Community is the heartbeat of Berkeleyside, and I am so glad to have joined a team that puts local news first.
You could say that my journey to becoming editor-in-chief of Berkeleyside was almost predetermined.
I majored in journalism, my older sister studied mass communications and my younger brother received his degree in radio and TV. We sometimes joke that, with our combined knowledge, the three of us could have started a mini media empire. But, while my siblings eventually took other career paths, I stayed the course in journalism.
I have spent a good three decades working in newspapers. But, even when I started in the business, the writing was already on the wall: Readership was declining, mostly among young readers — the very people newspapers need for sustainability. Even so, we tried our best to stem the tide, pouring resources into communities, covering city halls, schools and other important issues that impact local residents.
That wasn’t enough.
The rise of the internet and the onset of the Great Recession really hit newspapers hard and local news bore the brunt of the cuts that would come. As some newspapers laid off staff and others were forced to shut their doors, journalists reinvented themselves, adapting to the changing times. The rise of community news outlets started to take hold.
Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside, our sister outlet under the nonprofit organization Cityside, stepped up, and both Berkeleyans and Oaklanders have seen the value in having a dedicated news source in their cities.
A career choice that took hold in my Berkeley childhood
Long before I got here, I was a student at Berkeley High.
Growing up in the Bay Area with politically minded parents, who subscribed to the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle, set the foundation for me to look at media as a viable career.
Though I started working at age 13 (including stints at the main Berkeley Library and the West Berkeley Library while in high school), I knew then that I wanted to do something that I could be passionate about day in and day out. When I was 16, I applied for a job at the Oakland Tribune. I just wanted to get my foot in the door to see where it would take me. But, a day before my interview, I severely burned my dominant right hand and it was covered with big medical bandages. So, even though I tried, I failed the typing test and didn’t get the job.
It didn’t deter me.
My first dive into newspapers was as a sports reporter at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, where I started as a copygirl (I know that term today is likely foreign, not to mention culturally questionable, to interns and graduates, who are thrown right into the mix these days). I covered high schools, colleges and the pros, everything from football and basketball to swimming, soccer and track and field.
I thought this has to be the best job ever. I got to travel, meet and interview so many interesting people — Tiger Woods, Misty May, Lisa Leslie, Tara VanDerveer — and watch and report on games. What could be better? I even got to cover a Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
I told myself I never wanted to be an editor, sitting in a chair, staring at a computer screen all day or night, copy-editing stories. I juggled a lot of things at that time, including, at one point, being a prep and community sports editor. That experience led me to decide I wanted to learn how to work on the copy desk. That was the beginning of my transition from reporter to editor.
After my husband, who is also a journalist, and I moved to the Bay Area in 2001, I got hired on the sports copy desk at the Contra Costa Times. From there I went to the Oakland Tribune, where I was named managing editor. I worked on big stories, including the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer, the shooting of four Oakland police officers and the Occupy Oakland movement. From there, I became a senior breaking news editor at the Mercury News, which shared the Pulitzer Prize with the East Bay Times for our coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, in which 36 people lost their lives.
Thrilled to be joining an outstanding community news outlet
It didn’t take a lot of convincing to come to Berkeleyside.
In its 12 years, Berkeleyside has earned a well-deserved reputation as an outstanding community news outlet. It has a much-loved food section, Nosh, led by Sarah Han, and a top-notch reporting team, including Emilie Raguso, who owns the distinction of being Berkeleyside’s first journalism hire, Supriya Yelimeli and Ally Markovich.
There are so many hot-button stories to report in Berkeley, including in the areas of housing, homelessness, the ongoing pandemic, rent control, the environment, education and the arts. Soon, I will hire a new senior reporter to cover City Hall and take on general assignments that will help broaden our bandwidth in the city.
With the staff, and therefore reporting, at local newspapers rapidly dwindling, it’s critical that news outlets like the nonprofit Berkeleyside step in and fill the void with journalism that informs and provides context to the complex stories that impact our communities. Personally, I believe I could not have made a better career choice.
I look forward to getting to know many of you in the months ahead and hearing from you about the ways in which Berkeleyside can best serve you. As editor-in-chief, I’m here to listen and learn.