Berkeleyside has hired three more journalists for its Oakland team ahead of the launch, later this spring, of our autonomous Oakland newsroom.

Even before that launch, Jacob Simas, Ashley McBride and Ricky Rodas are hitting the ground running. Through our joint rapid-response newsroom, they will be reporting on COVID-19 Oakland news via Berkeleyside and through an Oakland newsletter.

The three bring the number of our Oakland staff to five, as they join Oakland Editor-in-Chief Tasneem Raja and News Editor Darwin BondGraham. More hires will be announced in coming weeks.

Jacob Simas joins as Managing Editor of the Oakland team. Most recently he worked at Univision, the largest provider of Spanish-language news in the U.S., where he led social-impact initiatives and established the Rise Up: Be Heard journalism training program for young people and community organizers in underserved areas of California. Before that, he was a senior editor and director of youth and community media at New America Media, where he led a community news network that amplified student and youth reporting in California news deserts.

Simas has lived in Oakland for the past decade with his wife and two children, who attend Oakland public schools, and his father was born and raised in East Oakland. He is an advisory board member for Youth Beat and a former volunteer host and producer with KPFA.

“I’ve been motivated throughout my career by a personal sense of mission to work with and on behalf of groups whose experiences are often overlooked and misrepresented in media,” said Simas. “I believe all Oakland residents deserve to have a local news platform that can keep them informed, reflect the array of perspectives and lived experiences in our city, and hold decision makers accountable while also lifting up the stories of people making a difference in our communities every day.”

Ashley McBride brings an impressive track record covering education to her new role as the Oakland newsroom’s Education Equity Reporter. McBride covered the 2019 OUSD teachers strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.

“The education landscape is vast and complex, and I want to bring clarity and accountability to how education decisions affect Oakland’s students,” McBride said. “As coronavirus is upending the way we do schooling and revealing deep inequalities, this coverage is essential.”

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and has spent the last two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the hyperlocal news sites Oakland North, Mission Local and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, joins us in June through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Rodas will be putting his experience and skills to use reporting on immigrant businesses in Oakland.

Ricky says being the son of parents who immigrated to the U.S., and knowing their stories, fueled his decision to become a journalist.

“The fascination with immigrants’ journeys, where they end up, and how they contribute to the cultural fabric of cities like Oakland has never left me,” he said. “I consider it a great privilege to continue covering the unique and hard-working immigrant-run businesses that keep ‘The Town’ running.”

Commenting on the hires, Raja said: “Now more than ever, we are proud to empower Ashley, Jacob, Ricky, and more dedicated reporters to help bring Oakland the fact-driven reporting and nuanced, inclusive perspectives we all need and deserve. I’m honored to work alongside them in bringing our newsroom’s founding values to life.”

“At a time when a heartbreaking number of journalists across the country are losing their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis, Berkeleyside is thrilled to be in a position to be able to hire journalists and begin to bring Oakland more of the trustworthy and civic-minded reporting it deserves,” said Berkeleyside co-founder and editorial director Tracey Taylor.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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35 Comments

  1. You’re giving the reader too little credit. You can actually report exactly what occurred (as you did in your set up) and let me, the reader, conclude the truth or falsity of Trump’s statement. It’s actually more powerful.

    Fox, CNN, and many others digest the news on behalf of the viewer and spoon feed them an ideological conclusion to recite. We have come to expect the media to do the thinking for us. It both presumes and perpetuates a certain intellectual laziness.

    Three headlines I’d want to see in the face of your hypothetical:
    “Trump states universe created in 6 days”
    “Scientific community responds to Trump’s comment on origins of universe”
    “Theologians react to Trump’s comment on origins of universe”

    Now your turn on my questions:
    “Do you think Darwin BondGraham (the new news editor) has a demonstrated history of objectivity in his work? That he aspires to unbiased, accurate coverage of Oakland issues?

    Do you think people trust him to report the truth even when it conflicts with his worldview? Or would it be safer to say that he’s viewed as a champion of progressive causes and a mouthpiece for activists?”

  2. There, I disagree with you. I think
    “Trump’s energy plan ignores established climate science”
    is objective, since it reports the facts.

    Now, imagine that Trump said that the universe was created in six days just over 5000 years ago, and an evangelical Christian who was an expert in theology said he was right. Which of these articles would be objective, and which would be misleading:
    “Trump’s ignores established science about origin of universe.”
    “Expert says Trump is right about origin of universe.”
    “Disagreements over Trump’s account of origin of universe.”

    I would say the first is objective because it reports the facts about the origin of the universe and about the Trumps statement. I would say the second and third are misleading, because they lead people to believe that the science leaves room for serious disagreement among experts about the origin of the universe.

