Chip JohnsonChip Johnson, as many know, is a powerful columnist for the SFGate. Growing up in Oberlin, Ohio, Johnson has a Midwestern soul, but that does not hold him back from speaking the truth.

Finding his niche in writing was not difficult for Johnson. He found himself attending college at San Francisco State, where he began writing and never stopped. Johnson’s career started to build during his summers throughout college when he began interning at multiple newspaper companies. Johnson has a strong past of working in the print journalism business, which involved moving from state to state for many years. Finally, Johnson found his way back to the Bay Area in 1997 and has been writing for the SFGate ever since. His passion for writing and exposing the truth led him to being honored by the Bay Area Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2008.

Being a reporter in Oakland is a tough job, there are never ending acts of crime and a politics system that seems to be falling through the cracks. Working with people involved in these stories can become difficult and may seem impossible, but Johnson never fails to produce a story.

While throwing his head back and letting out a jolly yet raspy laugh, Johnson shares one of his favorite stories. When describing his interview with an Oakland politician, Johnson created a colorful build up that would make any listener eager to hear more. “I was the first guy to interview the mayor when he was elected into office, okay, I had to get all of my prepared questions answered” he said. Johnson went on to describe his interview’s rocky start and how it quickly escalated into a testosterone battle. After arguing about who would win in a brawl, Johnson left the building with his manliness intact. “I did not get the answers to the questions I was planning to write about, but I did get a story” stated Johnson with a smile. He went on to write his column about his first impression and meeting with the mayor. Shortly after the column was released, Johnson received a phone call from the politician stating that he loved the interview.

What any journalist, should learn from Johnson’s story is that there is always something to write a column about. Sometimes, an investigative reporter may go into an interview or a situation with an idea of how they think that the experience should go, but receive the complete opposite. Johnson went into mayor’s office expecting to report his column on the mayor’s new plans for the city of Oakland; instead he got in a vocal battle and asked to leave the building. Many reporters may have been timid to put their experience into their column in fear of the mayor’s response, but as a talented investigative reporter, Johnson showed how important it is to expose the truth in one’s column.

Listening to Johnson, it is clear that an investigative reporter cannot have two things, expectations and reserves. Johnson has demonstrated his high level of courage by putting multiple politicians and their immoral actions in the know without blinking twice. His love for giving people the information that they deserve to know without thinking of his own repercussions is inspirational. One can only imagine how it feels to be Chip Johnson; he is able to walk into a room and instantly light it up with personality, or write a column and just as quickly silence it.

IMG_8131Winning more than 50 journalism awards, it is safe to say that Thomas Peele is a man of many accomplishments.

Listening to Peele’s heavy accent, it is no secret that he comes from the north east. Peele got his journalism start on the east coast when he began writing for a weekly newspaper in New York. From there he went on to write for the Atlantic City Press in New Jersey.  Working on a story about a small town, Peele reported on a corrupt government and gambling issues. These stories taught him the necessary steps to becoming an investigative reporter.

In 2000, Peele made the move to California where he would work for the Contra Costa Times. Using skills from previous jobs, he continued his work as an investigative reporter. Peele focused on topics such as politics, corruption, and nursing home abuse. His many investigative accomplishments include suing Oakland and requiring the city to release its government employee’s salaries. While this was a great feat for Peele, his life was about to change drastically.

With the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, Peele’s focus completely changed. Peele took on writing stories about Bailey’s death and the lack of investigative work by the police. Bailey’s murderer confessed to his actions, but it was clear that he was not working alone. The murderer was connected to the Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland, which Bailey was writing a column about. After the confession, the police took a step back and did not look much deeper into the other issues surrounding the crime.

Peele began the Chauncey Bailey project with other journalists. “When you kill one reporter, 20 more will show up,” said Peele. Journalists continued to work on Bailey’s stories and looked deeper into the Black Muslim Bakery and their crimes. This strength in numbers helped to reveal overlooked evidence and crimes connected with Bailey’s murder. Peele wanted to show the world that you can kill a journalist, but you cannot kill his work, nor stop it.

