In a lengthy editorial in today’s Berkeley Daily Planet (which is not yet online update read it here), publisher Michael O’Malley and executive editor Becky O’Malley announce that the paper is giving up print publication “for the moment”. They write:

The only way to cut expenses further is to give up print publication for the moment. We know that many if not most of our 40,000-plus faithful readers prefer paper, and frankly, we do too. But our central mission continues to be reporting the news, and new technology has made online news delivery very attractive.

The plan is to continue print publication through the end of this month, and then to shift to web-only. The Planet will use money it raised through its Fund for Local Reporting to pay for one staff reporter, Riya Bhattacharjee. The rest of the content will be “provided by independent writers both paid and volunteer”.

The O’Malleys write that the Planet has been hit by decreasing advertising sales, the “city government’s perpetual hostility to free newspaper racks”, and the recently uncovered payroll scam.  They also suggest that the paper did not strike the right chord with advertisers:

It’s also just conceivable that we’ve been publishing the right paper for Berkeley readers but the wrong paper for Berkeley advertisers — too controversial, too intellectual, too dense. We’ve noticed that the publications we’ve most admired — The Nation, the New York Review of Books, Harper’s, The New Yorker from time to time, even going back to I. F. Stone’s Weekly — have not been supported by advertising.

The O’Malleys cite as well the campaign to boycott advertising in the Planet because of the paper’s alleged anti-Semitic stance. “Just a few advertisers have been intimidated into cancelling their contracts, though many more have bravely ignored the bullies or even told them off.”

As Berkeley’s incumbent online-only news source, Berkeleyside welcomes the Planet to the online-only world. Berkeley, like any community, needs a diversity of news and comment sources.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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2 Comments

  1. When I think about how people I know read newspapers, I realize that everyone is a bit different. Many people in Berkeley I’m sure read the hard news and editorial opinions in all the papers. And many I’m sure read the reviews of the “high” (serious) arts. I can’t agree with the editorial slant and decisions but I think that the Planet’s owners are serious about trying to present their version of the news.

    But a lot of other people read the papers just for the local sports news. Coverage of local high school sports is a staple item of many other small suburban papers. And the coverage attracts readers who might otherwise not bother with the paper. The Daily Planet does not cover sports.

    The Planet doesn’t offer much coverage of the more popular arts and entertainment, even though Berkeley is a venue for many such events.

    More surprisingly in a town that is well known for its obsession with food and wine, and in a town where restaurants, food retailing and food production are major parts of our local economy, the Planet has no food editor and scant coverage.

    To its credit, the Planet at least has some comics. We all know that the New York Times doesn’t. I know that we’ll be subscribing to the SF Chronicle even though most of the content is online, just so that we can read the funnies every morning.

    I doubt that many advertisers are avoiding the Planet because of its editorial slants. For good or bad, I think that most advertisers are too pragmatic for that. I suspect that the readership of the Planet is both too narrow and thin to attract advertisers in a shrinking market.