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51st and Telegraph: One intersection, billions of stories

on June 22, 2009

This summer, four News21 reporters are reporting the heck out of one intersection in Oakland: 51st and Telegraph streets in Temescal. We’re building an interactive, 360-degree panorama of the intersection, with tons of stories about history, crime, traffic, and anything else we discover.

Today, Temescal is home to high-end yarn shops and cutesy ice cream parlors. But we’re talking to old-time residents, collecting their memories about Temescal’s many, colorful pasts. We’ve met Italian-American gentlemen who started families here in the 30s and 40s, lured by jobs at the Italian-run Oakland Scavenger trash company. Today, new cafes are opening their doors to Temescal’s latest immigrants, the thriving Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. We’re examining everything from the lamp posts to the manholes, and talking to everyone we meet in between.

This week we launched Right Now at 51st, a sort-of slideshow of people’s thoughts as they cross the intersection in real time. Here’s how it works: people text us the answer to one very simple question: “Why are you here right now?” Sometimes, they throw in a little description about who they are.

So far, we’ve gotten replies as simple as “Working,” to more detailed messages like this one.

Look for our flyers in nooks and corners at businesses all over the intersection; they probably like the free publicity. So far, La Val’s Pizza, It’s Your Move and Scout have gotten name-dropped.

“Why are you here right now?” has yielded some great replies, but maybe you could help us write a new question.

What should we ask our text-message correspondents? What are they thinking? Where are they headed? What’s good at Betty’s? Let us know in the comments, or blow us up elsewhere:


  1. InBerkeley » The hyper in hyperlocal on June 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    […] a Carnegie Knight venture on innovation in news, and UC Berkeley J-School students have launched an initiative to cover the heck out of one intersection — Telegraph and 51st Street. Here’s the […]

  2. Jason on July 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    La Vals pizza’s are awful.

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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