The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announced today that Berkeleyside had won three journalism awards for its work in 2020. Our sister site, The Oaklandside, was also honored.

Sarah Han
Sarah Han. Photo: Cris Gebhardt

Sarah Han, senior editor, food, won in the arts and culture category (print/online small division) for her food reporting in the East Bay, under the Nosh umbrella, which encompasses stories on social and ethical issues as well as restaurant reviews.

“We are thrilled with this well-deserved recognition for Sarah,” said Berkeleyside co-founder Tracey Taylor. “Her deep knowledge of the food scene and her culinary expertise produce a compelling mix of stories that highlight the rich diversity of the industry and the challenges faced by those who work in it. We hear all the time from readers who absolutely love Nosh.”

Emilie Raguso. Photo: Sarah Gerber

Emilie Raguso, senior editor of news, won in the longform storytelling category (print/online small division) for a powerful investigation, published in June, into the bizarre and tragic circumstances that led to the death of Gulf War veteran Michael Hermon. Hermon, a 47-year-old father of three, sustained fatal injuries when he was attacked by an inmate at Santa Rita Jail one day before he was to be released into a treatment program. SPJ Norcal had previously named Raguso journalist of the year in 2017.

“Emilie’s tenacity and her unwillingness to take ‘no’ for an answer show in this powerful story,” said Berkeleyside Executive Editor Frances Dinkelspiel. “It took 14 months of pushing to get the sheriff’s department to release its investigation in Hermon’s tragic and unnecessary death. Without her determination, the truth may never have come out.”

Natalie Orenstein
Natalie Orenstein. Photo: Sarah Gerber Credit: Sarah Gerber

The third award went to former Berkeleyside reporter Natalie Orenstein, who is now covering housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie won in the features category (print/online small division) for “‘Crisis’ or crossroads: What’s in the future for Longfellow Middle School?” As Berkeley Unified looked into desegregating its middle schools, Longfellow was at the center of the debate. In a deeply researched account, Orenstein told the inside story of the school whose future could dictate the legacy of the district.

“Natalie immersed herself in the life of Longfellow and wrote a moving and detailed story on the school’s challenges, the principal’s quest to turn things around, and how the school’s disparities have created an education that some worried parents regard as ‘separate and unequal,’” said Dinkelspiel.

Although only launched in June 2020, The Oaklandside was also honored by SPJ NorCal for its stellar reporting last year. The Oaklandside, like Berkeleyside, is run by nonprofit parent Cityside.

The Oakland newsroom won the community journalism award (print/online) for its reporting on Alameda County loosening shelter-in-place restrictions; how community members coped with the pandemic; reflections from longtime Black community organizers on protests against police brutality; student leadership of marches; and an explanation of The Oaklandside’s community listening process that underpins its values and reporting.

Berkeleyside has received three SPJ NorCal awards for excellence in community journalism since 2013, most recently in 2019.

In 2020, Cityside was recognized for its journalism and the vision and principles it has built for its role in the communities it serves, by being named Publisher of the Year by the by Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION).

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Berkeleyside is Berkeley, California’s independently-owned local news site. Learn more about the Berkeleyside team. Questions? Email