Friday, February 20, 2009

Berkeley paper asks readers for help

The front of Thursday's Berkeley Daily Planet is blank except for the cartoon at right. The Planet, which is a weekly despite its name, is asking readers for money in order to keep reporters covering the news.

"[T]he most expensive part of the Planet’s budget, about a third to a half of the total, is paying for local reporting: salaries, benefits, editing, overhead," editor and co-owner Becky O'Malley wrote. "As we’ve said repeatedly in recent issues, advertising is drying up, which is why we hope readers will become community partners in supporting the cost of having a paper in Berkeley."

O'Malley, who along with her husband bought the paper six years ago, have said previously that they haven't made money owning the Planet. She said in Thursday's issue that she hopes the cover will motivate readers to contribute "to the Planet’s new Fund for Local Reporting. We need your help to keep the paper going."

In the same issue of the Planet, a local zoning board member and retired journalism teacher takes O'Malley to task for what he suggests is a one-sided report on a hearing by his board. He notes that O'Malley's story doesn't even mention the 7-1 vote. O'Malley shoots back by saying that reporting the vote count isn't important. "[I]t would have been news if the seven members of the board who almost always vote yes on development proposals had voted no for a change — 'man bites dog' is news, 'dog bites man' is not," she writes. She goes on to debate traditional standards of journalism.


Anonymous said...

Knock, knock, Becky. This is the marketplace calling. You can't sell ads because there's no reader demand for your newspaper (even though you've fooled yourself into thinking otherwise). Let it die.

james clifford said...

No score? Trying covering sports that way.

Anonymous said...

it's astonishing but if the Planet closes, Berkeley will be left without a real hometown newspaper. Sure, there's the Berkeley Voice, but they have deteriorated to the point of becoming just a small unit of the Coco Times without much local copy and no local voice. As imperfect as the Planet is (and I've certainly disagreed with its positions from time to time), it seems to reflect the community fairly well. The Planet writes more about the schools than anyone, and I don't know who will pick up that beat if it disappears. I hope the Planet finds a long-term financial solution and stays around.