Berkeleyside reporter wins state award for education reporting

Berkeleyside’s Natalie Orenstein (center) with members of the Berkeley Unified School Board and Superintendent Donald Evans (left). Berkeleyside colleagues presented Orenstein with flowers at Wednesday’s meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Natalie Orenstein, Berkeleyside’s reporter who leads the education beat as well as covering other topics in the city, has been selected for one of the inaugural Golden Quill awards by the California School Boards Association (CSBA). The Golden Quills recognize “fair, insightful and accurate reporting on public school news.”

The award was presented at the Berkeley Unified School District’s board meeting on Wednesday to a surprised Orenstein.

“Her articles don’t pull any punches, and she does not shy away from criticizing the district, but she is always fair, and she does her homework. We couldn’t ask for anything more from the media,” said board member Ty Alper at the meeting. “She is also at all of our meetings, live-tweeting them to an audience much bigger than the thousands our former colleague Josh Daniels used to claim were watching our meetings.”

Among the work by Orenstein cited by Alper were her series on special education in Berkeley and the history of racial integration in the district.


“One of the consequences of the decline of local news in many places is vital policy decisions by school boards go uncovered in too many cities,” said Lance Knobel, Berkeleyside publisher. “Since Natalie joined Berkeleyside as a full-time reporter almost two years ago, she has been able to do the kind of strong, consistent reporting on schools that is incredibly important for our community.”

Orenstein grew up in Berkeley and started her journalism career on The Berkeley High Jacket. She interned for Berkeleyside before joining the staff.

“I was startled and delighted to be presented with the Golden Quill award last night,” Orenstein said. “I’m pleased that the Berkeley School Board and CSBA recognize that I strive for accuracy and nuance in my coverage, even if the stories don’t always end up being flattering for the district. I’m also grateful to work for a publication that grasps the relevance of the education beat, which is often among the first to be cut in tough times. Every critical societal issue intersects with education, and I look forward to digging into more of what’s going on in Berkeley schools.”