As the field of psychedelics continues to rapidly expand, Tim Ferriss believes that more journalists are needed to uphold accountability and provide reliable information.
“Good journalists can help separate fact from fiction, real deliverables from marketing, and white hat versus black hat players, among other things,” said Ferriss.
Widely known for his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show and his series of books including “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Ferriss has donated more than $800,000 over three years to the University of California Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) to increase the number of journalists covering psychedelics.
The donation, which was announced in September by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, will create fellowships for reporters covering “the science, business, policy, and culture of psychedelics for mainstream news outlets.” According to the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism where the fellowship will be based, the application form will go live on December 1, 2021.
According to Ferriss, the fellowship is not intended to address any particular weakness in the present coverage of psychedelics. “I just see a small number of journalists who currently view this beat as a valid career choice,” said Ferriss. “I’m hoping the Ferriss-UC Berkeley Psychedelic Journalism Fellowship, and other fellowships that emerge, will help change that.”
The Ferriss-UC Berkeley Psychedelic Journalism Fellowship is intended to help early and mid-career journalists develop their knowledge of the field and cover in-depth stories in print and audio media. The fellowship will be overseen by author Michael Pollan, whose book “How to Change Your Mind” documented the revival of scientific research into psychedelic-assisted therapies.
Pollan is a professor at the graduate school at UC Berkeley. The Ferriss-UC Berkeley Psychedelic Journalism Fellowship is modeled on the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship.
Ferriss wrote on Twitter that he believes longform and investigative journalism can “bend the arc of history.” The fellowship offers journalists reporting grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to support what the program describes as “big, underreported, narratively compelling stories placed in rich political, economic, scientific, and cultural contexts.”
A growing number of journalists are writing about psychedelics for news outlets that have emerged in the past few years. When asked why the fellowship is focused on placing stories in “mainstream news outlets,” Ferriss replied that many forms of media are needed to shift cultural attitudes and policies that impact psychedelics.
“That said, the Fellowship will only be able to help a finite number of journalists, so our hope is that their work is placed in outlets that reach large audiences of influence,” said Ferriss. “It’s not to diminish smaller outlets; we simply have limited funds and need to pick our shots.”
Ferriss doesn’t think that journalists need specialized training to produce in-depth reporting on psychedelics. He believes that reporters who excel at long-form investigative journalism have the critical thinking skills and tools of the trade to cover nearly all fields of inquiry.
“Of course, some familiarity with, say, IP/patent law would be helpful for certain stories,” said Ferriss. “But I expect different journalists to focus on different aspects of this field, so they can focus on their strengths.”
The fellowship reflects Ferriss’ ongoing support for investigations into psychedelics. Ferriss has spoken and written about his history with depression and interest in psychedelic medicines. He has also donated significant funds for research into psychedelic-assisted therapies.
The New York Times reported in 2019 that Ferriss led fundraising for half the $17 million in funding and donated more than $2 million of his own money for the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. The story noted that Ferriss also provided funding for the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and research projects investigating psychedelic medicines at the University of California San Francisco.
According to the Times, Ferriss put aside other projects to focus on advancing psychedelic medicine. “It’s important to me for macro reasons but also deeply personal ones,” Ferriss told the Times. “I grew up on Long Island, and I lost my best friend to a fentanyl overdose. I have treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder in my family. And addiction. It became clear to me that you can do a lot in this field with very little money.”
Image: Author Tim Ferriss by Todd White