In mid-March, Berkeleyside made the difficult decision to stop publishing opinion pieces, which historically have been one of the most popular sections on our site. We made the change because we needed to focus our reporting on the coronavirus. At that time, there was so much news that our small staff was overwhelmed. This year, Berkeleyside has published more than 300 stories on COVID-19 and the impact it has had on the people, businesses and institutions of Berkeley.
In recent months, however, many readers have asked us to relaunch our opinion section, particularly as the election nears. We’re excited to announce that, come October, we will resume their publication. The election comes Nov. 3 and there are four City Council races, a mayor’s race, rent board and school board contests and eight ballot items. Berkeley residents feel strongly about issues and have a lot to say about which candidates and policies will be best to steer the city’s future.
During the 2018 election, Berkeleyside limited the publication of op-eds to four for each candidate and six for each measure: We ran two pieces in favor of each candidate and two against, and accepted op-eds on a rolling basis.
This year, we have decided to limit the number of opinion pieces to two for each side — for candidates and measures alike — so as not to overwhelm readers. But we have a new plan for how to make the process better, an approach we hope elevates the strongest pieces.
Two years ago we published opinion pieces on a first-come, first-served basis. This cycle we are asking readers to turn in any election-related op-eds by Oct. 7. (Absentee ballots will be mailed Oct. 5, and we want to provide the information voters need as quickly as we can.) Berkeleyside will then select and publish the most compelling, well-written and well-argued pieces — two from each side.
As for other types of opinion pieces, we still have a small staff, which means limited bandwidth for reviewing these submissions. We are therefore going to be more selective about what we publish in the future. We also plan to solicit op-eds to air important issues in our community. In the run-up to the election, we will focus on election-related op-eds and only publish the occasional non-election-related piece.
What is Berkeleyside’s general policy on opinion pieces?
Berkeleyside publishes opinion pieces at our discretion. Submissions must be fact-based: Links and citations to substantiate arguments must be included. If you do not hear back, assume we have decided to pass. We generally do not publish items that have appeared elsewhere.
Topics should be Berkeley-related. Local authors are preferred and anonymity is not allowed. The recommended length is 500-1,000 words, and we need the draft at least 72 hours before the desired publication time. We cannot guarantee publication on a particular date. Please send Word or Google docs, not PDFs. Generally, images are not published with op-eds. Include your name, phone number, and a one-line bio with all relevant disclosures. Email submissions to email@example.com.
Frances Dinkelspiel is the executive editor and co-founder of Berkeleyside.