Why we're building Hometown


We started Hometown because — despite living in Oakland for a long time — we weren’t nearly as aware of the important stuff going on in our city as we wanted to be.

Sometimes it was the little things, like driving down Telegraph and hitting a dozen potholes in a single block and wondering “is this ever going to get fixed?”

Other times, it was life and death issues like people living on the street struggling to survive. We didn’t know if anything was really being done to help them.

What Hometown is

Hometown is an explanatory guide to local (and sometimes hyperlocal) issues, designed to educate readers about the systems of power at work in our communities and facilitates civic action.

To do this, we are completely reimagining the user experience of local news. Instead of articles, we publish long-lived News Guides, which you can subscribe to. News Guides track local issues over time with aggregated and original reporting.

We highlight the elected reps and organizations involved and let users ask questions, which we investigate and post publicly to the Guide. And all of this is in the service of our mission, which is to help people claim their democratic power. Learn More ▸

Our five key principles

  1. Focus on local: There are lots of places to get national news. But the stuff going on outside our front door or down the street has a much bigger impact on our daily lives. Plus, we have a much higher chance of being able to do something about it.
  2. Make it helpful: When deciding what to publish or how to frame an issue, we ask ourselves “would this help our users in their lives today?”
  3. Present diverse perspectives: No one should get their news from a single source, which is why we incorporate articles from dozens of high-quality sources along with our original reporting.
  4. Educate as well as inform: We should help our users understand the context of a story, the people and organizations involved, and the perspectives they bring to it.
  5. Slow it down: We avoid chasing “breaking news.” We take the time to write and collect the perspectives you need to understand an issue, then publish it when it’s ready so you always have something worthwhile to read. No click-bait, time-wasters, or sensational crime stories.

Who we are

We’re Rick and Ljuba, policy nerds with backgrounds in designing and building digital products. Ljuba’s lived in Oakland for over a decade. Rick’s an honorary Oaklander living in L.A., who before Covid, was splitting his time between here and there.

After working in tech for over a decade, we felt a responsibility to apply our time and skills in the service of a larger social purpose: local democracy and community.

There are lots of ways to strengthen a local community, but accurate and helpful information about what’s going on is a good place to start. We rounded out the team when our journalist friend Travis joined us this summer.

We need your help

We’re on a mission to help everyone in Oakland become more informed and involved in their community. But we can’t do this alone.

We need your input on the issues that matter in your life, and we need your feedback on how we’re doing. So drop us a line any time (we’re nice!) And if you’re a writer or reporter and like what we’re doing, let’s talk. We’re looking to grow the team.

Our goal with Hometown is to bring us all closer to the place we call home and help us work together to meet the challenges — and opportunities — ahead of us.