Supriya Yelimeli, Berkeleyside’s housing and homelessness reporter, has been on staff since May 2020. She takes the time and effort to dig deep into her stories and reaches out to sources who are the most impacted by laws and life.
For Yelimeli, who grew up in Fremont with her parents and older sister, becoming a reporter was never a question of “if,” but “when.”
From the time her journalism teacher at Mission San Jose High School sent her to San Francisco to cover an Occupy protest, Yelimeli has known she wanted to pursue a career talking to people, hearing their world view and figuring out how to get their stories onto the page.
Telling those stories has not always been easy. Yelimeli started at UC Santa Barbara in fall 2014, a quarter after a gunman went on a misogynistic rampage in Isla Vista and killed six college students and wounded 14 others. Yelimeli co-wrote an in-depth story on the sheriff’s investigation for the college newspaper, The Daily Nexus, and spent a lot of time reporting on how her peers and the community processed their grief.
“The story occupied my entire time in college, the shooting and its aftermath,” said Yelimeli, who is now 26. “Reporting on a tragedy like that over the course of four years — it was incredibly meaningful to me.”
In her senior year, Yelimeli served as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Nexus.
During and after college, Supriya worked as a breaking news reporter at the San Jose bureau of Bay City News Service, a wire service, NBC Los Angeles, newspapers in Santa Barbara, Mission Local in San Francisco and for The Appeal. She also freelanced for Berkeleyside and, when a staff job opened up there, Supriya was the editors’ first choice to fill it.
“It was the only ‘paper’ I wanted to work for in the Bay Area,” said Yelimeli.
Yelimeli has written extensively about the people who are unhoused in Berkeley. To develop relationships and build trust, Yelimeli spends lots of time at places like the former University Avenue/Frontage Road encampment and at People’s Park. The result is stories that highlight the challenges of being unhoused and the challenges Berkeley faces in helping them find permanent housing.
Yelimeli was also a core member of Berkeleyside’s pandemic rapid response team, crafting dozens of articles on testing, mass vaccination sites, and detailing the impact of the coronavirus on people and businesses.
“Having the privilege of answering a lot of people’s questions during a confusing time, that was really important to me,” she said.
She’s quick to head to the scene for more context when reporting, and she’s nimble on her feet when it comes to “quick hit” breaking news pieces. Skilled as she is in social media curation, she is also the genius behind Berkeleyside’s Instagram.
Earlier this year she was recognized as an “outstanding emerging journalist” by the Society of Professional Journalists for a trio of stories she wrote in 2021 reporting on “Berkeley’s racist zoning history, the death of a homeless veteran of the U.S. Navy who had hoped to become a music producer, and how the school district handled reopening schools during the pandemic.”
Yelimeli lives in South Berkeley and can be spotted around the city looking for the latest desserts and nightcaps (guided by Nosh), trying to get the attention of street cats and watching sunsets and the rolling fog at Sibley.