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UC Berkeley God, Sex and Family

About This Project

Stories about religion are too often framed around conflict and controversy, culture wars and holy wars. We want to tell another story – the lived experience of people’s faith.

We are a team of journalists from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley exploring "God, Sex and Family." That's where choices about marriage, dating, the building of community, family and faith play out in private life.

Special thanks to Milan Andric, Scot Hacker, Roy Baryl, Kean Sakata, Milt Wallace, Paul Grabowicz, Marsha Parker, Neil Henry, Gayle Allerson, Mary Ann Glazar, Helen Ettlinger

Biographies of News21 Fellows and Reporters
Image: Singeli Agnew
Singeli Agnew

Journalist Singeli Agnew began her career in rural Montana, where the churches just barely outnumbered the bars. She worked as a writer and photographer for six years before returning to UC-Berkeley to study documentary film. Singeli has reported from Nepal, India and France, and this year headed out on the American highways to produce a film about migratory beekeepers. Her work has been published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific News Service, High Country News, the Associated Press & FRONTLINE/World. You can view her photos at

Image: Kara Andrade
Kara Andrade

Kara is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism. She received her B.A. in Literature from New College of Florida and has a six years of experience in nonprofit development, public health and community organizing. She has worked as a staff writer, photojournalist and translator for the Alameda Journal of the Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune, Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, and many local publications such as El Tecolote, the SF Bay Guardian, Colorlines and Code 3 magazines. She was a program coordinator and community organizer for a youth policy group called Environmental Prevention In Communities (EPIC) based in Berkeley and has won numerous fellowships and awards. She is in her second year of her concurrent degree in journalism and Latin American Studies.

Image: Pauline Bartolone
Pauline Bartolone

Pauline Bartolone's primary passion is long-form radio, but she's fallen in love with photography and multimedia production since she's been at UC Berkeley. Her work has been heard by a national audience, including NPR news, Latino USA, Living On Earth and Weekend America. Before graduate school Pauline freelanced from several Latin American countries and was Associate Producer of Making Contact. She's moved by good stories, everything from Colombian landmine victims to polyamory in the bay area. Pauline's very excited to be part of News21, what she hopes is just the start of her involvement in many more innovative documentary multimedia projects.

Image: Jason Blalock
Jason Blalock

Jason was born deep in the Bible Belt, and moved to California at a young age. He's taken the News 21 religious theme as an opportunity to explore his family's spiritual Southern roots. Not a practitioner of any religion, Jason returns to Pensacola, Florida to visit (and film) his born-again Christian brother, and find out if they can survive each other's dogma for seven days. Brotherly bantering aside, the result is an intimate portrait of a family coming to terms with their religious differences.

Image: Bonovich Headshot
Nik Bonovich

Nik Bonovich is a political writer and analyst. He has written and analyzed polls for, The California Target Book, The Hotline, Congress Daily, Capitol Weekly. Prior to his journalism career Nik worked on various state Assembly, state Senate, U.S. House, U.S. Senate and statewide proposition campaigns. Most recently he worked in the ABC News Political Unit and will be working this fall in the ABC Polling Unit. His interests in politics include, polls, demographics, political geography and voter trends. He received a Bachelors Degree from UCLA and a Masters from UC Berkeley.

Nik was the political editor for the project. He wrote the politcal essay on the Interior West that accompanies the Montana suite. He also wrote and compiled the sidebar text for Purple America and Youth Vote maps.

Image: Tonantzin DeAztlan
Toni DeAztlan

When I introduce myself to a new person, the first question they ask me is "how do you pronounce your name?" Its a great question because 1. people are making sure to pronounce my name correctly and 2. its always a memorable meeting. As my mom likes to say, my father named me. It was his effort as reclaiming our indigenous heritage that makes up the personal history of virtually all Mexican-Americans. He says he was inspired by Malcolm X. 28 years later, I found myself interviewing one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam, the muslim group Malcolm X belonged to, at their signature mosque in Chicago. Looking back, I see that this rare opportunity is part of a circle that began with my name. These circles are what influence my stories. As a video journalist, I strive to capture a lived experience that begins, sometimes without my realizing, with my own past, culture, and inherited knowledge. This self-born path has led me all over the world: to Denmark and China, and all over this country from coast to coast and everything in-between. I look forward to continuing on this path, now as a News21 Fellow reporting on religion. By the way, the second question people ask when I first meet them is, "Do you have a nickname?"

