yukari iwatani kane
Category: Fall 2022, Georgetown Magazine

Title:Reporting the Inside Story

Author: Sara Piccini
Date Published: September 27, 2022

Shortly after she began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2015, Yukari Iwatani Kane (SFS’95) received an email from a friend asking if she would be interested in serving as a journalism instructor at nearby San Quentin State Prison.

A veteran journalist, Kane had covered business and technology for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, and published the bestseller Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs in 2014. Although unfamiliar with the criminal justice system, Kane said yes to the opportunity to work with San Quentin’s inmates, who produce the country’s only prisoner-run newspaper.

“From the first day, my perspective was upended—the talent and the drive of the men inside, the breadth and depth of their stories,” she says.

“As a journalist, there was so much I wanted to write about. But it was very quickly apparent to me that these were not my stories to tell.”

Seeking to empower and amplify the voices of incarcerated men and women, Kane co-founded the nonprofit Prison Journalism Project (PJP) in 2019 with colleague Shaheen Pasha.

“Our goal is to create a national network of prison correspondents, training them in the tools of journalism so they can do this work credibly and with authority,” says Kane, who currently serves as PJP’s co-executive director.

PJP launched an online publication in Spring 2020, publishing approximately 1,500 pieces to date. Recent examples include a news article on a gang prevention summit at a Florida prison, and an essay from a California inmate on “The Long Walk Home”—serving a life sentence without parole.

Other initiatives include a pilot journalism school and a print newspaper, PJP x Inside, that provides instructional tips for incarcerated writers. The organization shares its educational resources with other media outlets, recently developing a toolkit for newsrooms, the Prison Journalism Navigator.

As PJP continues to grow, one of Kane’s highest priorities is building a duty-of-care program. “It’s our obligation to look at everything we’re doing to protect the emotional, legal, and physical safety of our writers.”

Working in a far different environment than the newsroom of The Wall Street Journal, Kane has found herself looking anew at her profession. “What is the intent of journalism? What journalism rules are hard and fast, and what can we rethink? Those are the conversations we have every day. It’s why I love this work so much.”

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