From the notebook of Oakland designer Mike Nicholls, who reflected on our founding values when designing our logo. Credit: Mike Nicholls

As we build a new nonprofit journalism platform for Oakland, we wanted to tell you about the founding values guiding our efforts. These values grew out of dozens of in-depth conversations with Oakland residents and community stakeholders about Oakland’s information needs, and the journalistic lenses and approaches that will best serve this city.

These values have guided several key decisions about our newsroom, including the beats we cover. Learn more about this listening process, and what we heard from you.

This set of values is not exhaustive, and will grow and evolve over time. We welcome your feedback on anything that you see, or don’t see, represented below.

Learning and growing through a commitment to listening

From a community listening session held in spring 2020. Photo: CB Smith-Dahl

Since late summer 2019, we’ve been asking a wide range of Oaklanders about the journalism they want to see in Oakland—and how they might work with us to create it.

Over time, key decisions about the development of our newsroom—from which beats we cover, to what we looked for in our initial hires, to our name—have been based on input we’ve received from community members through in-person conversations, live events, and our digital survey.

We are committed to continuing this approach, and developing ongoing avenues through which we can listen and learn from Oakland residents about what they want journalism to do for Oakland, and how well we’re serving their needs.

Building a newsroom that represents and reflects Oakland

We are committed to building and maintaining a newsroom that reflects the diversity and complexity of Oakland. Guided by best practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will recruit and support in-house reporters and outside contributors who represent the people and communities of this city.

We’re especially interested in working with people who have ties to Oakland, and who have demonstrated an understanding of the ways race, racism, identity, and power shape daily life in Oakland and across America.

Sharing the mic with people and communities across Oakland

We believe that people impacted by the issues we cover are experts of their own experiences. We will constantly look for and create opportunities to share the mic, work with people and communities interested in telling their own stories, and democratize the practice of journalism so that more Oaklanders are able to participate in the distribution of fact-based information. 

Supporting and collaborating with others working for a more informed Oakland

From established newsrooms to churches to neighborhood elders, we know that Oaklanders already get news and information from a variety of people and places. We’re committed to being a thoughtful, supportive partner in strengthening Oakland’s existing information ecosystems. We will respectfully seek to collaborate with and support other local storytellers, media makers, and trusted sources of community information.

We will prioritize a healthy budget for compensating freelancers and collaborators, and constantly seek opportunities to support those already doing the work we want to see.

Our ultimate goal is a more equitably informed and engaged Oakland, and we know that we can best achieve that vision by sharing resources, time, and attention with those who are also committed to these values.

Reflecting the value of Oakland’s communities

One of the common sentiments we’ve heard from residents so far is a desire for more local journalism that reflects what they value about their communities and their neighborhoods. We will seek to bring an “asset mindset” to our coverage, reporting on and highlighting the brilliance and value of Oakland’s people, institutions, and communities, alongside our honest and uncompromising reporting on Oakland’s greatest vulnerabilities.

We will pair our focus on accountability with an eye for possibility, elevating stories of those who are working to make Oakland a healthier, safer place for all.

Protecting our editorial independence

To sustain our newsroom, we will seek funding from a wide variety of sources, from individual readers to large institutions. Regardless of the size and influence of any funder, we will not shy away from beats or people connected to our donors and will maintain clear editorial independence. We will always be fully transparent about our funding sources, and will disclose any potential conflicts or relationships in stories we report that relate to the interests of our funders. Learn more about our editorial policies.

Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas. She was a senior editor at NPR's Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped build the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and daughter.