The Editor's Back Fence

The Latest Plan

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday April 20, 2010 - 06:08:00 PM

Herein another experiment in our never-ending quest to find the right model for reporting news of Berkeley and the rest of the urban East Bay on a shoestring in our spare time: This week we’re trying to do two shorter issues instead of one humongous one.  

We’ll still put up news stories as they occur, usually daily, but the formal Tuesday and Friday issues will have all the columns and features in one place at one time as well as a roundup of all the news which has broken since the last issue. 

What this particular one does not have is a proper editorial, partly because I was too preoccupied with getting everything else in place this first time and partly because my Firefox got into a death struggle with my Gmail (can anyone shed any light on this?).  

Godwilling and the creeks don’t rise, there’ll be another issue on Friday (NOT Thursday as before) with an editorial and everything else. 

This issue was written almost 100% by our all-volunteer army of contributors. As soon as things calm down, we’re going to prepare an honor roll of the many clever Berkeleyans who have stepped up to the plate to help out—especially the pros who have been accustomed to being paid who are working for free at the moment. 

(Michael Morgan, the Oakland Symphony’s witty conductor, says that “when I say we, I mean I.” In our case, as the staff shrinks, when I say “we” I mean Becky and Mike.) 

Riya Bhattacharjee has stayed around longer than anyone else, and has done the work of six lesser mortals. She’s a perfect mix of brains and energy, and Berkeley has benefited enormously from her talents.  

Now, however, she’s decided to move to Seattle for personal reasons, and while we can’t argue with her decision we’ll miss her both personally and professionally. In true Berkeley Daily Planet tradition, she leaves to the accompaniment of a vicious unfounded attack on her work in the letters column, which only proves she must have been doing something right. 

What her departure means, in practical terms, is that we really have to find someone else to tell the public what’s happening at the major governmental meetings. We’ve had excellent volunteers for the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the School Board, but we’d very much like to find someone to report on Berkeley’s City Council, Planning Commission and Zoning Adjustment board. 

The good news is that we might finally have figured out a legal way to pay independent reporters. We’re hoping to re-establish the Fund for Local Reporting as a non-profit which will pay writers directly, bypassing the Berkeley Daily Planet LLC to avoid the IRS questions which have financially hobbled our recent operations.  

Mike and I will go on working for free as always to put up the website, but writers can be paid for their work when there’s money in the till. We might even be able to start selling online ads—the ones we’ve been running lately have been donated to worthy organizations. But until it’s all set up, we’re going to need volunteers if the news is going to be reported. 

If you’re interested in working for the Planet, either as a volunteer now or eventually as a paid independent journalist, write to me at 

And keep those letters coming—let us know how two shorter issues a week works for you.  

If you send an email to, you can be a free subscriber, which means that I’ll send you a personal reminder when there’s a new issue online. If you’re already on that list and don’t want to be, write to and we’ll take you off.