Fourteen years ago, three journalist friends living in Berkeley decided to address the information gap in their city by starting a digital-only local news site called Berkeleyside. Fast-forward to 2019, and in collaboration with new partners and leaders, they launched Cityside Journalism Initiative to bring more great local journalism to the Bay Area. Berkeleyside was soon joined by The Oaklandside, which launched in June 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown to serve communities in Oakland. Nosh stories about the East Bay’s dynamic food scene appear on both sites. Together, Cityside’s outlets reach more than 500,000 people in the East Bay every month.
And now, after months of research and listening work, Cityside is adding Richmondside to its family of newsrooms.
The mission remains the same: to serve local communities with free and independent news that informs, fosters civic participation and strengthens democracy.
There are many reasons to be excited about launching a newsroom in Richmond, but it starts with what we’ve heard directly from residents: that they are hungry for more independent local news. Through surveys and in-person interviews over the past year, Richmonders told us they want a local news organization that’s unbiased, balanced and accurate.
Richmond’s communities have long been underserved when it comes to having this type of independent and consistent news and information about things like city government, public schools, local businesses, health and the environment, and the arts. In fact, more than half of the people that we spoke to in Richmond said they relied on word-of-mouth much of the time for local news because friends and family are their most trustworthy information source.
We also heard about the issues that people in Richmond care about most — things like local government transparency, housing, and schools. And, very much like our listening sessions in Oakland, people in Richmond said they don’t just want to hear bad things about their town; they want to see positive coverage about the many people and groups in Richmond who are working hard every day to improve life in the city and make it an enjoyable place to be. As one resident noted, Richmond is “better and safer than people think it is.”
Collaboration not competition
That’s not to say that there aren’t already journalists elsewhere doing a great job of covering Richmond, or more informal communication networks providing residents with information they need. There certainly are, and rather than compete, our intention is to partner and collaborate with many of them in the months to come, as we work to create a healthier information ecosystem for the city.
One of Richmond’s greatest strengths is its amazing diversity of people. And we believe that all of them deserve a news platform that can amplify their voices and reflect their experiences, which together make the city so uniquely beautiful. Making sure Richmondside’s journalism genuinely mirror the city’s diversity is a priority as we make hires and chart an editorial course for Richmondside.
While Richmond has a unique identity and legacy, we also know that the cultural, economic, and political forces impacting people in our region, and the relationships people hold with one another, all transcend municipal boundaries. Issues like the lack of affordable housing or the increasingly challenging impacts of climate change affect everyone in the East Bay and beyond. And borders are porous: Oaklanders have family and friends in Richmond; Berkeleyans want to know about great new restaurants in neighboring cities; Richmond music lovers will hop on BART to catch a show in Berkeley; and commuting from Richmond to downtown Oakland or elsewhere for work is commonplace. Simply put, having proximity will create opportunities for resource and knowledge-sharing between our newsrooms, increase a sense of connectivity between East Bay communities, and improve our ability to serve local residents with news and information they find meaningful.
What’s next for Richmondside
You can’t launch a local newsroom without local journalists — and in the coming weeks, we’ll be starting our search for a full-time editor-in-chief and at least one full-time reporter to begin the important task of covering the city. We’ll also be putting out calls to and connecting with local freelance journalists. Our current timeline has us filling Richmondside’s staff positions by early 2024 if not sooner, with reporting and publishing starting in the spring.
Between now and then, we’ll be continuing to reach out and meet with local individuals, community organizations, and other Richmond stakeholders to learn even more about the city’s information needs. This will include informal public meetups where we’ll invite residents to get to know us and share their ideas for coverage. And we’ll continue asking Richmonders to weigh in on what they want from Richmondside by filling out our online survey.
Like The Oaklandside and Berkeleyside before it, Richmondside’s newsroom won’t be able to cover everything we’d like to all at once — at least not at first. But as we have before, we’re confident that our youngest newsroom, guided by input from Richmond residents, will be set up to make an immediate impact. Some of the launch funding for Richmondside has come from the Google News Initiative and the Hellman Foundation. As support for our work in Richmond grows, we’ll grow as well, to meet the city’s needs.
How you can stay connected and support this work
Richmondside’s success depends on the support of the community. While Cityside will always be committed to keeping Richmondside and all of our local journalism free for our communities, one of the main ways we can achieve this as a nonprofit is through individual donations, small and large, from people who see the value in what we do. If you believe in the power of local, unbiased journalism to strengthen communities, we hope you’ll donate today — and help us spread the word far and wide about this exciting new work for Richmond.
Stay up-to-date on what’s happening with Richmondside — including being the first to know when we post job announcements or announce a community meetup — by subscribing to receive our free newsletter and by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. You can also reach out directly by emailing us at email@example.com or by calling us on our message line at (510) 239-7413.
You can read more about Richmondside’s parent nonprofit organization, Cityside Journalism Initiative, about our community listening work in Richmond, and get answers to questions you may have about the newsroom by visiting richmondside.org.