Page One

UC’s California News Services Aims to Fill D.C. Journalism Void

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM

The business of journalism is dying. But the need for journalists is not. 

It is that dilemma that gave birth to the UC Washington Center’s California News Service. 

Washington bureaus are rapidly closing, at a time when landmark legislation on health and energy are moving through Congress, a new president is completing his first year, the military is fighting two wars and the nation is emerging from its worst recession in nearly a century. 

The California News Service employs UC students, who are participating in the university’s Washington semester, to write Washington news for local California news outlets. Roughly 220 UC students from nine campuses are in Washington each term working as interns for members of Congress, the White House, think tanks, media outlets and other agencies, as they take classes as part of the UCDC program. 

The idea behind the California News Service is to fill the vacuum created by the diminished ranks of Washington reporters, while providing experience to aspiring journalists. 

“Three years ago the San Francisco Chronicle had five people in Washington. Today there is one,’’ said Marc Sandalow, the Chronicle’s former Washington bureau chief, who was laid off in 2007. “It may be an economic necessity, but sadly it doesn’t mean there is only one fifth as much to write about.’’ 

So Sandalow, who spent 21 years at the Chronicle and now teaches at UC’s Washington Center, teamed up with Susan Rasky, a former Congressional Correspondent for the New York Times and now a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, to develop the news service. 

The California News Service operates out of the UCDC building six blocks north of the White House and has placed stories in papers up and down the state on topics ranging from health care and immigration to politics and the stimulus bill. 

The Daily Planet is publishing a story today about Jeffrey Bleich, an East Bay attorney and old friend of President Obama’s, who will be sworn in Friday as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia. 

To contact the California New Service, e-mail