Berkeleyside wins community journalism and longform awards from the Society of Professional Journalists

The Berkeleyside team at work. Photos: Berkeleyside

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ NorCal) recognized Berkeleyside this week for general excellence in community journalism. This marks the third year Berkeleyside has won top honors in the print/online category of this award since the news organization’s founding a decade ago (it also won in 2013 and 2014).

Judges especially commended the staff of Berkeleyside for its range of coverage, including stories about a councilman who tried to pressure a cop who pulled him over, Berkeley’s failure to repave city streets, controversial sidewalk rules, a local family’s plan to build a cannabis nursery and a wave of exits at the Berkeley Police Department.

“The Berkeleyside team is thrilled to receive this award for the third time,” said Tracey Taylor, Berkeleyside’s co-founder and managing editor. “I also commend the Society of Professional Journalists for recognizing community journalism when local news broadly is in such a state of crisis.”

Berkeleyside reporter Natalie Orenstein won the award for longform storytelling (print/online small division). SPJ NorCal recognized her three-part series “Beyond the Buses” — an in-depth look at the history and legacy of Berkeley’s landmark school integration program — for its “exceptional narrative writing.” The stories were published in October 2018 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of integration at Berkeley Unified School District.

“I’m delighted that SPJ NorCal is honoring my series on Berkeley school integration, which explores the complicated and unfinished legacy of one decision made in Berkeley half a century ago,” Orenstein said. “I’m also grateful for my editors, who, when I announced I was going to spend weeks tracing a 50-year history and writing thousands of words about it, simply said, ‘Great!’”

Orenstein was also a finalist for the Educational Writers Association 2018 National Awards for Education Reporting for “Beyond the Buses.”

This is the second year in a row that Berkeleyside has been recognized for excellence in longform storytelling. In 2018, Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside’s co-founder and executive editor, won the SPJ NorCal award for her 12,000-word oral history of Milo Yiannopoulos’ controversial visit to UC Berkeley.

This year, the three co-founders of Berkeleyside — Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel and Tracey Taylor — received the prestigious Wheeler Medal, an honor bestowed by the Berkeley Community Scholars for the founders’ “vision and steadfastness” in creating a news site that Berkeley citizens rely on.

The other winners in the SPJ NorCal community journalism category this year were, in the TV/video division, Candice Nguyen, Tony Hodrick and Chandler Landon of KTVU, for “Small City, Big Problems,” an in-depth series of stories on misconduct and abuses of power within the Vallejo Police Department.

There were three other winners in the longform category: Katia Savchuk of Mother Jones for “Frozen Assets,” about Alaska’s universal basic income program, in the print/online large division; April Dembosky, Victoria Mauleon and Sasha Khokha of KQED for “The Perfect Mom,” about postpartum psychosis, in the radio/audio division; and Vicky Nguyen, Michael Bott, Jeremy Carroll, Mark Villarreal and Michael Horn of NBC Bay Area for “Not Words But Deeds: Sex Abuse Victims Silenced,” a series in which they uncovered and chronicled the silencing of sex abuse allegations at Presentation High School in San Jose, in the TV/video division. See the complete list of honorees.

The 2019 winners will be honored at SPJ NorCal’s 34th Excellence in Journalism awards dinner Thursday, Nov. 14, at Delancey Street Restaurant in San Francisco.