Berkeleyside announces 3 new journalists for its Oakland newsroom

Jacob Simas, Ashley McBride and Ricky Rodas are hitting the ground running reporting on COVID-19 Oakland news ahead of the launch of our standalone Oakland newsroom.

Berkeleyside has hired three more journalists for its Oakland team ahead of the launch, later this spring, of our autonomous Oakland newsroom.

Even before that launch, Jacob Simas, Ashley McBride and Ricky Rodas are hitting the ground running. Through our joint rapid-response newsroom, they will be reporting on COVID-19 Oakland news via Berkeleyside and through an Oakland newsletter.

The three bring the number of our Oakland staff to five, as they join Oakland Editor-in-Chief Tasneem Raja and News Editor Darwin BondGraham. More hires will be announced in coming weeks.

Jacob Simas joins as Managing Editor of the Oakland team. Most recently he worked at Univision, the largest provider of Spanish-language news in the U.S., where he led social-impact initiatives and established the Rise Up: Be Heard journalism training program for young people and community organizers in underserved areas of California. Before that, he was a senior editor and director of youth and community media at New America Media, where he led a community news network that amplified student and youth reporting in California news deserts.

Simas has lived in Oakland for the past decade with his wife and two children, who attend Oakland public schools, and his father was born and raised in East Oakland. He is an advisory board member for Youth Beat and a former volunteer host and producer with KPFA.

“I’ve been motivated throughout my career by a personal sense of mission to work with and on behalf of groups whose experiences are often overlooked and misrepresented in media,” said Simas. “I believe all Oakland residents deserve to have a local news platform that can keep them informed, reflect the array of perspectives and lived experiences in our city, and hold decision makers accountable while also lifting up the stories of people making a difference in our communities every day.”

Ashley McBride brings an impressive track record covering education to her new role as the Oakland newsroom’s Education Equity Reporter. McBride covered the 2019 OUSD teachers strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.

“The education landscape is vast and complex, and I want to bring clarity and accountability to how education decisions affect Oakland’s students,” McBride said. “As coronavirus is upending the way we do schooling and revealing deep inequalities, this coverage is essential.”

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and has spent the last two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the hyperlocal news sites Oakland North, Mission Local and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, joins us in June through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Rodas will be putting his experience and skills to use reporting on immigrant businesses in Oakland.

Ricky says being the son of parents who immigrated to the U.S., and knowing their stories, fueled his decision to become a journalist.

“The fascination with immigrants’ journeys, where they end up, and how they contribute to the cultural fabric of cities like Oakland has never left me,” he said. “I consider it a great privilege to continue covering the unique and hard-working immigrant-run businesses that keep ‘The Town’ running.”

Commenting on the hires, Raja said: “Now more than ever, we are proud to empower Ashley, Jacob, Ricky, and more dedicated reporters to help bring Oakland the fact-driven reporting and nuanced, inclusive perspectives we all need and deserve. I’m honored to work alongside them in bringing our newsroom’s founding values to life.”

“At a time when a heartbreaking number of journalists across the country are losing their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis, Berkeleyside is thrilled to be in a position to be able to hire journalists and begin to bring Oakland more of the trustworthy and civic-minded reporting it deserves,” said Berkeleyside co-founder and editorial director Tracey Taylor.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder and editorial director at Berkeleyside. Email: tracey@berkeleyside.com.