Image: Dizikes Pic
Cynthia Dizikes

Cynthia Dizikes is a recent graduate of the UC Berkeley graduate school of journalism. She has worked as a reporter for the Anniston Star in Alabama and the Easy Reader in California. Her work has been published in CongressDaily, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, and on Her thesis project, "Commitment", a magazine profile
about a scientist at Stanford, received the 2008 Gobind Behari Lal Award for the Most Outstanding Science or Health-Related story. This fall she will be interning at the LA Times Washington Bureau.

Dizikes collaborated with Drew Himmelstein and Caryln Reichel on the suite of stories from Minnesota about Middle Class Values.

Image: Erin Fitzgerald
Erin Fitzgerald

Erin FitzGerald is on the Television/Documentary track here at the journalism school. "I have been fortunate to live an interesting and perhaps miraculous life. I've lived and worked alongside farmworkers in Washington State, survived a war in Uganda, and recently, at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, I produced and directed a short video on family caregivers of the traumatically brain injured. I was born in Southern California to a Catholic father and an Episcopalian mother. Though I’m not affiliated with any religion, I have a deep respect for spiritual experience, within a religious context or otherwise. I'm interested in people's spiritual awakenings and epiphanies. I want to know what people believe in, care about, and why. Stories about people's personal relationship with God in the face of both everyday choices and uncommon adversity are important and worthy of attention. I like the small stories the best. One of my favorites while working with News21; a pastor at a small church with only eight congregants. But Oh! how they could sing!

Image: Samantha Grant
Samantha Grant

Samantha Grant is a documentary junkie. Film, video, radio, television - whatever the medium, Sam's passion for storytelling comes through. Whether she's plumbing the depths of crafty churches or hunting down kidney brokers in the slums of India, Sam and her camera are always on the prowl for the next great adventure. Through GUSHproductions, her SF based outfit, Sam has kept herself busy for the past several years creating content for a variety of clients including PBS, NPR, PRI, MTV, Al Jazeera International, FRONTLINE/World, Current TV, KRCB, and Electronic Arts. Thanks, Sam

Image: larissa bio pic
Larissa Haida

Larissa Haida is currently enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus Masters program during which she has studied in Denmark and The Netherlands. Before entering the masters program, she studied communication science in Germany. Her thesis - a study on the media coverage of the European Presidency 2007 - was published in book form in April this year. Larissa has interned at various newspapers in Germany and the United States. Her work has been published in outlets such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt.

Larissa collaborated with Carola Mamberto and Adithya Sambamurthy on the Rocket City, USA documentary from Huntsville, Alabama.

Image: Joelle Jaffe
Joelle Jaffe

Joelle Jaffe is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker currently living in the Bay Area. Before moving to California, she spent five years at Public Affairs Television in NYC, where she worked on a number of PBS documentaries, as well as the weekly newsmagazine NOW. When not editing video, she can usually be found playing and singing with the SF-based band Blammos. Joelle has a BA in Literature from Yale and an MJ from UC Berkeley.

Image: adi bio pic
Adithya Sambamurthy

Adithya Sambamurthy is a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker based in Berkeley, California. He is currently completing dual Masters degrees in Journalism and International Relations at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to graduate school, he worked five years as a staff photojournalist at small and large newspapers around the US, and freelanced for publications in Europe and in India. While at the Graduate School of Journalism, he won a Student Emmy for producing the television magazine show Crossroads, and the Dorothea Lange Fellowship for Main Street California, a photo essay set along US Highway 99. His thesis documentary short Healthy. Happy. Holy., about the Anglo-American Sikh community of New Mexico earned him the Hearst Prize for Excellence in Documentary. Adithya was born in India and grew up in Germany and the United States. After graduation, he hopes to continue working as a photojournalist and documentary producer.

Adithya collaborated with Larissa Haida and Carola Mamberto on the Rocket City, USA documentary from Huntsville, Alabama.

Image: Nikolaus Steinberg
Nik Steinberg

Nik Steinberg comes to News21 from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he is working toward a Master’s degree in Public Policy. After graduating from Dartmouth in 2002, Nik headed to Chiapas, Mexico, where he helped Zapatista communities organize their own schools. He then crisscrossed borders in the Balkans assisting Roma asylum seekers, and worked for a human rights organization fighting caste discrimination in South India. Nik hopes his work in journalism will allow him to bring together his passion for social justice with his love of writing.

