2020-2021 Cityside Impact Report

Expanding our local news model at an unprecedented time.

Over the last 18 months,

… we were forced to navigate wholly unanticipated circumstances, but the crisis also helped make crystal clear the essential role local news plays in communities.

Over this time, we not only grew our 12-year-old newsroom Berkeleyside,  we launched The Oaklandside, bringing our staff from eight to 26.

In early 2020, we were just finding our feet as a new nonprofit local journalism organization, Cityside and were starting to plan for expansion.

When the scale of the pandemic became clear, we tore up our existing plans and took a new approach. Our first priority was to ramp up our reporting on the health and economic toll COVID-19 was inflicting on our communities. We accelerated the launch of our coverage in Oakland. More people than ever were reading our journalism and relying on our reporters to pry out local health data, chronicle the struggles of local businesses, report on the changing plans of schools, and provide resources for coping with an unprecedented societal challenge.

We figured out how to launch a news platform for Oaklanders without being able to meet people in person, hold events, or get out into the community. Our Oaklandside newsroom team never had a chance to sit in a room together until many months after the site’s full June 2020 launch.

Through it all, we’ve published more than 500 stories about the pandemic, its consequences at the local level, the vaccination roll-out, and the rise of the delta variant. We held live virtual panels with health experts, launched a text information service, and translated our work into Spanish, Cantonese and Arabic to reach more people with reliable information about testing and vaccinations. We also reported extensively on the protests and growing movement for racial justice in our cities, offered deep coverage of the fall local elections, and delivered compelling journalism in both Oakland and Berkeley on the interconnected issues of housing and homelessness.

Throughout this difficult time, we have been galvanized by the support we have received from the community. We are more committed than ever to our mission.

Lance Knobel
CEO, Co-Founder, Cityside

Our mission

Recognizing that local communities are the lifeblood of society, we aim to deliver high-quality journalism to underserved communities in order to foster civic engagement, enrich people’s lives and contribute to a healthy democracy.

Our newsrooms

Cityside serves the East Bay through three local, award-winning news platforms – Berkeleyside, The Oaklandside, and Nosh.

Berkeleyside
Berkeleyside
A pioneering independent digital news platform reporting on Berkeley.
The Oaklandside
The Oaklandside
Where Oaklanders stay informed, discover fresh perspectives, and connect with their city.
Nosh
Nosh
Award-winning coverage of the East Bay’s vibrant food and drink scene.

By the numbers

Local news is in crisis. Newspapers are closing, journalists are losing their jobs, civic institutions and public officials are not being monitored or held to account. Social science research shows that people feel more lonely and less happy when they're disconnected from their communities.

The state of journalism

57%

decline in newsroom employment from 2008 to 2020

-2100

loss of newspapers since 2004

50%+

of newspapers in the US are owned by hedge funds and private equity firms

17%

of the news stories provided to a community are truly local

400:300

hyper-partisan sites versus nonprofit newsrooms

Our impact

3838

number of stories published in 2020-2021

519K

Berkeleyside unique monthly users

133K

The Oaklandside unique monthly users

131

donors of $1,000 or more since January 2020

6200

individual members since January 2020

82016

people who follow us on Twitter

Cityside’s impact

Since the start of 2020, Cityside has published thousands of stories on everything from police misconduct, to educational inequity, to mass outbreaks of COVID-19. By bringing these issues to light, we have prompted local officials to consider new policies. We have empowered residents to take action. We've created a more connected community.

Case Study

Listening to our readers

Our reporting is firmly rooted in the needs and wants of the diverse communities we serve. We maintain a continuous feedback loop between residents and our newsrooms. We create channels to hear ideas, actively listen, and try to respond to every community member who gets in touch.

When founding The Oaklandside in 2020, we launched Mission Metrics, an innovative pilot program for reader feedback. This involved recruiting a cohort of paid community advisers to ensure the newsroom lives up to its founding values. With support from the San Francisco Foundation, the diverse group helps us track and grow the impact of our journalism. Its seven members, one for each Oakland district, read our stories and give us feedback to ensure we stay true to our founding values.

Case Study

Meeting our readers where they are

To be innovative as a journalism organization today means doing more than just publishing stories. Our newsrooms are constantly looking for ways to get out of the traditional mold. When the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in Oakland, we knew a priority was to get reliable, potentially life-saving information to our readers, especially those who lived in areas where the virus had been devastating and where mistrust around inoculation was high.

3000+

people signed up for vaccine info texts

We decided to get hands-on. We printed up postcards and flyers in English and Spanish. Our health reporter strapped on his skates — literally — staple gun in hand, to post them at bus stops and corner stores all over the Fruitvale neighborhood. The flyers shared information about The Oaklandside’s innovative vaccine text messaging service to let people know where they could find the nearest free vaccination site, whether they qualified for a shot, and how to sign up. More than 3,000 people registered for the texts.

Case Study

Developing the pipeline

We are committed to nurturing the next generation of talented and diverse reporters to report on local communities.