The dedication to the Chauncey Bailey project turned into a book called Killing the Messenger, written by Peele. He wrote a narrative nonfiction that reveals his investigative work on Bailey’s murder. The book goes into depth on the Black Muslim Bakery and the corrupt leaders behind the cult. The bakery was originally led by Yusuf Bey; a man with multiple wives, children, and accused with countless accusations of rape. “Yusuf Bey has 44 documented children, and many say there are 20 more undocumented,” stated Peele. Bey was a powerful man with a cult of followers and a hand on the police department.

A natural fear is instilled in any journalist that carries on Bailey’s investigative work. Bailey was murdered at 7:30 AM walking to work. Peele talked to ‘shady people’ to get information and at times felt at risk. He shared that he took certain precautions when investigating, but Peele could not let fear take over what he wanted to accomplish.

Peele never let fear step in his way when investigating the Bailey project and writing his book. It is clear that Peele’s passion for his work is something that not many people have. He is living proof that journalism is power. Without Peele’s work, Bailey would have never received the justice that he deserved.

Stan Bunger brightens San Fran’s Mornings

stanbungerFor many, a 3am wakeup call everyday would make people cringe, but for Stan Bunger it is normal. Bunger says, “Everyone’s day should begin with two things: a cup of coffee and the news.” Luckily for Bunger, he wakes up at 3am with a cup of coffee and heads to work to deliver the people of the Bay Area their morning news.

Stan Bunger is a California native, but more importantly the co-anchor of the San Francisco radio station KCBS. He started out his collegiate career wanting to be a marine biologist, but had a change in majors when he fell in love with broadcasting. Bunger graduated from West Valley College in California and went on to San Francisco State University to graduate with a degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts.

Bunger started out in the 1970’s at numerous radio stations in California. At these locations, he learned the skills of a radio broadcaster. These skills helped to lead Bunger to win many radio broadcasting awards, along with a job with a prestige radio station. Hoping around from different radio and television stations, Bunger was able to learn different skills and the important lingo to his profession.

Being a news reporter, Bunger made it clear that you must be able to have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of subjects. A reporter cannot predict exactly what will happen throughout the day, so it is clear that being up on the current topics is important. Bunger does this well, especially in this multi-media world. He can be in the middle of giving a radio show, while updating his Twitter, and surfing his Facebook page. Being able to do this is important to radio broadcasting because the information must be immediate and as correct and reliable as possible.

A lot of the time, Bunger is the first person that people connect with in their day. Relationships with listeners and also with others are very important in a business that needs to relay correct information quickly. When a story shows up on the web, Bunger must make sure that the information is reliable before announcing the news on air. This means that Bunger may have to contact an outside source to confirm his information. Bunger must develop a strong connection with these outside sources, as well as listeners.

Being the first voice that people hear in the morning is almost empowering. Bunger is able to decide the way that his listener’s mornings are going to go. He can deliver important news or a fluffy story that will get their mornings started. Being a local news anchor, the Bay Area residents identify more with Bunger than a national news anchor. He is able to give local news and become a familiar voice to many people.

Being a radio or television broadcaster is more than having the perfect voice or the right face for television. An anchor must have skills that many lack. Bunger shows his skills by multi-tasking with multi-media on a daily basis. An anchor must love their job enough to wake up every morning before the crack of dawn for the benefit of other people. Bunger has impeccable social skills that allow him to have a depth of outside sources, as well as loyal followers. Stan Bunger brings all of these elements to the studio every morning and KCBS Morning Newswatch is lucky to have him as an anchor.

BZnlETvCUAAvQuANo one can compete with Wendy Tokuda when she proudly states that she is the first Asian American Monday through Friday television anchor. Her journey began as a college student in the 70’s that saw an Asian American female delivering news on TV. Tokuda got the opportunity to shadow the anchor and found that she wanted this career to be her future. She started her first job as a secretary at a station in KPIX in Seattle Washington. From there, Tokuda worked her way to the top becoming an anchor and eventually a well-known anchor in the Bay Area.

