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Jody Becker is an American journalist and documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, on National Public Radio and on PBS. Her work has been recognized with multiple journalism awards and three fellowships for writing and reporting. She is the creator of KnowFredyHirsch.org.
Print and Radio Career
Originally a newspaper reporter, Becker worked for a year at both the Los Angeles Times and The Seattle Times. In Seattle, she was the first reporter to cover the impact of AIDS in suburban communities. Over the next six years she worked as a freelance reporter based first in New York City and then Prague, contributing to the Houston Chronicle, the Boston Globe and Variety.
For nearly ten years Becker was an on-air reporter and producer at NPR affiliate WBEZ in Chicago, covering the Chicago Public Schools, contributing reports to National Public Radio, and initiating coverage of the environment and the intersection of business and environment from the Midwest for Marketplace radio. She took a year's leave on a Knight Fellowship at Yale Law School, earning a Master's degree in Law to enhance facility in reporting on public policy issues. Her five-part radio series "Attempting Equity" examines the educational opportunities of students in two Chicago elementary schools, and disparities between offerings and outcomes for black and white students within Evanston Township High School. The series won a National Education Writers Association award. The Evanston stories were among the earliest reports on the academic and race issue that came to be known as the "minority student achievement gap."
After leaving WBEZ in 2003 to move to Los Angeles, she began freelancing as a fill-in editor at NPR West and Marketplace, contributing to KCRW, and working primarily in documentary film.
In 2012, Becker launched the website Mom,Always.org, featuring advice from a range of psychosocial experts and religious perspectives for mothers facing a terminal diagnosis. The website was created after her best friend from journalism school died of pancreatic cancer at age 45, unable to find a similar resource on the web.
With Erik Linthorst, Becker made the documentary film Autistic Like: Graham’s Story, which aired on most PBS stations in 2011. The film shows Linthorst's family's search for the right diagnosis and treatment for their son who doctors called "autistic-like", and features Dr. Stanley Greenspan, former director of Pediatric Development at NIH who states that over-diagnosis of autism is a significant public health issue. The film was a selection at nine festivals as a finalist for a Freddie Award for investigative health reporting. Becker's story Behind the Autism Statistics, about making the movie, which challenged the CDC's autism statistics, appeared in the Atlantic.com. Becker has also partnered with director Olympia Stone on two films; as story editor for the PBS broadcast version of "The Cardboard Bernini" (2012) and as Writer/ Story Editor on "Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck" (2014).
She is now working with the producer Peter Spears to make an animated documentary short film telling the Fredy Hirsch story.
While living in Prague, Becker worked as a researcher and associate producer with the Czech-American director Zusana Justman on the documentary film "Now We are Free", capturing the lives of Czech women in the new democracy through interviews and vérité storytelling.
The Fredy Hirsch Story
While reporting from Eastern Europe as a freelancer for the Boston Globe and Variety, Becker discovered and began work on the story of Fredy Hirsch, a gay Holocaust hero little known due to the political and social climate in post-war Eastern Europe.
Fredy (Alfred) Hirsch was widely remembered by survivors and credited with creating day camps for Czech children in Prague and later when they were in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. He died in Auschwitz after being approached by fellow prisoners and asked to lead an insurrection. It is unclear if he was poisoned or committed suicide.
KnowFredyHirsch.org is a collection of reminisces from survivors interviewed in Prague and Israel who lament that Fredy Hirsch had never been properly memorialized because of attitudes towards homosexuals during and after World War II. The site also includes scholarly references and a gallery of artifacts and photographs related to Fredy Hirsch's life and work.
Becker began writing at the Michigan Daily where she served as Opinion Page editor, and spent summers as an intern in Washington, D.C. and London working for United Press International. While in college, she also interned on Capitol Hill for the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Hunger.
Her first job was with the Los Angeles Times in Orange County, CA, covering communities where she spent most of her childhood. She then briefly worked at KCET, the PBS affiliate station in Los Angeles for the local news programming and MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour correspondents before joining the staff of the Seattle Times.
Becker graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Political Science, and was a two-time winner of the Hopwood Award for Poetry. She holds master's degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Yale Law School. She is married to Steve Barrett, the director of the Wildwood Outreach Center at Wildwood School in Los Angeles. They have two daughters. Personal life
Disambiguation She goes by Jody Becker, not to be confused with journalist Jo Becker.