Cityside launches The Oaklandside, sister site to Berkeleyside, built on a foundation of listening

The Oaklandside is the first launch for Cityside, the newly formed nonprofit that is also parent to Berkeleyside.

The Oaklandside, launched today as a sister site to Berkeleyside, aims to deliver trustworthy reporting and informed, nuanced perspectives to the citizens of Oakland. Photo: Pete Rosos

Today we are excited to announce the launch of The Oaklandside, a nonprofit news outlet dedicated to serving local information needs, amplifying community voices and investigating systems in and for Oakland.

The Oaklandside is the first launch for Cityside, the newly formed nonprofit that is also parent to Berkeleyside, and whose co-founders are Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel, Tasneem Raja and Tracey Taylor.

The seven-person Oaklandside newsroom is launching into a world reeling from two major crises — a global pandemic and a vocal uprising against deep-rooted systems of persecution and injustice aimed at Black Americans. If ever there was a time Oakland — or any city — needed trustworthy news and reliable information, it is now.

In fact, recognizing the urgency of that need, Oaklandside started reporting several weeks before today’s website launch. Back in March, the then-fledgling Oakland news team began publishing stories through Berkeleyside and a new weekly Oakland newsletter.

As Tasneem Raja, The Oaklandside’s editor-in-chief said of her thinking. “We’re journalists. We need to get to work.”

The response to our rapid response joint newsroom told us we’d made the right decision. In just a couple of weeks, more than 6,000 people were following The Oaklandside on Twitter and a similar number have signed up for the newsletter. And already, nearly 200 people have jumped in to support our work with donations. As nonprofits whose work is powered by our readers, both Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside appreciate and depend on this support.

The Oaklandside aims to bring informed perspectives, deep context, historical research and an equity lens to all its coverage in the belief that all Oakland residents deserve access to more in-depth reporting, perspectives and information resources to help them better understand, enjoy and impact this beautiful city.

The Oaklandside logo — read about how it was conceived by its designer, Mike Nicholls. Image: The Oaklandside

The Oaklandside has been built on a strong foundation of listening and it will grow and evolve by continuing to have conversations with the community it serves. Since late summer 2019, the team has been asking a wide range of Oaklanders about the journalism they want to see more of in their city — and how they might work with us to create it. We heard a deep desire for more journalism that reflects the beauty and value Oakland residents see in their communities.

Oaklanders also asked us to report on “systems,” not just “symptoms,” and to center the voices and expertise of people directly impacted by policy. We also received countless messages about the importance of building a newsroom and a pool of contributors that reflect the diversity of the communities we aim to serve.

Over time, key decisions about the development of the newsroom — from which beats we cover to our hiring processes to our name — have been based on this input we’ve received from hundreds of community members through in-person conversations, live events and a digital survey.

The team at Cityside believes it’s important to earn trust by “showing your work.” With that in mind, The Oaklandside has a “How we work” section. At launch, it includes articles on founding values, its listening approach, the story behind the Oaklandside logo, as well as introductory memos from each of its reporters — Ashley McBride, Natalie Orenstein, Azucena Rasilla and Ricky Rodas— on how they intend to approach their respective beats.

The Google News Initiative’s Local Experiments Project provided initial funding for The Oaklandside and is providing technical and product expertise. The Oakland team is collaborating with the GNI team to develop and share with the wider journalism industry what we learn about business and operations. Google does not have involvement or influence on any aspect of our editorial work.

The Oaklandside’s community-centered approach and commitment to reporting for underserved local communities, not only about these communities, is guided by the work of a number of other civic journalism organizations in the Bay Area and around the country. These include El Tímpano—who we’re partnering with to serve Spanish-speaking communities in Oakland—and Oakland VoicesCity Bureau in Chicago and Outlier Media in Detroit, plus many others. We’re grateful to the leaders and educators at these organizations for sharing their insights with the world.

The full Cityside team — all 15 of us — is thrilled to be introducing a new local news platform into the world today, particularly at this time when the national crisis in journalism is most acute at the local level. On an almost weekly basis, reporters and editors are being shed at newspapers controlled by hedge funds and private equity giants. Fortunately, the ecosystem of nonprofit news is rapidly developing. In addition, Cityside aims to be additive, not competitive, and hopes to partner with and amplify the work of those already doing great work in keeping the communities we serve informed.

Research shows that in cities without a source of high-quality local news, municipal borrowing costs and local government corruption increases, voter turnout drops and political polarization increases.

Our many years of experience at Berkeleyside and The Tyler Loop, the local journalism platform founded by Raja in East Texas, have taught us that a strong community focus, an unswerving commitment to covering local stories that matter to residents and an openness to dialogue create a powerful bond with our readers and enables trusted, valuable journalism.

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