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June 16, 2020, 1:41 p.m.
Business Models
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   June 16, 2020

Tuesday marks the official launch of The Oaklandside, a nonprofit news outlet covering Oakland, California. It’s the second site by Cityside, a nonprofit that “builds community through local journalism.” The first site, Berkeleyside, launched in 2009.

Even though the launch was slated for Tuesday, The Oaklandside’s seven journalists began work several months ago when they started listening to the community’s information needs after coronavirus hit.

The Oaklandside’s editor-in-chief is Tasneem Raja, who previously founded the nonprofit Tyler Loop in East Texas. Its initial funding comes from the Google News Initiative Local Experiments Project and from The American Journalism Project — each are giving $1.56 million to the launch. Nieman Lab reported last year:

Berkeleyside has had its own interesting model, starting as a for-profit with event offerings, growing membership engagement, and raising $1 million from 355 readers in a direct public offering setup.

Now, with 501(c)(3) status and ten years of local news experimentation under its belt, CitySide’s Oakland site will become the third guinea pig in the Google News Initiative’s Local Experiments Project, which also funds McClatchy’s Compass Experiment in Youngstown and elsewhere and Archant’s Project Neon in the U.K. to build innovative local news sites from scratch.

According to 2019 population estimates, Oakland is 36 percent white, 23.6 percent Black, 15.7 percent Asian, 26.9 percent Hispanic, and 0.9 percent Native American. The Oaklandside’s goal is to focus on the issues most important to the city’s residents — “the systems, not just the symptoms.” In that vein, its main coverage areas will be city hall and policing, schools, housing, arts and community, health, and “Nosh” (food). There’s also a section called “How We Work” that’s dedicated to explaining The Oaklandside’s journalistic processes.

In the GNI announcement, Raja wrote:

Five years ago, when I was last living in Oakland, some neighbors of mine were living through the nightmare of eviction. As a number of us on the block tried to help them secure safe and decent shelter, I remember feeling profoundly frustrated at the way many journalists — including me — tended to approach crises like the one roiling our block and huge swaths of the city.

I had read gripping, poignant news reports about evictions in Oakland and beyond. They included photographs of stuffed animals in trash bags and children’s clothes kicked to the curb, and heart-wrenching quotes from people who didn’t know where they’d sleep that night.

Such stories can absolutely be worthwhile. But they’re largely assigned, reported and published with readers like me in mind, who are people unlikely to experience the trauma firsthand. I wondered what more newsrooms could do for and with Oaklanders living through some of the hardest days of their lives, beyond writing stories about them.

That brings me to today. I’m honored and humbled to have returned to Oakland to build and lead the team now launching The Oaklandside, a nonprofit news outlet wholly dedicated to serving local information needs, amplifying community voices and investigating systems in and for Oakland. We believe 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.

Our seven-person newsroom is launching in a time of fierce local and national pushback against deep-rooted systems of persecution and injustice aimed at Black Americans. The Oaklandside will bring informed perspectives, deep context, historical research and an equity lens to its coverage of police brutality and mass criminalization in Oakland and beyond.

The Oaklandside plans to collaborate with other Oakland-based news outlets. Its first partner is El Tímpano, a Spanish-language news site that serves Spanish-speaking Latino and Indigenous Mayan immigrants in East Oakland. Managing editor Jacob Simas said The Oaklandside staff will meet with El Tímpano on a weekly basis to identify and solve information needs together.

Read the full announcement here.

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