We offer a paid internship program to emerging journalists where we provide mentorship, on-the-ground experience, and the chance to create a portfolio of work. We partner with local journalism schools like UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Laney College. We also partner with nonprofit organizations such as Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues; the Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellowships, a working fellowship that funds in-depth reporting projects focused on the major issues facing the country; Youth Beat, which teaches digital media skills and provides job training to teens in Oakland; and the USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships, which focuses on health-related journalism that impacts policy.

Case Study

Holding power to account

The Oaklandside and Berkeleyside have been crucial in exposing issues authorities would rather keep secret. In June 2020, we did an investigation into why Oakland police lobbed tear gas canisters and non-lethal projectiles into a crowd of protesters before an 8 p.m. curfew. The police had claimed they were responding to people throwing rocks and preparing to lob Molotov cocktails. We conducted an extensive visual examination of hundreds of photos and 50 videos to create a minute-by-minute timeline. We determined the police statements were untrue and that officers reacted with excessive force. The police chief later admitted these facts.

During the pandemic, the city of Berkeley was reluctant to release information on COVID-19 outbreaks and fatalities. Berkeleyside got to work, filing a public records requests with other agencies to uncover detailed information about who had died, their races, ages and zip codes. We also created a daily pandemic tracker that showed residents how the virus was marching through the city. Berkeleyside constantly pushed the city for data and interpreted it for readers, providing transparency and insights into how government functions.

Case Study

Better together

As a mission-based nonprofit organization, we ground ourselves in relationships with community-based media organizations.

Partnerships:

El Timpano

El Tímpano is a local reporting lab serving Latino immigrant communities in East Oakland with news and resource information. The Oaklandside has worked with El Tímpano to survey the information needs of Spanish and Mayan-speaking communities and amplify their voices in our reporting.

Laney College Journalism Department

In the fall of 2021, The Oaklandside began a partnership with Laney College’s student-led paper, The Citizen, to provide mentorship opportunities and a platform for student journalism.

Oakland Voices

Oakland Voices is a community journalism project of the Maynard Institute promoting equity and diversity in local media. The Oaklandside cross-publishes Oakland Voices stories, and provides freelance opportunities to its correspondents and alumni.

Street Spirit

Both Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside collaborate with Street Spirit, an East Bay newspaper dedicated to covering homelessness and poverty from the perspective of those most impacted.

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

In the fall of 2021, Berkeleyside forged a partnership with the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to publish a special series on the Berkeley Marina. At the same time, The Oaklandside worked with Oakland North, a student reporting platform, to provide mentorship and publishing opportunities.

Youth Beat

Youth Beat is a nonprofit providing Oakland youth with training and job opportunities in video production and digital media. Students at Youth Beat have worked with Oaklandside editors to publish first-person videos, photo essays, and articles on The Oaklandside website.

Black mothers: The real experts on the toll of gun violence

Black mothers across the nation talk guns and grief

In collaboration with New York Times, The Trace, Flint Beat, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism

 

Case Study

News you can use

One of the ways in which Cityside’s newsrooms deliver on our mission is through journalism that provides essential information in ways that can quickly and directly help people.

During the height of the pandemic, our newsrooms wrote about tenants' rights and how to apply for local business relief funds. When our communities were locked down, Nosh provided a directory of restaurants that provided takeout and safe curbside pick-up. Nosh also pointed readers to ways they could support local food businesses.

In 2021, both The Oaklandside and Berkeleyside published specially curated and researched wildfire guides that provided vital information on prevention, evacuation, and air quality.

Case Study

Amplifying local voices

Both The Oaklandside and Berkeleyside strive to amplify the voices of community members. We do this through first-person essays, “as told to” articles, opinion pieces, collaborations, and republication of articles by community partners.

In one first-person story from The Oaklandside, a long-time resident who experienced violence as a boy explained why there was a new uptick in shootings. One formerly incarcerated man shared how he was navigating his new life outside of prison. An indigenous Mayan immigrant in East Oakland told readers how he and his family survived during the pandemic.

Berkeleyside has published the work of people navigating homelessness. One man wrote about how his friend could not take living outside anymore and committed suicide. Another told of how he finally found housing.

These stories highlight the voices of people who are not traditionally featured in mainstream media, but deserve to be heard.

Case Study

The Oaklandside
Live-ish

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of The Oaklandside, we held a three-day online event, Live-ish, that tackled the big issues that shape Oakland, from housing and gun violence, through youth activism to what lies beneath Lake Merritt. The event featured performances by local artists like Fantastic Negrito and Kev Choice, as well as a behind-the-scenes conversation with the newsroom editors and reporters.

A few accolades

We are proud of the work we do and we're honored that our peers recognize our efforts. Since Berkeleyside began publishing in 2009 we have received numerous awards. Here are a few of them:

2021

The Oaklandside won the Game-Changer award in the Nonprofit News Awards. "The Oaklandside could produce a master class in how to launch a truly community-centered news organization."

2020

Cityside was named Publisher of the Year by LION, the Local Independent Online News Publishers Association. “The vision and principles Cityside has built for its role in the community is powerful,” the judges stated.

2019

Berkeleyside founders Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel and Tracey Taylor received the prestigious Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal that honors community members whose work has benefited the people of Berkeley.