Image: Catriona Stuart
Catriona Stuart

Catriona Stuart is a freelance writer and producer who often trips on the dividing line between written and multimedia storytelling. She has traveled around the globe in pursuit of the international garbage trail and stayed at home to kvetch with knitters. Her latest work is a short film about the Vietnam War’s last fighters. She has also covered social and environmental stories for the Palm Beach Post, Sierra magazine and The New York Sun. Catriona plans to relocate to St. Petersburg, Florida where she hopes to write some good stories without getting sunburned. Get in touch with her at catrionastuart ( at )

Image: Clayton Worfolk
Clayton Worfolk

Clayton Worfolk grew up in the so-called "buckle" of California's Bible Belt -- the Central Valley. He's a long-form print and TV student working on a joint degree in Latin American Studies who hopes to one day work in music journalism. Worfolk's last reporting assignment took him to Panama City, Panama, where he spent three weeks exploring the roots of reggaeton.

Biographies of News21 Editors
Mimi Chakarova, Deputy Managing Editor

Chakarova received her BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. She completed her graduate thesis in the Visual Studies Department at UC Berkeley. She has had numerous solo exhibitions of her documentary projects on Africa and the Caribbean. She is the recipient of the 2003 Dorothea Lange Fellowship for outstanding work in documentary photography and the 2005 Magnum Photos Inge Morath Award for her work on sex trafficking in Eastern Europe.

Image: Don Lattin
Don Lattin, Managing Editor

Don Lattin is one of the nation's leading journalists covering alternative and mainstream religious movements and figures in America. He is the author of the upcoming book “Jesus Freaks - A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge” (HarperOne 2007). He also wrote “Following Our Bliss - How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today” (HarperSanFrancisco 2003) and is the co-author (with Richard Cimino) of “Shopping for Faith - American Religion in the New Millennium" (Jossey Bass 1998).

His work has appeared in dozens of U.S. magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, where Don covered the religion beat for nearly two decades. He has also worked as a consultant and commentator for Dateline NBC; PrimeTime Live and Good Morning America on ABC Television; American Morning on CNN and Religion and Ethics News Weekly on PBS.

Don has taught religion writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he holds a degree in sociology. During the summer of 2007, Don is working as the managing editor for “News21” at UC Berkeley.

Image: Jeremy Rue
Jeremy Rue, Fellow

Jeremy Rue is a recent graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied advanced multimedia storytelling, photojournalism and print journalism. He previously worked as a multimedia journalist for the Oakland Tribune, where he produced a number of Web-based projects related to the rise of Oakland homicides in 2006. Before enrolling at UC Berkeley, Rue previously had worked as a photojournalist for a number of publications, including The Fresno Bee, The Modesto Bee and the Duluth News-Tribune in Minnesota. He then went on to become a reporter for the Selma (Calif.) Enterprise, where he covered city government, courts and crime. Rue is also the recipient of the 2007 Dorothea Lange Fellowship for his photo documentary work on migrant farm workers in the California Central Valley . He is an expert with Adobe Flash/ActionScript, HTML/CSS, PHP and a variety of other web scripting languages.

Image: Sandy Tolan
Sandy Tolan, Deputy Managing Editor

Sandy Tolan is a teacher and radio documentary producer. He is the author of two books: Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later (Free Press, 2000), about the intersection between race, sports, and American heroes; and The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2006). The Washington Post called the book “extraordinary” and selected it among their top nonfiction titles for 2006; the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “no novel could be more compelling” and proclaimed, “It will be one of the best nonfiction books you will read this year.”

Sandy has reported from more than 30 countries, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. As co-founder of Homelands Productions, he has produced hundreds of documentaries and features for public radio. He has written for more than 40 newspapers and magazines. Since 2002, Sandy has taught international reporting and radio at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley. In 2007, his students won the George Polk Award for their public radio series on the early signs of climate change around the world – the first time students have been honored in the 58-year history of the awards.

Josh Williams, Fellow

The Latest

Aug 14, 2007 - Our site is near completion. We have all of our projects up - or in some cases samples of the projects to come.

Please check out our wildly popular Moral Compass project, which has been averaging 1,500 visitors a day.

The Data Road Trip project continues to inform viewers by showing the human side of religious statistics we found during our reporting.

Our very own Jason Blalock has completed a powerful video documentary about spending a week with his Christian family in Florida in My Brother, The Christian.

Also taking place in Florida, the Ave Maria project shows the dichotomy between two Catholic communities, and how two cultures exist under one faith.

Recently featured in a full page spread in the San Francisco Chronicle, Pauline Bartolone's project about Muslim Polygamy is taking viewers into an intimate world most know little about. Stay Tuned.