Berkeleyside Education Reporter Ally Markovich, City Hall Reporter Nico Savidge, and Housing and Homelessness Reporter Supriya Yelimeli have won 2022 Achievement Awards from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Markovich won both the Best Emerging Journalist award and an award for Continuing Coverage, SPJ NorCal announced Monday. It is the second year in a row that a Berkeleyside journalist has been recognized as the top emerging journalist of the year. Last year, housing and homeless journalist Supriya Yelimeli was the winner.
Savidge and Yelimeli won the explaining journalism award for their deep dive into how Berkeley will create 9,000 new homes by 2031.
“This is exciting news and well-deserved recognition for the three hard-working journalists,” said Pamela Turntine, Berkeleyside’s editor.
Markovich has been recognized by the SPJ for a series of stories, including an investigation into how Berkeley High administrators failed to protect generations of students who accused a chemistry professor of sexual misconduct. The district superintendent eventually signed a gag order allowing the teacher to quietly resign. It took four months of reporting, including the search for confidential sources and ultimately the threat of a lawsuit by Berkeleyside, for Markovich to publish this investigation, which won a James Madison Freedom of Information Award earlier this year.
In another draft report, Markovich dug into school district data to assess the disproportionate enrollment of black and Latino students in special education. The story blends academic discussion, historical context, and data visualizations to focus on the question of how students are failing at Berkeley – providing a framework for parents hoping to hold the district to account.
Markovich has shown a penchant for hard-hitting stories, but she also has a knack for writing feature films, which she demonstrated well in a handsome profile of a retired swimming instructor who was a local legend in the recreational swimming community.
“I am honored to be recognized for this award and grateful to Berkeleyside for supporting my growth as a journalist,” Markovich said. “I had time to dedicate to underreported stories and mentoring to help me get it right, which in journalism is a rare gift. Thanks to my editor, Zac Farber, especially for the coaching and SPJ for the honor.
Markovich joined Berkeleyside as a full-time employee in November 2021, but had worked as a freelancer for the newsroom since 2020.
Although she’s only been a full-time journalist for two years, Markovich has already mastered the complexities of her academic pace.
“Markovich is a tenacious and versatile reporter who builds deep, trusting bonds with her sources,” said Berkeleyside editor Zac Farber. “His approach to his work is thoughtful and nuanced, always rooted in people’s experiences. And every day in Berkeleyside, she asks a volley of incisive questions – her curiosity born out of a desire to better understand how systems work and how decisions are made.
It was not always clear that Markovich would become a journalist. She landed her first lines in The New York Times and The Washington Post as a college junior, then traveled to Ukraine (her native country) for a summer internship at the Kyiv Post, writing about corruption, centers of secret detention and political polarization. But, after graduating, she became a high school English teacher – first in Mississippi, then in Trenton, New Jersey, then in Oakland.
By her third year of teaching, she had realized that her real interest lay in the broader issues of educational policy around charter schools, testing, funding, and how to close the opportunity gap. So she decided to go back to writing, and about a year after she started freelancing for Berkeleyside, we brought her on board full-time.
Our readers regularly thank her for her work, praising her “persistent”, “thorough and balanced”, “priceless” reporting on emotionally charged topics such as pandemic protocols, union contracts and integration plans. She also wrote in-depth information about how the climate crisis is taught in classrooms and why it took so long to arrest a student whose classmates reported he was planning a mass shooting.
An in-depth look at Berkeley’s commitment to building new housing
In their award-winning report, Savidge and Yelimeli explored how Berkeley would attempt to meet its goal of building 9,000 new homes by 2031, as outlined in the housing component of the city’s master plan. The two looked at the issue from many different angles, explaining what the housing element is and addressing several key questions, including: who is creating the housing element, how local residents can get involved, how the plan of Berkeley fits into the housing and homelessness crises in the Bay Area. , and how it approaches Berkeley’s segregation history.
“We are grateful to be recognized for this work and hope readers have found it useful in understanding how the housing element process will affect Berkeleyans in the years to come,” Savidge said.
“Housing processes in the city can be messy and dry, but we were excited to try and demystify some of them based on questions from readers. We learned a lot and hope our readers did too,” Yelimeli said.