News from the Berkeleyside newsroom

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Berkeleyside like everyone else, but it’s also presenting us with an opportunity to innovate.

Photo: Paul Herzoff

Coronavirus has turned the world upside down, and everyone is feeling the impact, including Berkeleyside. The newsroom has gone into overdrive, with our team working constantly to keep the community informed about rapidly developing events. We designed a new landing page for all our COVID-19 news and made sure those headlines were easy to find on the homepage. As of today, we have published more than 70 coronavirus-related stories since Jan. 29, including frequently updated resource posts with need-to-know info, such as where you can still pick up meals for your family and what the latest Bay Area-wide statistics are on COVID-19.

In recent weeks, our readers have told us they value our coverage and they are stepping up to support our journalism. That support is particularly appreciated — and needed — as many of the local businesses that provide an important revenue stream for us through their advertising are hurting and have, understandably, put their marketing budgets on hold.

Berkeleyside readers may be wondering what the pandemic and California’s shelter-at-home orders mean for our expansion plans and the launch of our Oakland newsroom. The answer is that our commitment — and our initial funders’ commitment — to serving Oakland with a new platform fully devoted to that city’s information needs has not changed.

Our timeline has, however. We are delaying the launch of a standalone Oakland web platform until our Oakland team is safely able to work together in person. We feel the responsible way forward is to continue to grow, but to grow more slowly than we planned before the outbreak.


Having said that, we are not standing still. Instead, we are accelerating the expansion of our coverage into Oakland right now, with what we’re calling a joint, rapid-response newsroom. The coronavirus is a crisis for every facet of society, and we feel compelled to start reporting on its impact on Oakland now, nearly two months sooner than we expected to launch the standalone site. Starting this week, the expanded coverage will be published on the Berkeleyside website, in the Daily Briefing email and on social media channels.

As part of this mission, we are happy to share some good news in challenging times: Darwin BondGraham, a tenacious Oakland journalist who has covered some of the city’s most complex stories over the past decade, has joined our Oakland newsroom.

On Thursday, we published BondGraham’s first story: an in-depth look at how front-line health care workers at Oakland’s public Highland Hospital — including housekeeping workers and emergency room nurses — are responding to the pandemic. Highland workers warn that a legacy of overcrowding and underfunding has left the hospital seriously unprepared to deal with an expected surge of coronavirus patients.

BondGraham most recently worked with The Appeal, where he was an investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian, and was an enterprise reporter for the East Bay Express for several years. BondGraham’s work has also appeared with KQED, ProPublica and other leading national and local outlets. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017.

We’re honored to bring BondGraham’s expertise in public-records-driven journalism to our newsroom, and to provide a home for his sharply-honed sense of Oakland’s information needs. You can follow him on Twitter.

We have also found our new managing editor for the Oakland newsroom, and we look forward to telling you much more about that hire soon.

We trust our community will appreciate Berkeleyside’s nimble solution to unprecedented times — times where there is clearly a heightened need for trustworthy, community-oriented local news. The Berkeleyside team is excited about this creative solution. We see it as the ideal way to get the ball rolling on reporting for Oakland, and it will set us up for a successful and seamless Oakland launch.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.