Entering into the broadcasting world in the 70’s, Tokuda was able to learn and adapt through the changes of media and technology. From video cameras that carried film reels to being able to capture video on your phone, Tokuda has seen it all. The reality of the news room is that things are always changing. It is important to be open to learning new techniques and tools quickly because technology is always changing. Tokuda says, “Journalism will always stay the same, but the medium will always be changing and adapting.” In general, adaptability is a crucial asset to have in the news room. One may be sent out to report or interview one story, but that story could all of a sudden change.

Reporters are constantly asking questions and are never satisfied with the information they receive. Tokuda retired from the anchoring business, but was not content with relaxing all day. She wanted to share stories with the public like she always had, but this time she wanted to pick her genre. Tokuda decided that she wanted to share the stories of children who had grown up in poverty. Instead of sharing depressing stories that the viewers were tired of seeing, Tokuda shared stories of the children who fought their way through the odds.

Tokuda started a television project called Students Rising Above. Her goal was to get these children’s hardships into the public eye and then show how strong they were to rise above. The stories are heart wrenching, consisting of stories that no one would wish for a child. Many of the children do not have parents or enough money for food. Tokuda started with a project, but ended up changing 100’s of children’s lives.

What started as a television project quickly escalated into a non-profit organization. Tokuda says, “Now that, that right there, is the power of media.” The stories were aired and soon enough, people in the area were looking to donate money to help send these kids to college. A fund was created along with a mentor and advisor to help get them settled at college. The goal of this foundation is not to help the kids get into college, but to have them graduate. Tokuda says, “A boy once told me that he knew more people that have gotten shot, than people who went to college.”

Tokuda has opened many people’s eye to the reality of living in a low poverty community. Every child should have a chance to be what they want in the world. Because of Tokuda, 100s of kids have gone to college with scholarships and have gone on to change the world for the better. Tokuda used the power of media in the most beautiful way, to change lives forever.

Many people may confuse public relations for marketing, but Dennis Erokan makes it clear for us all. Erokan’s successful career is no secret and has allowed him to grow in public relations and represent many.

Erokan chased his musical dreams in the 1970’s and toured around the country with his band. He set a goal with himself that he would get a “real world” job if he was not signed for a record deal by the age of 23. When that time came around, Erokan explored working sometime in the food business before realizing his true gift. Erokan’s love of music never died and he found himself enjoying the world of journalism. He successfully mixed the two interests and founded the BAM Magazine in 1976.

Bam Magazine opened the Bay Area up to the music scene and allowed the younger generations to afford music magazines. When starting the magazine, Erokan did some research. He found that a successful magazine requires 2 million dollars and $1.8 of that is dedicated to marketing. The $1.8 is basically used to convince people to buy the $1.99 magazine. Erokan came up with the idea to hand out his magazine for free instead. This was a hit and BAM Magazine became one of the fastest growing magazines and changed the selling game for all.

Erokan needed to begin to brand himself and his company, so he found a mentor to guide him through. Together they came up with the idea of the Bay Area Music Awards. In 1978 the “Bammies” brought in about 9,000 music industry leaders and continues to do so. This event allowed Erokan to create a reputation that many in the event, journalism, and music industry could respect. Through the building of his events and magazines, Erokan learned the importance of public relations for all.

There is no doubt that Erokan has a niche for public relations. He stressed the importance of using crisis control, social media, and the importance of utilizing the connections that you have. Real life events happen and being aware of the negatives that can happen to a company before it actually does is key.  Erokan believes the importance of making an immediate apology was to the public. As soon as something as tragic happens that hurts the company’s image, it is important to go to the location and state a sincere apology. People are much more likely to accept that statement and move forward with the company.

Social media is important in sharing information with multiple people at once. With the internet, more people see the information that one posts whether the poster realizes this or not. Today’s media outlets allow for people to connect quickly and in a more intriguing way. Realizing your strengths and connections helps a company to brand their image. Reaching out to people who can boost your image is crucial, along with working connections in a way to benefit you.

It seems as if Dennis Erokan was born with public relation genes already leading him to success. While this may be true, Erokan set goals for himself and chased his dreams realistically. The dreams that he followed and the accomplishments he made come from the advice that he shares with many. Finding an interest and making a career out of it is key. However, you must be prepared to market yourself successfully and create a reputable brand.


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