What happened to City Council candidate, George Beier, almost happened to sitting member, Laurie Capitelli, in his tight race against newcomer, Sophie Hahn. O’Malley, favoring Hahn, was all set to pull every dirty trick she could muster, when she was busted by one of her own reporters, Judith Scherr. In a truly heroic whistle blowing action, Scherr resigned with this open letter:
Sept. 18, 2008
Hello friends -
A number of you have asked why I've left the Planet. Excuse the mass response.
After 2.5 years of being insulted, berated and lied to by the Berkeley Daily Planet's executive editor - and having my stories distorted by the deletion of quotes from persons Becky O'Malley hates and the addition of her nasty remarks about such people - I have left the Planet.
The last straw was O'Malley's assigning me to do a (kind of silly - but I was used to that) story on complaints by two candidates around various groups' endorsement processes.
She insisted that I interview candidates Shirley Dean and Sophie Hahn. (I also interviewed their opponents.)
Criticisms of the endorsement process were in a story published Sept. 11. What I didn't know until after the story appeared in the paper, was that one of those candidates had participated in the very practices she was condemning in my story - Sophie Hahn packed the Wellstone Club with her friends on endorsement day. This kind of thing - unfortunately - is more or less business as usual in local electioneering. What infuriated me was that O'Malley was aware of what Hahn was doing when she assigned the story. When she assigned the story, O'Malley had in her possession a flyer written by Sophie Hahn in which Hahn urges her supporters to join the Wellstone Club in order to secure the club's endorsement and offers to pick up Wellstone membership forms, dues and voter proxies.
I could no longer be part of a newspaper with such a lack of journalistic integrity. Please note, I'm in no way calling for people not to read or support the Planet. Unfortunately, it's all we have - which is why it took me so long to leave.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.