Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 10:26 am in Uncategorized.
The front of Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper is a big white space today except for a cartoon picture of man holding a blank newspaper and the caption “Without you, there’s no Planet.”
It’s eye-catching, and a little silly but there’s a serious reason behind today’s cover.
The Berkeley Daily Planet, like thousands of newspapers around the country, is in financial trouble and struggling to stay afloat, say Becky and Mike O’Malley, who have run the paper for nearly six years.
Advertising revenue is way down, and the O’Malleys are looking for a new way to support the paper, which last May scaled down the print edition from Tuesdays and Fridays to Thursdays. It’s also published online daily and the O’Malleys say that going online-only could be one solution.
Now they are asking their readers to cough up some cash so reporters can keep on covering the news.
The O’Malleys have launched the Planet Fund for Local Reporting to raise money to support the newspaper. They’re even exploring the idea making the fund a tax-exempt nonprofit. Want to tell them how you feel about this? There’s an online poll that asks readers if they would pay for the Berkeley Daily Planet, which like we’ve pointed out before is neither daily nor covers the planet.
Readers can donate to the fund either by mail or through the www.berkeleydailyplanet.com. We’ll be waiting to see what happens with this innovative yet risky business model.
The Planet isn’t the first news source to ask readers to pay directly for newsgathering. A Web site called Spot.Us was launched last year. Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change that asks people to donate money to get a certain story published. Freelance journalists are hired to write the stories once a set amount is raised.
In a story today, Becky O’Malley said that when they took over, they had “some hope that we would at least break even, but the reverse has happened.”
“Not that advertising revenues have entirely gone away,” said Michael O’Malley, the paper’s publisher. But advertising doesn’t cover the paper’s biggest expense, the salaries of the reporters who gather the news and the editors who shape the final product that appears each Thursday morning in news boxes and stores from Richmond to Alameda.”
The O’Malleys say they are trying to keep the paper afloat without cutting staff. More than 6,000 print journalists nationwide have lost their jobs over the past two years because of the economic downturn. The Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which runs the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times and nearly two dozen other daily and weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, has cut a substantial number of reporters, copy editors, editors and photographers over the last few years.
If the Berkeley Daily Planet closes, it wouldn’t be the first time. Once owned by publisher Arnold Lee, and Stanford MBA grads Dave Danforth and Ed Carse, it folded the first time in November 2002.
In today’s story, the O’Malleys say they haven’t set a deadline for a final decision on the newspaper’s fate. “But the costs have been high, and at some point, they say, they may have to devote the remainder of their resources to their children and grandchildren.”
I guess this means the Berkeley Daily Planet still won’t be daily or covering the planet.