The Berkeley Daily Planet, devastated by the recession and by a payroll fraud scheme, will stop publishing its print edition at the end of this month and become an online-only publication, the paper’s owners, Becky and Mike O’Malley wrote in an editorial today. In addition, it’s not clear how long that the Planet’s web-only edition will remain in business. The O’Malleys wrote that they would use the remaining money from a fundraising campaign to stay afloat. But they did not say what will happen when those funds run out.
In addition to being hit hard by the recession, the O’Malleys acknowledged that their news content hurt their relationship with advertisers. Although they stopped short of admitting it, the Planet’s sometimes anti-business bent alienated the Berkeley business community.
But that wasn’t the only cause of the paper’s downfall. It was also hurt by a campaign from a group of East Bay Zionists who attempted to convince advertisers to boycott the Planet because it often printed readers’ opinion pieces that were critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
In addition, the Planet was rocked by an alleged fraud scheme perpetrated by its payroll contractor. The O’Malleys revealed today that the payroll contractor had allegedly pocketed funds that were supposed to be used for state and federal taxes for the past five years.