Journalist Margaret Bernstein, director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC Studios, is one of two Cleveland-based George Gund Foundation trustees. A Los Angeles native and graduate of the University of Southern California, Bernstein began her career in Huntington, West Virginia, writing for The Huntington-Herald Dispatch. She later moved to Arizona to work at a slightly larger newspaper, the Tucson Citizen. Finally, Bernstein ended up in Cleveland writing for The Plain Dealer.
Cleveland gets a bad rap from not only outsiders, but also natives, she says with a smile on her face. For her, Cleveland was the “big time.” But it was only the beginning. She was adamant about making connections within the city to make a difference.
Bernstein signed up to be a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America just three months after moving to Cleveland. In 2000, she received the National Big Sister of the Year award. It wasn’t just her work with community organizations that led to those connections; it also was her work as a journalist.
She moved on from The Plain Dealer after layoffs during the summer of 2013.
“It was a good opportunity to establish myself in the literary arena,” she says. She began coordinating the Cleveland Little Free Library movement and freelanced for the Cooperative of Greater Cleveland before landing at WKYC.
Bernstein wanted to tell positive stories about people of color who were often overlooked and underreported. Through her reporting, she found even more opportunities to make an impact. Bernstein’s pieces led people to send her more and more leads to positive stories she could potentially tell. This work, both journalistically and in the community, caught the attention of the George Gund Foundation.
The George Gund Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1952 by George Gund. Its focus is on changing the opportunities and problems in society. The organization named Margaret Bernstein as a board trustee, one of only two who are not members of the Gund family.
Micki Byrnes, general manager of WKYC, says she is excited. “She is the North Star at the station,” she says. “[Gund and Margaret] both know [community progress] is a process, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The future is very bright when it comes to the connection between Margaret Bernstein, Cleveland and the George Gund Foundation. For someone to immerse themselves into a community that isn’t their own or their home takes a great deal of courage.
“I wanted to be in an urban city with some of the issues I grew up with,” she says.