrilled to be part of your local multimedia site. North Oakland, please come say hello.

Graduate Student Researchers

BIO_bloomAnna Bloom

Anna Bloom showed all the early signs of being a story junkie. “But you’ve heard that one a thousand times,” her mother would plead before her bedtime fix. Alas, the habit grew worse. In college she would become an English major with a concentration in creative writing, and later, dreams of being a ski bum would be dashed by a newspaper in Park City, Utah. For four months in 2006 Bloom went into rehab at the Art Institute of Chicago, but the stories, and her future at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, beckoned. Bloom helped launch Oakland North in 2008 and continues to contribute as an editor of the site as she rounds her second year as a graduate student, strung out on multimedia and television. Web site:

Tasneem Raja

Tasneem Raja is a multimedia reporter working in print, video, and design. This summer, she was a Bloomberg fellow with News21, a Carnegie-Knight initiative for digital innovation in journalism. Previously, she was a staff writer at the Chicago Reader, and a contributing writer at the Philadelphia Weekly. See more of her work at


BIO_gorneyCynthia Gorney

I was a reporter for The Washington Post for 16 years, grew up in San Francisco (Lowell High School and U.C. Berkeley), and have lived in North Oakland since 1983–raised kids here, coached girls’ soccer, remember when Rockridge Market Hall was a seasonal pumpkin patch or Christmas Tree lot. Since leaving the Post I’ve written for a variety of national magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Runners World and Sports Illustrated, while also teaching here at the Graduate School of Journalism. The new reporters on this site this fall are students in the reporting class I am teaching alongside Kara Platoni.  They’re terrific, full of ideas, and eager to hear from you. Talk to them with any feedback, suggestions, corrections, and guidance on how to see this region through your eyes.

BIO_platoniKara Platoni

Twelve years ago, I was a student in this very class, taught by none other than Cynthia Gorney! Back then first-year students still covered local news — we produced a weekly newspaper — but in those pre-Internet days the only way we could distribute it was via smudgy Xerox, and most of what we wrote never made it far outside of the J-school. We never imagined that one day thousands of people from around the world would be able to read our reports from Oakland. After graduating, I continued to work as a Bay Area reporter; I spent eight years as a staff writer at the East Bay Express, and am now the senior editor at Terrain, a Berkeley-based quarterly environmental magazine. I’m also a freelance science writer for whose work has appeared in nerdly publications like Air & Space, Popular Science and Smithsonian. You can see more of my work at



  1. michelle on November 24, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I like your paper very much and read it regularly. I am disturbed, however, that the U.C. journalism school does not feel any obligation to admit a more diverse group of journalism students. The institutuion is paid for by California residents, but the benefits of the institution are not being equally distributed to those families. I understand that these reporters work hard to represent the diversity of Oakland in their writing, and the admission policies of the institution are not their responsibility. Nonetheless the lack of concern on the part of U.C. administration is actually shocking.

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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