Four months after the demise of the newsprint version of the Berkeley Daily Planet, a new weekly newspaper devoted to Berkeley is set to launch in the fall.
The Berkeley Times will focus on the community made up of families with school-age children with an emphasis on public school education and kids’ sports, although more general news on the arts, crime and real estate will also be included.
The Berkeley Times is being launched by R. Todd Kerr, currently the Associate Editor of the weekly Piedmont Post. “We will be writing about the issues that touch the hearts of Berkeley denizens,” said Kerr. As examples, he cites regular stories on how Berkeley High’s sports teams are doing and “in classroom” features exploring how, and what, kids are learning in school.
The non-profit newspaper will be a print-only publication, available to readers on a subscription basis. The standard subscription is $50.00 a year and the paper will be delivered on Thursdays to subscribers’ homes by paper boys and girls. A limited number of copies will be sold at local retail outlets, such as bookstores and grocery stores. The paper will accept advertising, but only from local companies.
Kerr said the impetus for the launch was the closing of the Berkeley Daily Planet (which remains online, but has suffered a series of setbacks). “It’s a tragedy for a community not to have a printed paper. Community memories are important and that’s the value of a local paper,” he said.
Becky O’Malley, Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet, said: “I am always in favor of more news sources. The more the merrier, but this is not a business model I would invest in.” O’Malley said the Planet had seen a declining advertising base and that this was a factor for all news media. “Advertisers are leaving print publications in droves and they don’t seem to want to go online either.”
O’Malley also points to what she sees as the differences between Piedmont and Berkeley as potential newspaper markets. “You live in Piedmont when you want a boring life. Berkeley is not a small town like Piedmont, it is more sophisticated.” While she thinks people will be interested in “seeing their kids in the paper”, she says the Planet deliberately avoided that type of coverage.
The Piedmont Post, which is owned and edited by Gray Cathrall, will not be affiliated with the Berkeley Times.
Kerr, who worked in software marketing before working for the Post, has set up an office on Telegraph Avenue and is recruiting staff. He expects to have 12 part-time editorial staff who will “wear many hats”, and another dozen part-time positions focused on distribution.
Kerr will be the new paper’s sole proprietor, publisher and editor and he recently embarked on a summer-long awareness-building campaign, presenting details of the paper and soliciting subscriptions at neighborhood-hosted events throughout Berkeley.