Flogging Blogging

The Express is now an alt-daily, so log on and read our new blogs; Black Diamond Living pulls the plug, leaving bitter staff in its wake.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Last week, the Express officially became the last entity on the planet to launch a blog — two, actually. But the good news is that our news blog, whose name — 92510 — merges the East Bay’s two area codes, is shaping up as a fine read (if we do say so ourselves). Here’s where this alt-weekly becomes an alt-daily, bringing you not just exclusive local news with an attitude, but also highlights of the good, the bad, and the ugly within the larger realm of East Bay journalism. That means if Fremont’s Argus, or the CoCo Times, or even some obscure East Bay newsletter has a story worth reading, or worthy of comment, we’ll inform you.

Think of 92510 as a hub for regional news, where the noteworthy is noted, and that worthy of ridicule is ridiculed. Each day begins with a to-do list that includes recommended events, lectures, lunch joints, clubs, and a super-bonus online distraction, just in case you’re accomplishing too much at work. On Tuesdays, we’ll give you a preview of the upcoming print issue, and Kelly Vance will humorously summarize each week’s cover story for those of you who don’t find the time to read it.

Also up and coming is Ear Bud, our East Bay music blog, which will feature the latest music and music news; plus, coming soon: free (no-guilt) mp3s from your favorite local bands.

And now, for readers who haven’t yet taken a peek, here are a few highlights from the past week’s 92510:

Infighting breaks out among the Daily Kos faithful after the liberal political blog takes ads from big bad — gasp! — Chevron … A hilarious TV ad from Richard Pombo’s faithful warns the GOP congressman’s constituents to beware Berkeley activists working for opponent Jerry McNerney. … Chris Thompson discovers Danville. Whether that’s good or bad may depend on whether you’re from there. … Rumors fly of a poll putting candidate Aimee Allison ahead of the incumbent in a council race that could shift the balance of power in Oakland. … AC transit director Rebecca Kaplan wants you to foot the bill so she can attend the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference, but insists it’s not a junket. … The Chronicle‘s editorial page editor explainswhy the paper excluded third parties from its debate series. … A Berkeley council candidate lures students to a rally with free booze. … Popular SF band Two Gallants get Tasered, busted, and arraigned in Texas club melee (video) … Look, a company that takes your stuffed animals around the world, and sends back pictures. … Berkeley’s School District’s lunch lady dishes regret over her New Yorker profile, which made Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters seem out of touch. … And a federal judge says, in so many words, that the Oakland Chamber of Commerce can buy a local election.

Enough. Now you can read ’em yourself. Enjoy. — Michael Mechanic

Black Diamond Goes Dark: Black Diamond Living, the lifestyle magazine for eastern Contra Costa County, has come to the end of the line, and those who worked there are none too happy with its publisher.

The glossy magazine, which launched in 2003, features articles on light topics such as slow food in Brentwood, honey making in Knightsen, and the health benefits of red wine and dark chocolate. It is — or was — geared toward upscale readers who view their fast-growing communities as more than just a collection of expensive tract housing.

In an October 4 e-mail to Wanda Hennig, the magazine’s editor, publisher Alfred Igbodipe announced plans to cease publication effective that week. Previously, he had dangled the prospect of sharing ownership of its holding company with Hennig and Debbi Murzyn, the design director, and went so far as to draft an operating agreement for the company that listed the two as partners. That form was never submitted to the state, however.

The shutdown has left the magazine’s creative staffers with a distinctly bad taste in their mouths. Hennig says she and Murzyn each did the work of three or four people at a typical publication. The entire operation was run out of their homes, and they were not reimbursed for expenses. After they requested raises, their annual salaries increased this year from $21,000 to $22,800. No benefits.

Hennig says she agreed to these low wages only in exchange for a promised stake in the company and, as she wrote in a farewell e-mail of sorts to her freelancers, the “satisfaction of seeing BDL become more stylish and professional each issue; growing the magazine and along with it, the community we cover.”

After Igbodipe decided to shutter the magazine, Hennig requested that he pay the freelance writers, photographers, and illustrators for their work on the killed December/January issue. The freelance contracts, however, stipulated that payment is upon publication. Igbodipe wrote a one-line e-mail in response: “This clause cannot be waived.”

At least two other members of the magazine team, who asked that their names not be used, say they are planning legal action against Igbodipe for, among other things, breach of contract. Both Hennig and Murzyn, meanwhile, feel the publisher took advantage of their hard work and desire to make the magazine a success. “The feeling I have is that I had an adopted child, took care of it for three years, and suddenly the birth parent ripped the baby out of my arms and I’m left standing there with nothing,” Murzyn says.

Hennig relates a twinge of anger after visiting Oakland Magazine a couple of weeks ago. “There’s this big office full of people,” she recalls. “And they’ve got a design and editorial staff. And I thought, here we were, giving him all this on a plate, putting out a fabulous magazine and saving him all those expenses. It’s like he’s been given all that and instead of being appreciative, he sort of said, ‘Fuck you.'”

Igbodipe, reached by telephone, was unwilling to talk about the future of the company, or even confirm that he intends to shut down the magazine. “The decision on how we are going forward has not been made,” he said, cautioning Cooler to “be ready to defend whatever you write.”

The publisher avoided discussing whether he promised Hennig and Murzyn shared ownership of the company by hanging up when the issue was raised. — Jonathan Kaminsky

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