Summer 2013 Guest Speakers Announced — Pulitzer Prize Winner Adam Johnson To Appear at NBTB

This year’s list for Newsroom by the Bay’s evening speaker series is out, and it’s a stellar lineup, including a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, an iPad publishing pioneer, a technology reporter for, a standout student journalist, and an award-winning journalism adviser who was behind some of the very first student reporting about AIDS.

AdamAdam Johnson, a Stanford creative writing professor who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, will kick off the series on Monday, June 24. Johnson, who graduated with a B.A. from the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, is a Whiting Writers’ Award winner, the author of Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel, Parasites Like Us. His books have been translated into 23 languages, and he was a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. His work has appeared in EsquireHarper’s, Playboy, GQ, Paris Review, Granta, Tin House, The New York Times and Best American Short Stories. 

The heartbreaking story of Jun Do, a North Korean citizen who becomes a government kidnapper and then tries to navigate his way — both literally and figuratively — through the repressive regime of the Hermit Kingdom, The Orphan Master’s Son began in reportage. During a 2007 visit to North Korea, Johnson witnessed starving citizens trying to pick chestnuts in a park (a forbidden act) and truckloads of “volunteers” being taken to fields for harvest work. From those journalistic beginnings, the novel takes a huge imaginative leap into literary fiction, in an effort to tell the many stories of a country that Johnson, in an interview with the PBS NewsHour, described as a literary monoculture.

“In North Korea, there is only one story and everyone is a secondary character,” Johnson said. “You have to censor yourself.”

On Tuesday, June 25, Scott Landis, a Newsroom by the Bay faculty member and former University of Oregon student editor who was the driving force behind OR, one of the first-ever iPad magazines, will speak on social media.  One of the sharpest tools in a journalist’s backpack, social media can also be a double-edged sword. Scott will be speaking on how different social media platforms can be used to help build stories, verify facts and build connections, as well as the responsible use of these powerful tools.

How technology and politics come together — and sometimes collide — will be the subject of a talk by Michelle Quinn, a technology reporter for, on Wednesday, June 26. Michelle has worked at the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle. Most recently, she wrote a general news blog for The New York Times and worked as a media adviser to Jerry Brown in his capacity as attorney general. 

Eric Burse, the National Association of Black Journalists’ Student Journalist of the Year, will speak Thursday, June 27 about a subject he’s taken to heart — how to create your own personal brand, including the do’s and don’ts of shaping your own digital footprint. A graduate-to-be of the Annenberg School of Journalism & Communication at the University of Southern California, Eric has contributed to a number of campus publications and also works as an intern for “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” He is a popular speaker and appeared recently at the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association Spring National High School Journalism convention in San Francisco. You can see Eric’s personal brand at work on his website.

Our final speaker, on Friday, June 28, is Nick Ferentinos, a veteran, award-winning adviser, whose students made their own headlines when their plans to publish a profile of a student who was HIV-positive were nearly dashed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which gave school administrators broad powers to censor student publications. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the decision.

The story of how the students of Cupertino, Calif.’s Homestead High School prevailed — and ultimately published their story — is a fascinating moment in student journalism. Nick’s presentation will include a panel of former students as well as reporters involved in the case, and they’ll  talk about how a little-known California law made it possible at the last minute for Nick’s students to exercise their First Amendment rights.

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