As editor-in-chief of The Oaklandside, one of my favorite parts of the job is announcing powerful new ways our newsroom is growing. And then there’s the bittersweet task of letting you know when a beloved colleague is moving on. Today, I get to do both.
Oaklandside’s City Hall and Policing reporter David DeBolt is taking on a fantastic new job with the Bay Area News Group as an editor, overseeing criminal justice and breaking news across the entire East Bay region with a focus on Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
This is great news for Northern California journalism, and I cannot think of a better person to lead this much-needed effort than David. David came to us from BANG, where he’d most recently been a senior breaking news reporter. At The Oaklandside, David brought both his top-notch (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) reporting chops and unmatchable institutional knowledge of Bay Area politics, policy, and culture to bear on some of our newsroom’s most important stories over the past year.
Among my favorites were David’s in-depth, alarming report on the questionable use of K9 cops at OPD; his conversation with councilmember Carroll Fife on Howard Terminal; and his swan song with our newsroom, a riveting, revealing account of a day he and Oaklandside visual journalist Amir Aziz spent with unarmed MACRO emergency responders to witness their groundbreaking “alternative to the police” program at work on the streets.
“My time at The Oaklandside may have been short,” says David, “but it was refreshing to be in a newsroom that is deeply invested in the city it reports on, and that dedication shows in the way we have covered the city. It truly is bittersweet to leave such a talented group of reporters, photographers, and editors, but I am looking forward to a new chapter in my journalism career. It will be exciting to watch The Oaklandside grow.”
David comes from a family of coaches and teachers, and it showed every single day in his interactions with his Oaklandside colleagues. His unfailing generosity and kind collegiality have made all of us better reporters and editors, and I have no doubt that the reporters he mentors at BANG in his first “official” editing gig will feel the same way. David, we’ll miss you tremendously, and we’re lucky to have you in local journalism.
Jose Fermoso joins The Oaklandside newsroom
Speaking of lucky, Oaklandside readers who’ve been following us from the start (just over two years ago!) will be thrilled to hear that Jose Fermoso has joined our newsroom full-time as a staff reporter.
One of our biggest stories out of the gate was Jose’s June 2020 blockbuster investigation—reported while he was a freelancer for our newsroom—into a seemingly small issue that was causing big problems for people across Oakland. Why were UPS packages routinely arriving days or weeks late, disappearing altogether, or moldering in local warehouses? Oakland residents were emailing and tweeting at our fledgling newsroom at their wits’ end, hoping for answers and not getting any from UPS. I asked Jose to look into it, and the result remains one of our most-read stories to this day. It was also the first time we grasped his amazing ability to dissect complicated systems, reveal what is and isn’t working at their core, and powerfully illustrate the human impacts along the way.
About a year ago, Jose and I worked together to launch a new beat for The Oaklandside, looking at Oakland’s dangerous roadways and their disproportionate impacts on Black and brown residents. We landed funding and support from the prestigious Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan to enable Jose to do this work with us full-time for eight months.
Jose spent that time taking both a 30,000-foot-view of the problem and getting up close and personal. He sat down with parents who fear their kids’ daily walk to school. He answered a question we frequently get from readers: what exactly is the city doing to enforce traffic laws? In one of my favorite stories from Oaklandside’s archives, he rode AC Transit buses with their drivers to understand how Oakland’s worst roads affect them physically and psychologically.
A lifelong Oaklander and a longtime journalist contributing to Wired, The Guardian, The New York Times, and other national outlets, Jose’s curiosities and passions in this city are wide-ranging. Don’t miss his lovely essay on exploring Oakland’s hidden staircases during the pandemic, tying back to his family’s history in Oakland and what it means to belong.
“I’m excited to join the newsroom in a full capacity,” says Jose. “After a year of developing the street safety beat with the support of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship, it made sense to continue working together. Through Oaklandside’s community conversations, we knew people needed this reporting—though sometimes I’ve been surprised at how much people care about it. The power of local reporting comes from being close to our communities and really knowing what they go through. As an Oakland native with a history in many parts of the city, I look forward to connecting with people even more moving forward.”
I’m proud to welcome Jose to our newsroom in this expanded role, and I can’t wait for his continued digging into what’s working and not working on Oakland’s streets. When we talk about reporting on systems, not just symptoms, Jose’s work is a shining example of what we mean.