Oakland North is a news project of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. We started in 2008 with support from the Ford Foundation, but currently operate as an independent local news organization supported by UC Berkeley and your donations. (Click this link to be directed to the online giving page for the Hyperlocal News Fund.)
Oakland North was founded in 2008 by Professor Cynthia Gorney, who was an editor for the site through 2015. She was joined in 2009 by longtime East Bay reporter and J-School instructor Kara Platoni, who served as an editor through 2019. Over the years, they collaborated with several other J-School instructors, web developers and editors, including Richard Koci Hernandez, Josh Williams, Jeremy Rue, Paul Grabowicz, Eric Simons, Marilyn Chase, Betsy Rate, Bob Calo and many members of the video, multimedia and audio faculty who helped develop pieces for the site.
Oakland North, and our sister publication Richmond Confidential, are entirely staffed by graduate student reporters at the J-School. During the fall semester, our students are working for our core “boot camp” class in learning to report, a class we fondly know here as J200. In the spring, a smaller group of students pursue the continuation course, J201, as an elective, working on more complex, ambitious reporting pieces.
Our goals at Oakland North are to improve local coverage; to experiment with online and digital media; to teach young reporters to excel in their fairness and commitment to accuracy; and to listen to you–about the stories and features that most interest you, the issues that concern you, the information services you want, and the reporting you’d like to see undertaken in your own community. We aim to explore new ways to give communities back the coverage they’re losing as regional newspapers shrink–and also to be inventive about what digital journalism can do for all of us in the future. We’re learning new ways of telling stories in sound, in pictures, in cellphone dispatches, through data visualization, through social media and in other forms of reporting still under development.
Here are just a few of our past favorites:
In 2019, we profiled Oakland’s unofficial “pigeon whisperer,” and took a close-up look at the long goodbye for the California College of Arts and Crafts as staff prepare to shutter the Oakland campus, and learned about land trusts, an alternative to buying or renting that is meant to create more affordable housing and help Oaklanders stay in Oakland. We spent time with four trans or nonbinary parents who had recently had babies, and learned about how they are pushing the birth industry to be more inclusive of all pregnant people. We followed members of a unique team that pairs Oakland police officers with mental health clinicians to respond to distress calls, and we learned about the unresolved problems with donated secondhand clothes and America’s textile glut.
In 2018, reporter Luiz Hernandez brought us this story on facial feminization surgery, profiling Bay Area trans women who had used it to complete their transition.
Meanwhile, reporters Salina Nasir and Annabell Brockhues filed this in-depth report on the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s travel ban, showing its effect on people in the East Bay.
In 2017, we presented Birthing Inequalities, a multimedia report by Drew Costley, Sarah Cahlan and Sarah Hoenicke, exploring racial inequities in the health of Bay Area newborns.
Other top stories included this video by Lucas Guilkey on the homelessness emergency in Oakland, Sarah El-Safty’s report on the local battle to bridge the digital divide in computer and Internet access, and Lisa Hornak’s profile of the anti-sex-trafficking group Love Never Fails.
In 2016, we launched our “Tales of Two Cities” podcast in cooperation with our Richmond Confidential partners. Click here for a full list of past episodes in which we explored everything from addiction to heartbreak to what happened in our cities while you were sleeping.
We also put together our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, including an interview with founder Bobby Seale, and a recap of how the party’s 10-point plan has fared today.
Later that year, we covered the tumultuous 2016 national election and its aftermath, including Rosa Furneaux’s story on the effect of the presidential campaign on immigrant children and the reaction from Oakland women, as reported by Katie Parish, Cassady Rosenblum and Mary Newman, and the subsequent Women’s March Oakland, which brought some 80,000 protesters to the downtown.
Some of our older protest coverage includes Oakland’s reaction to Ferguson — team coverage of the protests that roiled Oakland and other cities throughout the country in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Breaking news coverage here, with photo coverage here.
We also provided extensive Occupy Oakland coverage beginning in fall, 2011, starting with the camp in front of City Hall, through the city’s destruction of the camp and the protests that followed throughout the winter and into the spring, including close-ups on the people, the politics, the art and the economics of Occupy. (This link will take you to a list of stories, beginning with the oldest.)
And a few feature projects that made us especially proud:
Brittany Schell turned her ongoing work about pollution and asthma rates in West Oakland into her second year thesis project, The Pulse of Oakland.
Charles Berkowitz spent two years on a touching multimedia report on the life of Teddy Berger-Greer, a four-year-old with a rare cancer called neuroblastoma. The story started as a short piece for Oakland North, and became a piece for the Creativist called A Life Fulfilled.
Amina Waheed investigated an economic phenomenon happening in Oakland’s marina community, a story reprinted by the East Bay Express: As the economy sinks, homeless people move onto abandoned boats.
And we can’t forget Oakland North’s Race to the Airport — in order to test the premise of Oakland’s “BART to OAK” airport connector (that a BART train will get you there faster) we staged our own test. Four racers, traveling by bus, BART, bike and car had to make it from Bakesale Betty to the airport — while carrying a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Who would make it there fastest, and with the most intact pie?
And finally, we’ve interviewed hundreds of our Oakland neighbors, profiling some of the most interesting members of our community. Meet “The bearded barbers of Temescal” in this video by Justine Quart, or forensic diver Steven Day in this story by Gregory Thomas, or rehearse your own death with Chris Zydel and Sharon Pavelda in this story by Becky Palmstrom, meet the teenagers who play traditional Ethiopian jazz in this audio piece by Aaron Mendelson, stop by for a game of vintage baseball with the Oakland Colonels in this radio report by Ted Trautman, or read Teresa Chin’s story about the legendary Tiki Tom’s.
We hope to keep Oakland North a source of news and community conversation, and we welcome your comments and insights. You can connect with Oakland North on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. We welcome tips, questions, corrections and submissions for “You Tell Us,” our community op-ed page, at firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, you can make a donation to the Hyperlocal News Fund to support Oakland North here.
Please keep in touch!
— The staff of Oakland North