Berkeley Daily Planet makes plea to readers

March 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The loss of one major advertiser can cripple a small town newspaper. The Berkeley Daily Planet is a perfect example of that, but that paper is appealing to its readers to stay in print.

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Like many small town newspapers the Berkeley Daily Planet is part of this community's soul.

"It's really important to me to know how safe our communities are, what the crime is like," says Kiki Kinstlick, a Berkeley resident.

But lately, major advertisers, like The Elephant Pharmacy have gone under. This free bi-weekly newspaper has seen advertising revenue drop 30 percent and now it's on the ropes.

"What I get out of it is an understanding and awareness and analysis of development issues, which are really critical to our community," says Fred Dodsworth, a Berkeley resident.

"Development politics in Berkeley is basically much a blood sport, so I think that pretty well defines it," says Richard Brenneman, a Berkeley Daily Planet reporter.

Often times Brenneman says he is the only reporter at the planning and zoning meetings.

"Everyone says blogs are so wonderful and they'll replace newspapers, but pretty much people who read one set of blogs don't read the other set of blogs," says Brenneman.

The Planet recently published a full front page asking for donations. Readers sent in $12,000 in the first two weeks, but it costs about $700,000 a year to run the paper. Millionaire, publisher, and owner Mike O'Malley would like to simply break even, so he's now exploring the creation of a non-profit paper, but like many dying newspapers, they're still searching for a successful business model.

"So we don't know where this is going?" asked ABC7's Alan Wang.
"No we don't know. That's what we're trying to find out. It really is an experiment," said Mike O'Mallley, the Berkeley Daily Planet publisher.

Other small town papers are considering public ownership, but so far, there's no good plan to stop the hemorrhaging.

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