Two years ago, The Oaklandside did something you don’t often see at a local news outlet. We found a way to cover road safety problems in Oakland as a daily news beat. 

We wanted to take this on as a question of systemic inequity in Oakland, highlighting the fact that Black, brown, and low-income residents are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic collisions. With the support of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program, Jose Fermoso joined The Oaklandside full-time to become our first-ever Road Safety reporter. 

Now, with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, we’re adding yet another lens to Jose’s approach to this beat. 

CZI is funding science-driven reporting into Oakland’s deadly traffic problems at The Oaklandside with a grant of $125,000 a year for two years. The Oaklandside is one of a handful of local newsrooms around the country selected for this investment in 2023. Others include MLK50 in Memphis, Outlier Media in Detroit, and Mission Local in San Francisco. “At CZI, we believe that a diverse science journalism ecosystem has concrete impacts on our ability to promote effective, representative research and bring science closer to the communities it aims to serve,” the program states.

We intend to use this support to look more closely at how roadway design in Oakland might be contributing to our problems with traffic violence—and explore engineering solutions. We’ll talk with behavioral scientists to better understand the social triggers of traffic violence and how urban planners, community advocates, and others can contribute to safer streets. And we’ll engage with other science-minded journalists through CZI’s network to think bigger and better about our approach to this reporting. (To be clear, CZI won’t have any editorial influence over our work.) 

The timing for this support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative couldn’t be better. Last summer, Oaklandside took the decision to make road safety a reporting priority. Now, Oakland’s City Council is making traffic safety a priority too. In advance of a recent City Council meeting to discuss top priorities for the next two-year city budget, every Oakland councilmember submitted a budget memo. Each of those memos included traffic safety proposals. 

We have no doubt that our commitment to this reporting is having an impact on our city. Over the next two years, we plan to go much further.

Check out some of our recent traffic safety reporting

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.