    Would you go with the third?

    The same is true about the global warming headlines. I would say the NY Times reports objectively when it says that Trump ignores the established science of global warming.

    “Objective” does not mean giving equal time to both sides of the argument and refusing to come to any conclusions about the facts. “Objective” means reporting the facts.

    Here’s another one.
    Recently, Trump said that, as president, he makes the decision about when states will reopen–which is patently untrue and which he contradicted on the next day. Which is the objective article, and which is the misleading one:
    “Trump falsely claims the president decides when to open the economies of the states.” (which is roughly what CNN reported)
    “There is disagreement about who has power to open the economies of the states”

  3. The headlines probably have three different articles behind them because they cover slightly different things, so it’s a little apples and orangey, but…

    “Trump’s energy plan ignores established climate science” is not objective…unless, his energy plan states “In this plan, we are ignoring these specific branches of science”.

    A political conclusion is built into it. If you trust science (and most everyone does, for the most part), you can’t read that headline and not instantly conclude “Trump’s energy plan is bad”. This will taint your reading of the article. We’ve gotten used to headlines like this because we’re hit with them every day.

    I would go with the third if these are my only choices.

    That said, if the headline “Disagreements over how Trump’s energy plan will affect climate” is followed by an article that doesn’t express that certain ideas are the consensus or, likewise, fails to cover any significant dissent to that consensus, then you have another bias.

    “Disagreements over how Trump’s energy plan will affect climate” does not encourage a foregone conclusion, and you would have a hard time finding anyone from any part of the political spectrum that would question that the headline is accurate. It’s also boring which is the sacrifice modern media is unwilling to make.

    Objectivity, as you’re pushing toward, is not the presentation of unequally held views as equal although those wishing to rationalize bias often present it that way. It’s a presentation of reality and the various perspectives of that reality without any attempt or negligence on the part of the reporter that encourages the reader to choose one of those perspectives.

    It is difficult. And if you don’t have an unwavering commitment to it, or even if you do but you don’t have the tools to implement it, it’s impossible.

    And the most important tool, after a commitment to objectivity, is a diversity of perspectives in the newsroom.

  4. Which of the three headlines in my previous comment would you say is objective?

    I think that
    “Trump’s energy plan ignores established climate science.”
    is objective reporting, but many wouldn’t.”

    Likewise, if we had a news story saying:
    “Racism causes unequal outcomes in Berkeley schools”
    many people would think that is objective reporting — but many would think it is misleading, including me.

  5. There’s the confusion. I meant hard left as in solid, unwavering, lifelong, not far left as in progressive.

  6. “I think you are saying people are objective when their bias is close to your bias.”

    I am not. (And you misidentified my bias in a previous comment, so….)

    Objectivity is hard. It requires a diverse newsroom and constant vigilance. Even then, it’s a struggle.

    It’s essentially impossible when everyone you hire shares the same ideological worldview. Advertising specifically for people who share that worldview (my initial “complaint”) is a poison to a newsroom.

    You can’t make an orchestra out of a room full of tubas.

    Do you think Darwin BondGraham (the new news editor) has a demonstrated history of objectivity in his work? That he aspires to unbiased, accurate coverage of Oakland issues?

    Do you think people trust him to report the truth even when it conflicts with his worldview? Or would it be safer to say that he’s viewed as a champion of progressive causes and a mouthpiece for activists?

    Speaking frankly, as long as Darwin BondGraham is the news editor, I don’t think anyone can trust any Oakland news coming out of Berkeleyside.

    He has earned a reputation among politicians, newsreaders, and activists alike for what he does. It is not a question of nuance or a slight bias.

    He’s an activist who has a long-standing history of misusing his platform to mislead the community. That won’t suddenly change under a new banner.

  7. I should say that I myself dislike the “woke” approach and think it is destructive, but I don’t claim that this view of mine is “hard left.”

    That is one reason why I call myself a liberal rather than calling myself a progressive, as the hard left does.

  8. I have to disagree. I think you are saying people are objective when their bias is close to your bias. Take a few typical headlines:

    “Trump’s energy plan ignores established climate science.” — maybe from CNN
    “Expert says Trump’s energy plan will not damage climate.” — maybe from Fox News.
    “Disagreements over how Trump’s energy plan will affect climate.”
    I would say:

    the first is objectively true

    the second is misleading because it gives MORE weight to one expert who supports Trump than to the consensus of scientists and the actual data

    The third is from a news source that is trying to be objective by providing both sides of the issue, but it is also misleading because it gives EQUAL weight to one expert who supports Trump and to the consensus of scientists and the data.

    But others would not share my view about which news story is objective and which are misleading.

