In July, San Quentin News adviser William J. Drummond celebrated 40 years teaching journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
For the last 11 years, he has also taught, mentored and advised the writers and editors of the San Quentin News.
His relationship with the newspaper began in 2012, when Drummond taught a journalism course at San Quentin through what was then Patten University — now Mt. Tamalpias College. It was then that Juan Haines, senior editor at SQNews, introduced the professor to the incarcerated-run publication.
“[Drummond] was talking about the newspaper the Black Panthers put out, and how amazing community newspapers were,” said Haines. “So I asked him to check out San Quentin News.”
Haines introduced Drummond to SQNews Editor-in-Chief Arnulfo Garcia. “[Garcia] was charismatic how he talked about the paper,” said Haines. “They hit it off really well.”
Garcia then introduced Drummond to the other SQNews advisers and volunteers. “When the semester was over Drummond kept coming,” said Haines.
Something about the San Quentin News held Drummond’s attention.
“I found myself looking back on 40 years as a journalist, trying to identify a story I wrote, any story, that made anyone’s life materially better,” Drummond told The Daily Californian in 2015. “I wasn’t able to think of one.”
At the time, Drummond said he could not think of anyone he knew who worked in journalism education that had not “suffered a loss of faith” in the subject.
Drummond’s overpowering determination to revive his faith in journalism led to his tenure with SQNews to assist its staff and to show his students what journalism looks like in a real newsroom.
“I teach in a graduate school that gives master’s degrees to kids in journalism,” Drummond told The Daily Californian, adding “and the emphasis is more on software, on technology, than on the skills you need to get stories from people of all walks of life, to write on deadline, to line edit and copy edit.”
Since 2012, over 100 students from UC Berkeley have enhanced their educational experience working at the newspaper inside San Quentin’s media center.
Both students and incarcerated journalists have benefitted from Drummond’s education, journalism experience and 40 years of teaching experience.
Drummond received his BA in journalism from UC Berkeley in 1965. He graduated from Columbia University in 1966, where he earned a master’s degree.
After college, Drummond worked for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky from 1966 to1967. “When I first started in journalism, I was always the youngest guy in the office,” he said.
Drummond moved to the Los Angeles Times as a reporter from 1967 to 1976 and later became a bureau chief in New Delhi and Jerusalem. He was a White House Fellow from 1976 to 1977.
“For three months I was in the State Department and I worked for Henry Kissinger,” said Drummond. Later when Jimmy Carter won the election, Drummond moved to the White House Press Office.
Drummond returned to the Los Angeles Times from 1977 to 1979. He left to work at National Public Radio from 1979 to 1983 and was the founding editor of NPR’s Morning Edition.
At NPR, “Everything changed overnight,” said Drummond. By this time, he was the oldest person working there.
“I came to UC Berkeley [July 1983] and I’ve been there ever since,” said Drummond.
Drummond’s journalism and teaching career has allowed him to accumulate more than 20 awards, including a National Press Club award, the White House Fellows Legacy of Leadership Award, UC Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, and the Leon A. Henkin Citation for Distinguished Service.
“When I was a working journalist I didn’t think about awards,” Drummond said in an interview with SQNews in 2017.
While Drummond may still not be able to cite a story of his that made anyone’s life better, he can point to his 40 years as a professor who has taught every type of writer – everything from numerous state prisoners to two Cal students who went on to be president of the White House Correspondents Association in DC.