Editorial: A Few Caveats and a Contest

By Becky O’Malley
Friday June 23, 2006

The opinion editors of this publication have lately been badgered by several people who claim a divine right to pop off repeatedly at any length they choose and as often as they choose in these pages. Regular readers can attest, undoubtedly with some annoyance, that we have often indulged such writers and published them again and again.  

One more time: our slogan is “All the news that fits, we’ll print”. And this is doubly true for opinions, both shorter letters and longer “op-ed” commentary pieces. This is a small paper, and we do try to get at least part of the cost of publishing it paid by selling advertisements. White space between the ads is precious. There is no inherent “right to reply”—using up space in the paper is a privilege, not a right. 

We generally publish opinion content in the order received on a space available basis. Time-sensitive pieces are sometimes moved ahead, local writers take priority over out of town ones, and we don’t choose to print personal attacks against private citizens.  

Many in Berkeley are still waiting for the triumph of socialism, but until that happy day citizens have a constitutional right to free speech, but limited rights to a subsidized platform or a microphone. We’re pleased to note that some library fans—members of a dedicated free speech community—are threatening a legal challenge to Berkeley’s longstanding and almost certainly illegal practice of limiting public comment at civic meetings to ten people selected by lottery. Probably in response to this threat, the Mayor has lately been cutting the soundbytes from citizens from three minutes to two, in order to cram more talking heads into the measly half-hour he’s willing to spare to listen to vox populi. He’s also been soliciting additional comment from anyone who thinks their point of view hasn’t been heard.  

This is all the airtime that government provides, and that’s only thanks to the Brown Act. Beyond this, someone has to pay for disseminating opinions in our capitalist system. Up to a point, The Planet is happy to have the privilege of providing a free speech venue for East Bay citizens.  

We do have correspondents who can’t sneeze without consuming a thousand words, so lately we’ve been putting their second and subsequent iterations on topics of limited general interest in the web edition only. The longer a piece is, the harder it is to fit into our print pages. Web postings are just as widely read as print, over a bigger geographic area, and they cost us much less.  

And those few writers who think they can get themselves moved up in the queue by threatening or insulting us are just wrong. One recent whiner even had the temerity to try to hide under the skirts of the copyright law. He’s happy to excoriate the paper and its owners any way he wants to in his emails but says we can’t quote him doing so. Oh please! Starting with this issue, threats and insults directed at the paper or its management are a sure path to cyberspace-only publication.  


On to a happier topic: Pat Cody suggests in this issue that “The Berkeley Charles” isn’t the best choice of names for a new hotel in Berkeley. We agree. The Charles River is in Boston, after all. Granted, the “Berkeley Strawberry Creek” doesn’t have quite the same Brahmin cachet.  

A wag at the DAPAC meeting suggested that “Charles” was a tribute to our famous Waving Man, the late lamented Joseph Charles, which conjures up agreeable visions of a bronze statue of Mr. Charles out in front of the hotel. Or perhaps the not-local but equally beloved Ray Charles, or maybe Charles Brown or … no, we’re not getting anywhere this way.  

Here’s a better idea: the Berkeley Daily Planet hereby announces a naming contest for the planned hotel, first prize one night on the premises if it’s actually built (and it’s going to be pricey, so this is a big deal.) The second prize will not be two nights in the hotel (which W.C. Fields might have suggested) but one night’s parking in the hotel garage, car or bike, your choice.  

Of course, we can’t guarantee that the hotel developers will go along with this, but we can at least express our opinions. To give them an incentive to cooperate, we’ll let them choose the winner. Contest entries should be sent to hotel@berkeleydailyplanet.com or mailed to 3025A Shattuck, Berkeley 94705. We’ll forward them to the developers.