Sandy Tolan is a best-selling author, and an award-winning radio and print journalist who reports on and comments frequently about Palestine and Israel.
He is a professor at the University of Southern California (USC)’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in Los Angeles. He is a co-founder of Homelands Productions, which for 25 years has produced international documentary and features for public radio.
Sandy’s latest book is Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (2015, Bloomsbury), about one Palestinian’s dream to build a music school in the midst of Israel’s military occupation. It’s been selected as a finalist for a 2015 LA Times Book Prize. He is also the author of the international best-seller, The Lemon Tree, an acclaimed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Work in the Field
Sandy is an award-winning radio and print journalist, and a recognized media expert and speaker on issues that affect the people of Palestine and Israel. Since 1982, he has reported from more than 30 countries and territories, including American Indian country, along the U.S.-Mexico border, across New England and the American West, South and East Asia, and specializing in the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. A central focus of his work has been the intersection of land conflicts, racial and ethnic identity, natural resources, and the global economy.
Sandy writes and reports currently for the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Daily Beast, Truthdig, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Al-Jazeera English. He also maintains a blog at RamallahCafe.com, which chronicles daily life in the West Bank, with analysis and commentary from Los Angeles. He has produced dozens of acclaimed documentaries and features for National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International (PRI), and has written for more than 40 newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and The Nation.
Sandy is a co-founder of Homelands Productions, an independent production company focusing on documentary work for public radio. From 2011 to 2014, Tolan and his colleagues produced “Food for Nine Billion,” a multi-platform collaborative project for Marketplace, PRI’s “The World” and PBS NewsHour that examined the challenge of feeding the world at a time of growing demand and accelerating climate change.
From 2007 to 2009, Sandy was a lead producer for the Homelands series, “WORKING,” which produced monthly profiles on workers around the world broadcast on public radio’s popular program, Marketplace. “WORKING” won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for radio feature reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and individual awards from the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the New York Festivals. In 2003, Homelands began a new public radio series, “Worlds of Difference: Local Culture in a Global Age,” expanding coverage into Africa and East Asia.
Sandy is a professor at the University of Southern California (USC)’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in Los Angeles, Calif. where he teaches radio documentary and print journalism. Since joining the faculty in 2008, he has led a number of in-depth, multimedia projects with his colleagues, students and professional partners on international migration, civil conflict, high school students, and low-wage labor for “The California Report” (KQED), KCRW, Global Post, Fusion, and other renowned outlets.
The most recent project for "The California Report" is “At Risk in the Trump Era,” is a four-month investigation by USC Annenberg advanced radio students. It explores how vulnerable communities across Southern California react to the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency. The series profiles individuals burdened by new worries — looking for work, signing up for school, or even deciding whether to publicly express their sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
The team of young reporters were guided by Sandy and adjunct instructor Karen Lowe, both veteran public radio journalists. They worked closely with The California Report Magazine’s host Sasha Khokha, along with the show’s Senior Editor Victoria Mauleón, to document the fears, challenges and opportunities facing many Southern Californians.
Past projects have included “Far From Home,” (with professor Marc Cooper) a series of stories told in text, video, audio, photos and infographics and published by Global Post and Fusion, and “Between Homelands” (with Karen Lowe) for KQED’s “The California Report” about immigrants who have come to Los Angeles from other parts of the world, and are coping with issues of cultural identity. The series also airs on the Public Radio Exchange.
In 2010, Sandy’s USC Annenberg graduate students produced “Hunger in the Golden State,” a 22-part, multi-platform series of radio, visual, and print stories in collaboration with California Watch of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The series was broadcast and printed in news outlets statewide.
From 2000 to 2007, Sandy taught international reporting, radio feature and documentary classes at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. For several years he coordinated the school’s International Reporting Project. In 2006, the 11 student reporters in his “Early Signs” climate change class, who produced an eight-part series, “Reports From a Warming Planet,” for Salon.com and NPR’s “Living On Earth” won the prestigious George Polk Award. It was the first time students had been honored with the award.