Join Richard Koci Hernandez for an in-depth discussion in this video Teaching at UC Berkeley, part of Creative Inspirations: Richard Koci Hernandez, Multimedia Journalist.
(Music playing.) Richard: I got hired here at UC Berkeley to teach the things I taught myself, and so I am teaching new media. I am teaching video, multimedia storytelling, Final Cut, photography, a little HTML, a little CSS, a little bit of everything.
Teaching for me was never part of my plan or part of my life path that I saw ahead of me. I thought I would be a traditional storyteller all my life. I never thought I would stop and teach, but I cannot tell you how much I love teaching. It's unbelievable. This is what I love. This is right when you walk into the Graduate School of Journalism. What I love is a little bit of a mix of the old-school printed papers from around the world and then a screen actually of the sites that we are building here. Why I got hired was to build these community sites, and teach the students all of this community journalism and multimedia that you're seeing here.
So this is the first thing you see when you come into the school, which I love. The simple fact that somebody with my experience would land at a place like UC Berkeley at a graduate-level teaching position baffles me. Sometimes I wonder how I got here, and why am I uniquely qualified to do this, because it's not a traditional position. People who traditionally teach at this level have Masters and they have done all this academic work, and I've just been in the trenches.
But I learned that that's what they wanted, and that's what brought me here. My experience at the Mercury News and what I did by self-teaching myself all this technology and practicing that technology is what they were looking for. The one thing I think that you have to have now as go forward--and if you take this advice to heart and you really do it, you will thank me at the end of two years-- you need to begin to brand yourself. You need to begin to think about who you are as a journalist and begin to put yourself out on the web.
I'll show you a little-- So how WordPress.com in minutes--last night I did it. It took me 30 seconds to give my dog a WordPress blog. 30 seconds, okay. Create a small demo reel, a minute and a half, create a Vimeo page, put it on there. If you have a business card, point people to that. Everybody talks about that whole thing: if you can't do, you teach--which has got to be baloney because I did it.
I did a lot, and that's what I am doing now. I am teaching what I did, so I did, and now I am teaching it. So if I can not tell them what to do, but maybe show them how I did it or show them a way that someone else did it, maybe that's a good way of teaching. I am talking about something we don't teach here that's very foreign to us. It's called promoting yourself. It's called branding yourself. Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It's the extension of your personality.
I say this too because it's not something you hear in journalism. We're not supposed to have personality. We're supposed to be these robots. I am just here for the facts; I have no opinion. I mean, but think about it. You want to have a visual style that's your own that you are recognized for that takes you above everyone else. How in the hell do you get that style? I have no idea, but I thought about something. Here is what I, what I get, dark, black and white. There is religious. There is some greediness. I scratched, eventually scratched the negative up and hand-colored it.
There is this kind of texture to it. It's been there since the beginning. Before I got employed, here's me at the Mercury News doing daily assignments on a train station. Look at that picture. Dark, blurry, can't identify people. You start making connections, who you are, and blah, blah, blah. You send me to cover the unveiling of a new Apple screen. What do I come back with? Not a picture of the screen, but a picture of some blurry guy walking past the Apple thing with the screen right here. Don't be afraid of it.
I was afraid of it. It looks like, oh, you are a one-trick pony. You won't be a one-trick pony. This is who you are. This is what you do. People I think respect that and want that, so we go from that philosophy, style, blah, blah, blah. The students here frighten me. They frighten me to keep working, to keep telling stories, because if I stop or blink for one second, they are going to catch up to me, and the student is going to be the master. A student will be the teacher. I mean, I just finished a two-hour class, and I learned two things I didn't know before that class started from students because we sat down afterwards and looked at something, and they asked me a question.
I said, "Well, you know I don't," and they are like, "Oh, well, this is how you do it." That's what's most exciting is that now-- they don't really know this--but I feel like I am a student. I didn't get my graduate degree, but I feel like I am getting it now, and at the same time I'm teaching, so it's a weird thing, but it's a wonderful thing at the same time. (Music playing.) (Music playing.)
In Bonus Features, Koci is interviewed by Graduate School of Journalism colleague Jeremy Rue at the Pacific Film Archive Theatre, University of California, Berkeley.