Kate Coleman had a peripatetic upbringing in New Jersey, New York, Florida and California before graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1965 with a B.A. in English and the humanities and a minor in the radical, student, Berkeley politics of the day.
She became a young staffer at Newsweek in New York, where her political and cultural acumen enabled her to scoop the competition with stories such as the Youth International Party—the Yippies—plans for disrupting the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Dropping out in late '68, Kate traveled across Europe, Africa and parts of Asia on the cheap, then relocated back to Berkeley where she became a freelance journalist in print and on TV.
Coleman wrote for many hip, sassy west coast magazines such as New West/California, Women’ s Sports, Scanlon's and Ramparts, along with many Sunday magazine sections of national newspapers. But it was her New Times investigation of the Black Panther Party with Paul Avery that established Coleman's reputation as a scrupulous reporter, keen analyst, and gutsy investigator. Coleman has been an all-purpose journalist and writer for many years, as at home in first person humor, sex, sport, and op-ed pieces as she is in feature length profiles of celebrities and notables like Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas, Zsa Zsa Gabor or Rosemary Leary. She has also profiled politicos—Ronald Reagan loyalist Ed Meese, former NOW president Ginny Foat, to name a few—and outsider groups such as the past lives cult favored by thanatologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross. She’s covered issues ranging from women with guns, Prop. 209 (the California affirmative action amendment), and the Oakland school “ebonics” controversy. However, her specialty has been chronicling the left and counter-cultures, to which she has been close enough to dig up good sources, while taking pains to be a fair and accurate observer.
A dedicated truth seeker, Coleman is a progressive who understands and calls to account the posturing of those on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum. While working as a scribe, she has tried to avoid taking a real job, choosing instead over the years to teach writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz , moonlight as maitre d' at Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse Café, or hawk books at her favorite independent book store, Black Oak Books in Berkeley.
A competitive swimmer, Coleman completed the 2005 Alcatraz-to-San Francisco New Year’s Day swim and was the eighth woman to finish (well, actually the sixth, she feels, because two of the women ahead of her wore wet suits.) Her only regret: as yet no one has seen fit to pay a salary to a middle-aged jock!
Her book, The Secret Wars of Judi Bari (Encounter Books, 2005) is now available and can be purchased online.