a man standing on the roof of a house in orange light
Orange skies in Berkeley in September 2020 were partly the result of the climate crisis, a new beat coming to Berkeleyside and supported by this year’s Founders’ Fund. Photo: Aditi Shah Credit: Aditi Shah

Fires sweeping across California, even in the winter. Lakes and creeks drying up, leading to poisonous algae blooms. Hungry deer and coyotes venturing into our streets in search of food. Air pollution so thick it cuts out the sun, leading to an eerie orange cast in the sky.

The impact of the climate catastrophe is all around us. Some of us feel paralyzed by the problem. Others are driven to action.

Berkeleyside is poised to help.

As we reported last year, our newsroom will bring on two new journalists in June: a climate and transportation reporter and a photojournalist. We’re doing so in partnership with local journalism nonprofit Report for America and CatchLight, a local nonprofit dedicated to developing and amplifying visual storytellers.

To underwrite these new exciting areas of coverage for the next two years, we are making the two key positions the focus of our 2022 Founders’ Fund for Local Journalism with the goal of raising $300,000 for two years.

We launched the Berkeleyside Founders’ Fund in 2021 as a way to celebrate the contributions of Berkeleyside’s three co-founders — Frances Dinkelspiel, Lance Knobel and Tracey Taylor. The annual fund is dedicated to growing and enhancing the highest quality community journalism in Berkeley.

A reporter to delve into all aspects of the climate crisis locally — with global implications

Visibly poor air quality over Berkeley in Aug. 2020. Credit: Pete Rosos

How do we, as a community, stay informed about the impacts of the climate crisis and respond? How will the city of Berkeley, an environmental pioneer in many respects, tackle the latest challenges? How can we tap into the groundbreaking climate change research underway at UC Berkeley?

Journalism as a whole has not done enough to cover the climate crisis. The gap is particularly acute locally, where the potential for individual and community action is substantial.

Our climate reporter will produce compelling, Berkeley-centered journalism on the impact of climate change on our natural environment, and examine what’s working and how our car-centric culture has burdened Berkeley residents. This is at the core of conversations around curbing fossil-fuel emissions, building out transit, pedestrian and bike infrastructure and addressing the toll that decades of polluted air from Interstate 80 has taken on the health of West Berkeley residents.

Photojournalism is democratic — everyone understands the visual language

Our first on-staff visual journalist will elevate all our reporting with beautiful, engaging photography reflecting the diverse nature of Berkeley’s communities. Photojournalism has the power to engage and create direct connections in a unique way. And a photojournalist is the face of the newsroom — the trusted messenger who is seen out and about in the community more than any other member of our newsroom.

The two new positions also align with our commitment to build a pipeline for early-career journalists who may have a hard time breaking into the industry, particularly those from underrepresented communities.

Those who would like to supercharge the local journalism Berkeleyside provides to our community by supporting our new climate and transportation and visual journalism beats for the next two years can make donations to Cityside Journalism Initiative. (Please make a note the donation is for the Founders’ Fund.)

If you have any questions about the Founders’ Fund focus and how you can help, email Berkeleyside Co-Founder and Cityside Editorial Director Tracey Taylor.

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