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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative steps up to support Oaklandside’s science-driven reporting into Oakland’s deadly traffic problems
By Tasneem Raja
April 10, 2023

In 2021 The Oaklandside newsroom hired veteran journalist Jose Fermoso with a brief to train his reporting firepower on one of Oakland’s most serious problems: its dangerous roadways.

Jose’s reporting digs deep into road safety as a problem of equity, highlighting the fact that Black, brown, and low-income Oaklanders are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic collisions. (Thirty-five people lost their lives to traffic violence in 2022, and Jose brought each one of them to the public’s attention by publishing  a collection of brief obituaries.) In line with Oaklandside’s commitment to reporting on systems, not just symptoms, Jose is dedicated to looking at possible solutions to make our streets safer.

Soakai’s family members believe that two Oakland police officers dangerously chased a young man who crashed and killed Soakai and injured several others. Credit: Jose Fermoso

Now, with the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we’re adding another lens to Jose’s approach to this beat. I’m thrilled to announce that CZI is funding science-driven reporting into Oakland’s deadly traffic problems at The Oaklandside for two years.

The Oaklandside is one of a handful of local newsrooms around the country selected for this investment in 2023. Others include MLK50 in Memphis, Outlier Media in Detroit, and Mission Local in San Francisco.

“At CZI, we believe that a diverse science journalism ecosystem has concrete impacts on our ability to promote effective, representative research and bring science closer to the communities it aims to serve,” the program states.

We intend to use this support to look more closely at how roadway design in Oakland might be contributing to our problems with traffic violence—and explore engineering solutions. We’ll talk with behavioral scientists to better understand the social triggers of traffic violence, and how urban planners, community advocates, and others can contribute to safer streets. And we’ll engage with scientists and journalists through the CZI network to think bigger and better about how science-driven reporting could improve our reporting on this beat.

The timing couldn’t be better. Last summer, Oaklandside made the decision to make  road safety a reporting priority. Now, Oakland’s City Council is making traffic safety a priority too. In advance of a recent City Council meeting to discuss top priorities for the next two-year city budget, every Oakland councilmember submitted a budget memo. Each of those memos included traffic safety proposals. We have no doubt that our commitment to this reporting is having an impact on our city.

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