Berkeleyside wins SPJ excellence award for longform story on Milo Yiannopoulos’ contentious Berkeley visit

Protests erupted at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1, 2107 prompted by the visit of far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos. Photo: Pete Rosos

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has honored Berkeleyside with the 2018 Longform Storytelling award (in the print/online small division) for its article, One day, one night: The fuse that lit the Battles of Berkeley. The 12,000-word article, published on Jan. 31, is an oral history, crafted over several weeks by Berkeleyside Executive Editor Frances Dinkelspiel, that relates in detail the controversial visit to UC Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos in February 2017.

The arrival of the far-right agitator on campus prompted black-clad masked protesters to smash windows and rampage through Berkeley, ultimately shutting down his slated speech. It turned out to be the first of 11 demonstrations that roiled Berkeley and the university that year.

Media coverage of the event and its immediate aftermath focused mostly on the shattered glass, rubber bullets and pepper spray. Dinkelspiel decided to dig deeper to find out what really happened and what motivated people to take the actions they did. She chose to do so through the mechanism of an oral history, gathering the voices and memories of the people who were there and participated in different ways on the day and night in question.

The story, published on the first anniversary of the riot, intertwined interviews, tweets, Facebook posts, court statements, Nixle alerts, police reports, memos, op-eds and first-hand observations to create a vivid narrative that revealed some of the deep political divisions that are prevalent in the U.S. The article included striking images by Berkeleyside photographer Pete Rosos, among others, and was edited by Berkeleyside Managing Editor Tracey Taylor.


“I am thrilled to have received this award and very happy that Berkeleyside is increasingly experimenting with different storytelling formats, such as longform articles and oral histories, to serve our readers,” said Dinkelspiel.

SPJ NorCal introduced Longform Storytelling as a new category in 2018 with a view to honoring journalists “for exceptional longform narrative writing.” SPJ said judges reviewing entries considered “creativity, use of humor or drama, style, clarity, structure and flow.”

The award is one of several Berkeleyside has been honored to receive from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal chapter. In both 2013 and 2014, Berkeleyside won the Excellence in Community Journalism award; in 2016 it received an award for its comprehensive coverage of homelessness in Berkeley; and, in 2017, Berkeleyside Senior Reporter Emilie Raguso was named Journalist of the Year by the San Francisco-based organization. Also in 2017, Berkeleyside was honored by the San Francisco Press Club, winning first-place awards in the digital media division for overall excellence, for breaking news, and for coverage of the November 2016 election, among other awards.

Other local winners in this year’s SPJ NorCal Excellence in Journalism Awards include Mission Local, KQED, ABC7, the Mercury News/East Bay Times, KALW, Oakland Voices, the San Francisco Public Press, Univision 14, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, San Quentin Radio and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. See the full roster of winners. The awards will be presented to winners at a dinner at Delancey Street in San Francisco on Nov. 14.