To celebrate Women’s History Month, NATAS is profiling female journalists who are making their mark in the profession. One of those women is Emilie Raguso, the founder of a new news site called The Berkeley Scanner.
An interest in crime and how it impacts a community is in journalist Emile Raguso’s blood. When Raguso was growing up on the East Coast, she’d visit her grandmother, Nini in upstate New York and to this day, fondly remembers the woman’s interest in policing.
“Nini had a police scanner in the kitchen and she often had it on. She loved to listen to it and also check the crime blotter in the local paper to see what was happening,” said Raguso, 44. “It was a small town so the names in the blotter were often familiar, often the kids or grandchildren of people she knew. It just felt like those granular reports were so much a part of the community fabric. Everyone knew what was going on with everyone else.”
Fast forward several decades and Raguso earned a degree at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and then hit the ground as a reporter. Since then, Raguso has done it all – reporting, writing, editing, community engagement, you name it.
But at a time when newspapers continue to close, colleges struggle to recruit journalism students and many people get their news on social media, Raguso has taken a leap that few working journalists ever do.
Last September, Raguso left a solid journalism job after 10 years to launch The Berkeley Scanner, an independent daily news outlet devoted to crime and public safety reporting in Berkeley.
“I realized that the only way to keep covering the community the way I wanted was to do it myself,” she said.
Financially supported by readers, The Berkeley Scanner will tell you why there is a fire truck on your street or a helicopter hovering overhead. But Raguso said the site will also follow crime cases through the criminal justice system and report on efforts to reshape Berkeley’s approach to policing and fire safety.
The path to becoming the founder of a news site comes after two decades as a journalist.
After college, Raguso had dreams of pursuing long-form journalism, but she landed a crime beat reporting job at the Modesto Bee, an award-winning newspaper that has a reputation for solid community journalism.
“I reported on the Central Valley and people started talking to me,’’ she said. “It was a huge learning experience. I got a better understanding of law enforcement.”
After a few years at the Bee, Raguso returned to the Bay Area, still with thoughts of pursuing magazine style long-form journalism. But community journalism was calling her name.
Raguso landed a job at Albany Patch, a hyperlocal news site founded in 2007 by then-president of Google Americas operations Tim Armstrong. She was a one-woman show, writing, editing, covering city council meetings and taking meetings with community members. She thrived covering the community, getting to know its residents and breaking local news.
But in 2012, there was a new game in town: Berkeleyside, a hyperlocal news site founded a few years earlier by three long-time journalists who wanted to give the community what they yearned for: local news.
Raguso was its first journalism hire and spent a decade becoming the most authoritative source on Berkeley policing and crime reporting news coverage, according to her editors at the time.
Over the years, she wrote stories about police policies at demonstrations, gangs, murders and police reform all while maintaining the site’s crime and serious injury maps. Her work led to the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists naming her journalist of the year in 2017. Her grandmother, Nini is no longer alive, but when Raguso gets a scoop, she knows her grandma would be proud.
“When I do a big story, I think Nini would love this, and I wish I could share it with her.”
Kristin J. Bender is a news writer at KTVU who has worked in Bay Area journalism for 30 years.