Amid Myriad Woes, ‘Berkeley Daily Planet’ Folding as Print Publication

By: E&P Staff

At the end of February, the Berkeley (Calif.) Daily Planet will stop printing a newspaper. In its current issue, the publisher and executive editor say the print edition was done in by pro-Israeli critics, a “hostile” city government — and fraud by its payroll service that leaves it on the hook for five years of back taxes.

“The only way to cut expenses further is to give up print publication for the moment,” Executive Editor Becky O’Malley and Publisher Mike O’Malley wrote in an editorial in the Feb. 11-17 issue. “We know that many if not most of our 40,000-plus faithful readers prefer paper, and frankly, we do too.”

Earlier this week, the Daily Planet’s woes reached “a tipping point,” they wrote, when they discovered the company that had been handling its payroll for the last eight years had abandoned its office in Oakland, and its owners had apparently fled to the Philippines.

Clickbook.com had for the past five years at least underpaid federal and state taxes from the Daily Planet payroll, the O’Malleys said.

“We’ve learned that the theft of the money which was supposed to pay our federal and state payroll taxes, as reported in last week’s Planet, goes back at least five years, and it adds up to staggering sums for which we may be held liable,” they wrote. “We can’t continue to contribute the major funding for the Planet given the level of financial uncertainty we now face from this fraud.”

The paper, which shifted from six-day to weekly publication several years ago, will print a newspaper through February and then become online-only.

All employees but one editorial person will be let go, the O’Malleys said. The rest of the content will be “provided by independent writers both paid and volunteer,” they wrote.

“We think that if we give ourselves and the community some breathing room at this point we can together come up with new ideas for continuing to serve the reading public,” they wrote. “For example, we could publish periodic printed selections from the best of what appears online without needing to rely on conventional advertising support.”

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