Four months after the demise of the newsprint version of the Berkeley Daily Planet, a new weekly newspaper devoted to Berkeley is set to launch in the fall.

The Berkeley Times will focus on the community made up of families with school-age children with an emphasis on public school education and kids’ sports, although more general news on the arts, crime and real estate will also be included.

The Berkeley Times is being launched by R. Todd Kerr, currently the Associate Editor of the weekly Piedmont Post. “We will be writing about the issues that touch the hearts of Berkeley denizens,” said Kerr. As examples, he cites regular stories on how Berkeley High’s sports teams are doing and “in classroom” features exploring how, and what, kids are learning in school.

The non-profit newspaper will be a print-only publication, available to readers on a subscription basis. The standard subscription is $50.00 a year and the paper will be delivered on Thursdays to subscribers’ homes by paper boys and girls. A limited number of copies will be sold at local retail outlets, such as bookstores and grocery stores. The paper will accept advertising, but only from local companies.

A “dummy” front page for the soon-to-launch Berkeley Times.

Kerr said the impetus for the launch was the closing of the Berkeley Daily Planet (which remains online, but has suffered a series of setbacks). “It’s a tragedy for a community not to have a printed paper. Community memories are important and that’s the value of a  local paper,” he said.

Becky O’Malley, Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet, said: “I am always in favor of more news sources. The more the merrier, but this is not a business model I would invest in.”  O’Malley said the Planet had seen a declining advertising base and that this was a factor for all news media. “Advertisers are leaving print publications in droves and they don’t seem to want to go online either.”

O’Malley also points to what she sees as the differences between Piedmont and Berkeley as potential newspaper markets. “You live in Piedmont when you want a boring life. Berkeley is not a small town like Piedmont, it is more sophisticated.” While she thinks people will be interested in “seeing their kids in the paper”, she says the Planet deliberately avoided that type of coverage.

The Piedmont Post, which is owned and edited by Gray Cathrall, will not be affiliated with the Berkeley Times.

Kerr, who worked in software marketing before working for the Post, has set up an office on Telegraph Avenue and is recruiting staff. He expects to have 12 part-time editorial staff who will “wear many hats”, and another dozen part-time positions focused on distribution.

Kerr will be the new paper’s sole proprietor, publisher and editor and he recently embarked on a summer-long awareness-building campaign, presenting details of the paper and soliciting subscriptions at neighborhood-hosted events throughout Berkeley.

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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  1. Did you ever figure out how to cancel your subscription? I have called various people at the Voice and the parent company with no luck. I don’t read it, and it piles up on our driveway while we vacation. A good way to broadcast that you are not at home.

  2. Congratulations to Tracey for penetrating what rumors which reached my ears have been calling “The Secret Meetings”—probably an overly dramatic phrase. This is an informative report which the community should appreciate.

    Only a couple of quibbles: first, the paraphrase of what I told Tracey (“she says the Planet deliberately avoided that type of coverage”) doesn’t get quite right what I said, or at least what I was trying to say.

    We’ve run many articles in our seven years in print that let people see their kids in the paper, but we’ve believed that school coverage should be more than just cheerleading. Berkeley has always had many controversies about education, which we’ve also covered to the best of our ability in the 1300 or so articles we’ve done which mention BUSD.

    And second, my own inner “nitpicky copyeditor” took issue with the headline on the pictured sample paper: “A community paper resumes print in Berkeley…” Resumes? Surely he intended to say “begins”.

  3. In various places that I’ve lived there have been short format, local ads only, emphasis on local schools and such papers – heavy on human interest stories and light on any serious investigative reporting (even about the harder issues facing school districts). These would typically have an option where you could get copies mailed to you for some subscription fee but were commonly given out free either direct to home or in various business outlets. They were vanity papers for communities – a kind of society page as pseudo-newspaper. A weekly flyer of ads with some stuff to read when you’re bored.

    Perhaps this paper will surprise me and do better but the announcement does make it sound like the same thing, only with a cover price and subscription fee as critical revenue components.

    Ms. O’Malley, as quoted here and as she discusses it in today’s Berkeley Daily Planet seems to be saying that it isn’t the first time someone has tried such a paper in Berkeley and, in the past, it hasn’t worked particularly well as a sustainable business.

    Berkeley does have a serious deficit of dedicated news reporting on the deeper stuff. We get dribs and drabs of coverage from regional papers. We get little glimmers of deeper coverage (but not much) here on Berkeleyside. Daily Cal and for that matter the BHS paper occasionally dig in a tiny bit deeper. BDP is down to what it can scratch up from volunteers and the hard work of the owners.

    We’re flying pretty blind.

  4. I welcome a news effort that will focus on the concerns of local school and parent communities. Stories involving public and private education are challenging to write: there are privacy and fairness concerns, opinions are passionately held, there are few open sources of data from which we can draw conclusions. Schools have been a key driver for many of us to move to Berkeley in the first place. Parents of both public and private school students have a deep desire to understand what’s going on. Odd that the Daily Planet didn’t see it that way.

  5. Seems like the Berkeley Times sees a niche to serve and is venturing to fill it. Good on ’em. But besides being printed on paper and published periodically, this newspaper seems about as different from the Daily Planet as chalk is from cheese. And to indulge my nitpicky copyeditor side, “denizens”? Not the descriptor of Berkeleyans that I would have chosen for a tagline.

  6. Even though I don’t have a paid subscription, The Berkeley Voice is still delivered to my door early every Friday morning. It seems to have a good selection of paid advertising. It doesn’t cover high school sports (including BHS) and some Berkeley news. And I love the this day in Berkeley’s history column.

    I did lose some interest when it dropped Ana’s BUSD column.

  7. I snorted when I read the comments attributed to Becky O’Malley. This is Exhibit A of the “Who is more smug: Berkeley or Brooklyn” debate that flowered here only mere months ago. (Were I less sophisticated but more techno savvy I would link that debate.) Maybe that debate is closed now?

    I’m a parent of elementary school aged kids and I would welcome a local source that focused on school issues. Just last night I was at a meeting for Rosa Parks parents to meet with the BUSD Asst. Superintendent about the turnover of principals at Rosa Parks. There were committed, interested parents at that meeting. There are 11 elementary schools in Berkeley all with committed, interested parents who want to know how to support schools, principals, teachers so that their kids — and the community’s kids — get a good education.

    It’s my understanding that the BUSD school board meets this Wednesday to deliberate on the two recommendations for principals for Malcolm X and Rosa Parks and announce their decision. That’s news I’d be glad for some local news source to cover.

  8. My opinion of Becky O’Malley has gotten even worse – if that is possible. Her petulant comments just sound like sour grapes to me. And it’s not cool to insult another local community. The fact she thinks this is a terrible idea just may mean it is likely to succeed.

    I’m pleased at any rate to see someone investing in journalism rather than decrying its demise.