  9. Who wants objectivity? It’s an untenable standard, and only well suited for the educated elite. In an idiocracy, objectivity gives you Judith Miller and the Iraq war. I want expertise and local color. Good job Berkeleyside!

  10. “But they both have advanced degrees in Journalism”

    It doesn’t take an advanced degree in journalism to see the bias built into the hires, the launch document, or the work. It’s really, really, really obvious.

  11. “I don’t believe it.”

    Oh ye of little faith. The left is not the far left.

    Far left politics today are so far removed from liberal ideals, so utterly incoherent, and so completely disconnected from reality that someone truly defending the left here spends most of their time trying to defend it from the far left, not from the right.

    That might be the source of your doubt.

    The best thing you can do for liberal ideals here is fight those here who are destroying them. Here, that is not the right (who are powerless), but the far left.

  12. “Please give us one example of objective journalism.“

    The BBC comes pretty close.

    Fox News, CNN, and the New York Times all have a political slant. Of these, the NYT is probably the least biased.

    At Berkeleyside, ER is the most objective. FD is neutral when writing long form coverage, much less so editorially and on short news topics. NO often shows an unintentional slant in the way she covers a topic but the more she writes, the less it shows.

    On a 1-10 scale where low bias is a 1 and high bias is a 10, I would say Berkeleyside is mostly down in the 2-3 range with a rare botched article that catches hell in the comments that stumbles up to 5-6.

    In comparison, Darwin BondGraham is a 9 with the occasional article that drops down to a 4 if he’s not covering labor topics, criminal justice, activism, or city politics.

    The description of the new endeavor, the writings of the new editor, and the hires so far look like about a 7.

  13. “That’s because they’re self-aware about their bias and don’t try to claim to be centrist.”
    “Centrist” is also a bias, though most centrists are not self-aware enough to recognize it.

  14. “Hard left here”
    Based on all the comments you have made here, I don’t believe it.

  15. “Objective journalism. That’s the only good kind.”

    Please give us one example of objective journalism. I think they all have some bias. Conservatives say that CNN and the New York Times have liberal bias, and liberals say that Fox has a conservative bias,

    Would you say that one of those three is objective?

  16. But they both have advanced degrees in Journalism and know WAY more than the B-side editors and reporters. Apparently.

  17. The person filling this role specifically tweeted she will be “covering equity in Oakland schools” to announce her new position, so no, we did not misunderstand the title. Who will actually be covering Oakland school issues that aren’t related to “equity” has apparently not yet been determined.

  18. “The only difference is that the left agrees with the bias so they don’t protest…”

    Hard left here ✋ and protesting my ass off.

    A far left media bias hurts the left more than it hurts the right (as anyone creating right wing media will, when plied with alcohol, attest).

    If you want to promote liberal ideas, promote well-informed, intelligent, non-ideological voters who know the facts, know the pros and cons, know both sides, and can argue intelligently. There is never a downside to informing people objectively, unless of course you’re promoting ideas which are so factually and intellectually nonsensical and cultish that they can’t stand up to scrutiny, which is to say, there is never a downside to informing people objectively.

    A population of ignorant ideologues who are acquainted with neither the facts, nor the nuance, nor the flip side of any argument are surprisingly ineffective at driving positive social change, and lousy dinner guests to boot.

  19. That must explain the stellar public education we’re seeing in Berkeley. At least OUSD, for all of it’s problems, didn’t abandon the students for 3+ weeks when the SIP started.

  20. I know more about the state of higher education in the US than you and just about anyone. And thanks for making my point for me. These terms and euphemistic “frames” like “Educational Equity” start in the hothouse of ultra-woke graduate departments and then spread to mainstream society very quickly. Just because it’s now possible to get a degree in this toxic non-subject doesn’t make it a valid worldview or a legitimate job title. All the “soft sciences” like anthropology, sociology, education, etc. have been utterly consumed with extreme-left mania in recent decades and as a consequence have been utterly ruined as fields of inquiry. Legitimate unbiased investigation no longer exists in any of these fields, as the conclusion is now always the starting point from which we work backwards to fabricate the evidence, rather than the traditional way of the other way around. When you have the topic of your degree or your job already contain the phrase “educational equity,” you are already stating that you think you know what the problem is, and also how to fix it. Needless to say, you’d be entirely wrong, as all the “solutions” to these imaginary “problems” have universally backfired and made things much much worse. The fact that Berkeleyside adopted this extreme-left politicized euphemism from the world of academia (whether or not they even knew they did) tells me all anyone needs to know about how “unbiased” and “impartial” the reportage is going to be.

