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Mills College Journalism Instructors Win Top Awards Including Journalist of the Year Holly Kernan

Oakland, CA–September 29, 2009. Holly Kernan, director of the Public Radio Reporting Program at Mills College, has won top honor as Journalist of the Year from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in its 2009 Excellence in Journalism Awards. Journalism instructor Meredith May also won for feature writing.

Kernan, news director at KALW public radio, has been teaching public interest reporting at Mills College since 2005 with winning results.

"I'm thrilled and humbled to get the award and honored to be among such excellent colleagues,” she said. “I hope the award opens the door to giving student reporters more opportunities.”

The Society of Professional Journalists noted Kernan's creativity and determination during a tough climate for journalism.

“Amid unprecedented layoffs of journalists throughout the region and continued shrinkage of many media outlets in Northern California, Kernan had the audacity and drive to expand KALW's ambitious weekly newsmagazine, Crosscurrents, to a daily format, winning national attention and a devoted audience,” the organization said in a statement. “Operating on a shoestring budget, Kernan leads a team of reporters in putting together a quality news program with a focus on covering underserved communities.”

At Mills, Kernan’s students have won numerous awards, including best radio documentary for public radio reporting by the Society of Professional Journalists (2008); two Gracie awards for outstanding series and outstanding documentary radio series by the Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television (2008); and outstanding writing in radio from the National Awards for Education Reporting (2008). Find out more about the Public Radio Reporting Program at Mills.

Kernan also teaches advanced watchdog reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Before joining KALW in 2001, Kernan spent 6 years at KQED as a producer/reporter and also made historical documentaries for Canal Sur, a Spanish public television station in Spain.

Kernan said she focused on public interest reporting at KALW starting in 2003 because “I was tired of lamenting the decline in local depth reporting. We aren't doing enough, but at least we're doing what we can to step into the reporting void.”

However, Kernan is also encouraged by new opportunities and business models in journalism with organizations like spot.us, where individuals pledge and donate funds to specific stories for reporters to investigate.

Mills College alumna and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Meredith May (Class of 1991) also won an award for feature writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. “Olga’s Girls” is a story about 83-year-old Olga Murray of Sausalito who is eliminating girl slavery in Nepal by convincing families to raise goats for money instead of selling their daughters as “kamlaris” into indentured servitude.

The story was partly funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which has sent her on a speaking tour about Olga's girls.

May came back to Mills in 2007 to teach newspaper and online journalism.  

“It's a joy to introduce students to journalism because that used to be me sitting on the other side of the classroom,” May said. “The news business is going through change right now, but there will always be need for stories—storytelling is the foundation of our human culture.”

Mills College is proud to be supporting excellence in journalism, including inviting top journalists to speak at the College. On October 12, veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas will speak about her nearly 60 years covering presidential politics with Mills College alumna and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (Class of 1973). On October 28, former National Public Radio reporter Linda Gradstein will talk about reporting on Israel and the Palestinians from a woman’s perspective. More information about the Thomas event.

Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering a dynamic progressive education that fosters leadership, social responsibility, and creativity to approximately 950 undergraduate women and 550 graduate women and men. Since 2000, applications to Mills College have more than doubled. The College is named one of the top colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks as one of the Best 371 Colleges by the Princeton Review. Forbes.com ranked Mills 55th among America's best colleges and named it a "Top Ten: Best of the All-Women's Colleges." Visit us at www.mills.edu.

Quynh Tran
Media Relations Manager

Last Updated: 2/27/17