The Berkeley Daily Planet is facing ongoing difficulties and has been advised to refrain from engaging in any financial transactions, be it paying staff or accepting fees from advertisers.

Writing on the publication’s website today, publisher Becky O’Malley explains that, following a theft by a payroll preparer the company was using, attorneys have advised the Planet that it can no longer pay for anything until the extent of its tax liability is understood.

“The standard analysis is that every dollar that comes into the corporation has the IRS’s name on it until proven otherwise,” she writes.

In her column, titled “Where we are this week, and what you can do about it”, O’Malley says if they continued to sell ads or raise funds any other way, all of the proceeds would have to be held in reserve against the possible taxes owed. Nor can she and her husband, Mike O’Malley, start a new corporation using personal funds because it might be viewed by tax authorities as an effort to evade the responsibilities of the Berkeley Daily Planet LLC.

“So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. And the really bad news is that it’s expected to take years for everything to be sorted out.”

Read the full report here.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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8 Comments

  1. Thomas. As always, you make some salient observations. All newspapers (or media outlets of any kind) practice some kind of advocacy or agenda driven journalism as the Planet often did. For me (and many others in Berkeley, I suspect), it’s a question of degree. If you think back to the classic image of the cigar filled editorial board room where different factions were passionately arguing for one story over another (as dramatized in “All the President’s Men” for example) or for one slant over another, there was at least some sort of internal “checks and balances”. In the case of the Planet, you had what amounted to a vanity newspaper in which one voice and vision alone dictated all content by right of ownership. There was no “separation of powers” to speak of. Yes, when Phil Bronstein managed the Chronicle, the Hearst Media Corp. doubtless tried to influence the slant of the paper and its emphasis, but from all accounts he (like all good editors) tried his best to maintain the independence of the newsroom from the front office.

    Berkeley is essentially a town and gown community. The Planet, nominally a community newspaper, was generally against both the town (city govt., local developers, many business interests etc.) and the gown (the University — a stock villain for the Planet). If you set up a community newspaper against almost all factions or facets of the community, it’s not surprising to me that in the end it would end up alienating broad constituencies.

  2. s z,

    Yes, but, have you noticed? There isn’t a paper in the US that can’t be described has having a yellow tint *and there never has been*. Nor has there (at least likely) been a single major paper that has not yielded similar such resignations (which, as much as anything, help to make very clear the particular shade of yellow of a given paper).

    BDP rocked for successfully distributing a significant open forum and for some of its reporting and for wearing its biases far enough along on its sleeve that the careful reader could tell what grains of salt to apply while reading news and editorial content. It was far from comprehensive in its local coverage and yet it was a damn sight better than anything we’ve got now. The closest runner up (and a distant second) is the Daily Cal.

    *None* of the blogs even come close. (No offense to our hosts.)

  3. We do need more media scrutiny and “sunshine” on the inner workings of our public policy process. We also need a “watchdog” for the public interest. However, when a long time loyal reporter for the Daily Planet quit, she circulated this email which was widely reported in the local press:

    Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Judith Scherr abruptly resigned from the paper last week after a dispute with editor and owner, Becky O’Malley, over journalistic ethics.

    “After 2.5 years of being insulted, berated and lied to by the Daily Planet’s executive editor – and having my stories distorted by the deletion of quotes from persons Becky O’Malley hates and the addition of her nasty remarks about such people – I have left the Planet,” Scherr said in an email she sent to friends last Thursday.

    http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2008/09/berkeley_daily_planet_reporter.php

    If her account is the least bit accurate, I would personally question whether we are losing a major source of information or rather misinformation.

  4. I think the death of DP is going to cause a far less informed citizenry in future elections. One did not need to agree or disagree with their editorial slant on election coverage to, nevertheless, get a lot out of it. I think DP’s death is really, really bad news for democracy in Berkeley.

  5. I disagree about the DP. Reporting by Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow about City Council and School District matters has been thorough, well written, fair, and TIMELY. Now who is going to do that? For instance, this morning I brought in my Berkeley Voice with front page news that is 10 days old, e.g hardly news. I am a great fan of Berkeleyside but it’s different. I for one would like to see the DP stay afloat.

  6. I commend Berkeleyside for remaining so civil, neutral and collegial towards the often acrimonious Berkeley Daily Planet. I noticed, as the Planet’s print edition was coming to an end, its editor offered some local news blogs of interest to help supplement the gap left by the eviscerated news staff of the Planet:

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-03-04/article/34792?headline=Blogs-Blogs-and-More-Blogs

    Note that Berkeleyside did merit even a courteous mention…