The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has for the second year running recognized Berkeleyside as providing excellent local journalism.

At an awards ceremony last night at the San Francisco City Club, the organization announced Berkeleyside as the winner of the Community Journalism (print/text) category in its 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards.

The judges said they chose Berkeleyside for the “range, depth and innovation reflected in its coverage of Berkeley.”

“The site provides residents with news as it is happening, plus comprehensive, timely stories about important issues in the community,” they said.

Four stories published by Berkeleyside were cited as exemplifying what the judges described as Berkeleyside’s “laser focus on one community”:

When last year’s Rim Fire near Yosemite first threatened, and finally destroyed, Berkeley’s beloved Tuolumne camp, Berkeleyside was posting updates and photos as soon as information became available… “the site provided more detailed information about the fate of the camp than was available in other media,” wrote SPJ NorCal. Read that coverage, written by Tracey Taylor and others.

Team at Uncharted Photo Pete Rosos
The Berkeleyside team at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2014, an event organized by Berkeleyside. L to r: Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel, Tracey Taylor, Wendy Cohen, Emilie Raguso. Photo: Pete Rosos

Fraudulent enrollment at Berkeley public schools: Berkeleyside’s in-depth story looked at the hot-button issue of non-resident students enrolled in Berkeley schools. The article was widely applauded as being a fair and balanced piece of reporting and continues to be commented on and shared. Read the story, written by Mary Flaherty and edited by Frances Dinkelspiel.

The City of Berkeley’s use of social media use – or lack thereof: In February 2013 Berkeleyside published an analysis of how, three years after Berkeley city staff said the municipality was working on a social-media policy to allow for greater transparency and communication, the city still had virtually no online presence apart from its official website. The story provoked a lively response, including from the city. Not long after, the Berkeley Police Department, which was trailing other departments in the use of social media, began piloting its use of the Nixle social-media alert system. Read that story, written by Emilie Raguso.

Toxic chemicals at Berkeley school swimming pool: In the fall of 2013, Berkeleyside broke the story of how students using Berkeley High School’s swimming pool were displaying alarming symptoms, including burning eyes, bleached hair, and, in some cases, the disappearance of body hair. Our investigation, including filing a public record request, revealed an extensive history of unaddressed maintenance issues both big and small and lax oversight of the pool. As a result, the district closed the pool temporarily and overhauled its management. Read that story, written by Natalie Orenstein.

It is the second year running Berkeleyside has won for the SPJ NorCal award for community journalism. Last year’s award was made for Berkeleyside’s coverage of the Berkeley schools’ abortive superintendent search and for stories about the proposed sale of the downtown post office.

Other SPJ winners this year included KQED, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Center for Investigative Reporting and Mother Jones. Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News and the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit respectively won “Journalist of the Year” awards.

Berkeleyside was founded in October 2009, and is a leading example of a new wave of local news sites produced by independent, entrepreneurial journalists and salespeople. Berkeleyside has a team of five: Wendy Cohen, Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel, Emilie Raguso and Tracey Taylor; as well as a small roster of regular freelance journalists and contributing photographers. In the past month, Berkeleyside had more than 200,000 unique visitors and over 750,000 pageviews. Berkeleyside’s business model depends on advertising revenue, income from events like Uncharted, the Berkeley ideas festival it launched in 2013, and support from readers.

Berkeleyside wins excellence in journalism award (10.29.13)

Support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member. Members enjoy plenty of perks, including invitations to member-only events and an annual party. Plus you get the satisfaction of providing vital support for our work. 

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...