When the editors and reporters of The Oaklandside launched our new nonprofit newsroom for Oakland in June 2020, we made a commitment to root our reporting firmly in the needs and wants of diverse communities across the city. Even before our launch and prior to the pandemic, our founders hosted a series of “community listening sessions” — deep in-person discussions with Oakland residents, where people told us what they wanted from a local news organization. Those rich conversations led to the formation of our founding newsroom values— a set of principles that have guided our reporting and our organization since our launch.
To hold ourselves accountable to that work, in the spring and summer of 2021, The Oaklandside piloted a successful “Mission Metrics” program designed to help us live up to our founding values and measure—both quantitatively and qualitatively—the impact of our journalism. At the center of that program was our inaugural cohort of paid Community Advisors—a diverse group of seven Oaklanders, one from each district in the city. Every week for two months, they provided our newsroom with written feedback on articles and tagged our stories with those “mission metrics”—a set of criteria we developed to measure our stories against our stated core newsroom values—that they thought the stories delivered on the most.
Those mission metrics include: 1) reporting for, and not only about, people dealing with problems in our city, 2) amplifying diverse community voices, 3) reshaping harmful narratives about Oakland, 4) investigating systems, not just symptoms, 5) making local government more accessible, 6) preserving Oakland histories and legacies, and 7 )partnering with others serving information needs in Oakland.
In addition, advisors met twice over Zoom with the entire Oaklandside news team, for in-depth group discussions and small breakout sessions, to dig deeper into what’s working and what could be improved about our reporting and the overall presentation of our content.
With lessons from a successful pilot to draw on, our newsroom is currently planning to scale up the program and make it a part of our work, ongoing.