Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Papers bicker over errors, 'silent partners'

East Bay Express editor Stephen Buel, who purchased his newspaper from the Village Voice Media chain with the help of investors, is complaining about mistakes the Berkeley Daily Planet made in covering the sale. Planet Editor Becky O'Malley has acknowledged the errors but still wants to know the identities of the investors. A few names have come out, such as Express co-founder Kelly Vance and Monterey County Weekly founder Bradley Zeve, but Buel says he doesn't plan to identify certain "silent partners."

Buel complained about the Planet's coverage in a letter to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, which had posted information from a Planet story on its Web site. Buel's letter says:
    "The Daily Planet has now run three separate explanations of the new ownership of the Express and every one of them have been wrong. The actual situation is that Hal Brody and I each assembled small groups of investors who collectively each own 50 percent of the newspaper. Hal's team consists of himself and two friends; my team consists of myself and four friends. There are eight investors in total (although currently the Daily Planet website counts 100). ..."
The Planet ran this correction and Editor O'Malley sent this response to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies:
    “Well, the new ownership of the East Bay Express gets more confusing all the time, and we at the Berkeley Planet admit that we might have had some role in spreading the confusion. Based on one of those 'don’t attribute it to me' sources which we all ought to avoid, the Planet first reported that Hal Brody would own '51 percent' of the new enterprise. Responding to a call from editor Stephen Buel, the story on the website was changed the day after publication to reflect what the reporter thought he had heard Buel say, admittedly with a bad cell phone connection involved — that’s where the mythical 100 investors made their brief appearance on the stage. Next day Buel called again to set the record straight one more time."
Now that she's corrected the errors, O'Malley still wants to know who owns the Express. She writes:
    "Is Hal Brody the investor-in-charge, or isn’t he? Does he have a controlling interest in the venture, whatever his percentage?

    "On May 16 the Express’s East Bay Blog said that 'Brody will take over as publisher of the Express,' but later reports elsewhere say the former head of ad sales for the Bay Guardian will be the new publisher. And is Brody still living in Kansas City? Is he still a commercial real estate broker there, as one web site indicates?

    "Is it correct to say that the revised Express will be locally owned, or are Buel and Vance the only investors who can really claim to be local?"
An Express reader raised similar questions on an EBX blog and Buel offered this response:
    "... We have already identified half this group, including both of the controlling investors; the remainder are silent partners who live elsewhere and have no other business interests or related conflicts in the East Bay."

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