  21. aperson and chewbacca and others evidently haven’t been to grad school in the last, say, 30 or 40 years. Otherwise they’d know you can get a PhD or EdD in Educational Equity. It’s not in the Political Science Dept; it’s in the School of Education. Programs go by other terms too (e.g., Equity in Education); I’m sure Berkeleyside has this field in mind when they say Education Equity.

  22. Will do.

    I don’t begrudge Berkeleyside the right to report on things however you see fit — it’s a free country, and room for all points of view. There are newspapers, web sites and media outlets of all political persuasions, which is how things should be.

    The only thing that grates on readers’ nerves is when media outlets with obvious slants and points of view try to claim for themselves the mantle of objectivity. When Fox News claims to be objective, the left screams in outrage — and rightfully so. And when CNN and MSNBC similarly claim to be unbiased, the conservatives just laugh at them.

    So when any site, Berkeleyside included, claims objectivity when one suspects it is (or will be) lacking, people are going to “call you out” on it.

    I (and many others) will indeed read the articles and decide. But you invited a calling-out when you pre-announced ahead of time how unbiased Oaklandside will be, while at the same time giving every possible warning sign that in practice it will have a heavy PC/”woke”/SJW/etc. slant.

    Again, I have no beef with any media outlet having such a slant. You don’t see me complaining about KPFA or other self-admitted leftist outlets. That’s because they’re self-aware about their bias and don’t try to claim to be centrist.

    You seem to be trying to play on both sides of the fence — please the primarily left-leaning readership of the East Bay with wink-wink nudge-nudge articles pleasing to their worldview, while at the same trying to wrap yourself with the aura of unimpeachable neutrality, to boost your credibility with everyone else. Sorry — can’t have it both ways.

  23. I’m not sure if it’s hyper-specialized or just catchy names that are intended to resonate well with the intended consumer base in Oakland, but it does seem odd for a fledgling news room. Yes, they hired a known activist as news editor, but I don’t think many other places were knocking at his door so if he can keep his bias in check, why not? This is their industry so if writing only stories about only immigrant businesses or how a education is (still?) somehow unequal in a city that has domain over their school system through a diverse and highly qualified OUSD Board and you can keep cranking out stories that’ll get clicks, then go for it. Either way, I’m here for the excellent Berkeley news reporting and I want to see them succeed in this venture also.

  24. For a Wookiee, you seem upset, not wise. It’s not like B’side is owned by Czerka. Let’s keep a little optimism.

  25. It is to laugh. If the position is titled “Education Equity Reporter,” then bias is baked in to the job. There are all sorts of ways that journalism can be biased, and the most pervasive is what might be dubbed “selective focus” — sure, an article might contain “facts,” but the facts only support a pre-existing worldview. Other facts, which are out there, are not mentioned — neither reported on, nor debunked, nor acknowledged in any way. The white editors of Berkeleyside concocted the virtue-signaling job title “Education Equity Reporter” as a dogwhistle to all the leftists in the Bay Area that this beat will have the proper political and racial slant. You think that all the rubes and knuckledraggers don’t notice all these dogwhistles, but trust me, we all do. The most bizarre possibility is that you yourself might not even recognize your own “self-confirmation bias,” so that you might in all sincerity think that the new site will contain “objective journalism.” Everyone on all sides of the political spectrum knows that it won’t. The only difference is that the left agrees with the bias so they don’t protest, while the non-left complains about it, even though we know our complaints will fall on deaf ears. The other hires also have bias screaming from their curricula vitae, so Oaklandside is already a lost cause before it even launches.

  26. You have been complaining since we announced the launch of the Oakland newsroom. All I can say is wait and see the quality of the site’s reporting. And yes, it will be objective journalism.

  27. What exactly is an “Education Equity Reporter”? How are they different from, say, an “Education Reporter”?

    Is an “Education Equity Reporter” someone who ignores broad issues of education in Oakland and only covers the narrow politically stilted topic of “Equity”? Perhaps because you’ve parochially decided that topic is the only one Oakland is allowed to be interested in, rather than say objective news about Oakland schools?

    Or is it someone who filters all of their coverage of education in Oakland through the Mother Jones style narrative that all topics, at their core, are “Equity” issues? Because, once again, Oakland residents aren’t capable of reading and digesting real objective journalism (unlike, say Berkeley residents) and need your assistance arriving at conclusions.

    Can we expect a “Labor Rights Business Reporter”, a “Green Transportation Reporter”, and a “Social Justice News Editor”? Actually strike that last one. You’ve already made that hire.

    Objective journalism. That’s the only good kind. Otherwise stop calling it a newsroom, and call it what it is.

    If you don’t feel that Oakland residents are smart enough to digest objective journalism and draw their own conclusions, you have no business covering Oakland.