Monday, February 22, 2010

The Berkeley Daily Planet

For about seven years, the O'Malleys have published a newspaper with this title. I don't think this was ever actually published every day, but for many years there were two issues a week, available free from a number of racks all around Berkeley and adjacent areas. When the proprietors began online publication, I would usually read at least one copy of the print version every week.

The paper has the unusual policy of printing almost any letter or article submitted, without editing or censorship. As you can imagine, our city is full of folk with an axe to grind, and I would hate to receive the punishment of being forced to read every word in the paper, particularly all the correspondence.

Some months ago, a writer from overseas apparently submitted an article which was considered "anti-Semitic" by some readers. This attracted the ire of some radical Zionists, who began a campaign to threaten advertisers that if they continued to help subsidize the Daily Planet by advertising in it, they would face a boycott by Jewish readers.

It is important to point out that most of the significant number of our residents who are "ethnically Jewish" deplored this Zionist tactic. Unfortunately, many of the advertisers yielded to these threats. The O'Malleys have suggested that they lost about 60% of their advertising revenue as a result, and had to lay off two staff reporters.

The paper used a bookkeeping service founded by a man named Bill Norgren. At one time, he worked for my old company, Dealey, Renton & Associates. We were friends of a sort, and he always made it clear that he looked up to me. I was supportive when he set up his own business, because he saw opportunities to serve small businesses. He was (and probably still is) married to a woman from the Philippines. With a small staff in Oakland, he would email data to that country, and his labor costs there were small. He seemed to have a sensible business plan, and I was glad that he was becoming successful.

Alas, it now appears that he was a crook. He would take from his customers (including the Daily Planet) the correct amount for payment of taxes, etc. However, he did not remit the full amount to the authorities, and they did not follow up promptly. Bill Norgren has apparently now moved to the Philippines, and would presumably face a prison sentence if he were to return to the United States.

This second blow has been crippling, and recently the newspaper announced that it would soon only be available online. We shall miss the print copies.

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