During my 40 years as a reporter, I have written about crime, housing, homelessness, city government, trials, personal triumphs and setbacks, and more. I started my career as a staff reporter for the Syracuse Newspapers and then went on to the Mercury News. In 2009 I co-founded Berkeleyside, an award-wining local news site. My articles have also appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People magazine, Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and AARP.
I have written a lot about wine (including my book, Tangled Vines). It all started with this 2009 New York Times article about Mark Anderson, who set fire to a wine warehouse and destroyed 4.5 million bottles of wine worth $250 million. I followed his journey until his death in 2023. I also wrote extensively about John Fox, who ran a $45 million Ponzi scheme from his Berkeley store, Premier Cru (I also spoke about him on the television show American Greed). For a few years, I wrote about wine for the Daily Beast and did a story for the Wall Street Journal on the wine the uber-rich drink at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There is a dark side to the California wine industry, too, including how early state laws allowed vintners to essentially enslave Native Americans.
I also enjoy writing opinion pieces and personal essays, often tied to the news. I have written a lot about wildfires, including the day in 2017 when my stepbrother went missing in the Tubbs fire and the 30-year-anniversary of the day my home burned down in the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm. My latest was about my love for TikTok and how I don’t want to see it banned.
I wrote thousands of articles in my 13 years at Berkeleyside. (And a few pieces won awards). Here are some of my favorites. I loved writing an oral history of Feb. 1, 2017, the night Milo Yiannopoulos came to UC Berkeley. His appearance sparked massive protests and looting. Who knew that his appearance was an early sign of the rise of the right under President Donald Trump? I wrote an elegy about the demise of an 84-year-old casting company in the industrial section of Berkeley and the explored how a hedge fund, Speyside Fund, siphoned money out of the company before declaring bankruptcy. (The bankruptcy trustee said Speyside “looted” the company). I wrote about the mayoral campaign of the controversial founder of an animal rights group, Direct Action Everywhere.
Over the years I have written a lot for the New York Times, including this front-page story about a farmer in rural New York interested in selling his land for a low-level radioactive dump; Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue; whether the Strava app inadvertently contributed to the death of a cyclist; how the Bay Area in 2012 was emerging as a center for non-profit journalism; and how Berkeley didn’t recognize itself in the TV show Parenthood, supposedly set in Berkeley; and the great food served at Facebook, among others.
Send me an email at FrancesDinkelspiel[at]gmail.com with story ideas, book recs, or just to say hello. I’d love to hear from you.