NEWS RELEASE, 11/30/99

UC Berkeley journalism students pick their heroes from the 1940s to 1980s as part of national project

By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Move over, Time magazine's "Man of the Year."

Journalism students at the University of California, Berkeley, have produced a list of heroes - from the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to John Steinbeck's Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath" - that spans a whole half a century.

Their choices for the most impressive men, women and children from the 1940s through the 1980s soon will appear on a special World Wide Web page as part of a national documentary project that explores how Americans define heroes.

Chosen by a Graduate School of Journalism class, the heroes run the gamut. They include Native American Ira Hayes, who in World War II helped raise the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, then came home only to be used in a war bond campaign drive before dying of alcoholism; Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy; ex-presidents John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon; black Islamic leader Malcolm X; musician Bob Dylan; baseball great Satchel Paige and feminist Betty Friedan.

The student journalists-in-training said the assignment made them stretch their definition of heroes to also encompass individuals influential yet sometimes unlikeable and despicable.

Their selections, still being finalized, are part of assignments for a Web-writing course. The task was to write, research, design and produce a Web site devoted to traditional heroes as well as to those who reflect what the students consider to be admirable qualities. The latter category yielded names such as slain San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, the Sierra Club's Edgar Wayburn and Native American leader Dennis Banks.

The students interviewed a few of their subjects, researched many more, and talked with historians about the end of our millennium.

Separated into the categories of mainstream, non-traditional and local heroes, the students' picks for the latter category include:

· Alice McGrath, a woman from Sleepy Lagoon, a Ventura County, Calif., town, who in the 1940s successfully crusaded for a new trial for 13 Latino youths convicted of murder.

· Emmitt Till, a black teenager in the 1950s from Chicago who was lynched while on a trip to Mississippi to visit relatives; and, also from the 1950s, Dalip Singh Saund of California's Imperial Valley, the first Indian-American to serve in Congress.

· Cesar Chavez, who in the 1960s became the champion of California farm workers.

· Dith Pran, a Cambodian refugee who in the 1970s fled the "Killing Fields" and settled in Southern California, and Lois Gibbs, a housewife who stirred up media interest in the Love Canal.

· From the 1980s, Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Nations; Alex Pacheco, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; rapper Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC; Bernard Goetz; Centipede computer game designer Dona Bailey; and artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

The students' list also mentioned Manuel de Dios Unanue, the late editor-in-chief of El Diario; and Special Olympics spokeswoman Cindy Bentley, who in 1987 began living independently despite suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome at birth.

The heroes Web class is led at UC Berkeley by Gail Evenari, a documentary film maker from Half Moon Bay who also is spearheading a wider, interactive exploration of the American hero. She is developing educational materials for elementary through high school classes, a four-part Public Broadcasting System documentary and a book - all of them about heroes.

David Neiman of Los Angeles is teaching the class on campus with Evenari and helps students with Web site design and development. In addition to the students' work, the site will include an on-line survey for Web visitors that will form a database.

When it came to choosing one hero from the 1940s who surpassed all others in terms of wisdom, the UC Berkeley students chose America's favorite baby doctor, whose books parents still read for advice.

"No one's advice but God's was heeded more than Dr. (Benjamin) Spock's," the students wrote on the Web site.


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