Richard note to WSJ thief
The note posted by Richard Nagler addressed to the person who had been stealing his copy of the Wall Street Journal on and off for ten years. Photo: Marty Schiffenbauer. Click to enlarge

After we published the story of a novel note to a newspaper thief earlier today, things began to fall into place.

We now know that the note, signed “Richard” and placed outside Skylight & Sun on Blake Street in Berkeley, was written by the owner of that business, Richard Nagler, who also happens to be an accomplished photographer whose work has been featured on Berkeleyside.

Nagler tells us the carefully crafted note — which has drawn widespread admiration from both passers-by on Blake and those who saw it on Berkeleyside — has, in fact, had an impact.

Nagler’s copy of the Wall Street Journal has been on his doorstep ever since the thief read the note.

How do we know he read the note? Because, just as Nagler’s surveillance video captured the thief taking the newspaper ever since he installed it March 9, it also caught him looking at the note.

“The perp read the note carefully (we have him on video) but I’m afraid he has yet to take me up on my proposal,” said Nagler on Thursday — referring to his offer to let the man take the paper and read it, on condition he returned it in “a relatively crisp state with no coffee stains.”

“I have gotten the WSJ every day since the note went up,” Nagler said.

It turns out Nagler hasn’t been seeing much of his subscription copy of the Wall Street Journal for more than a decade — yes, that long.

Richard Nagler
Richard Nagler, the author of the note, owns Skylight & Sun in Berkeley and is a well-known photographer. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Nagler
Richard Nagler, the author of the note, owns Skylight & Sun in Berkeley and is a well-known photographer. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Nagler

“I’ve been wondering for at least 10 years,” he tells us. Before he had the video evidence, Nagler was mystified: “Giant rodent? Bad delivery service? Lapsed subscription?” He had no clue.

“Sometimes I would only get the paper one day a week. Occasionally two a week. Sometimes none. I never knew,” Nagler continued. “Every once in a while I would get the paper FOR A WHOLE WEEK! (He must have been on vacation.) I was always bewildered. It was a mystery that gnawed into my very being. Actually it was just so crazy that I was always bemused by the whole situation. The situation went critical when my wife fell in love with the Friday WSJ ‘Mansion’ section. Having to face her without that damn section was not very pleasant on Friday evenings.”

Despite Nagler admitting in the note itself that he finds the editorial stance of the Journal “reprehensible,” and only reads it because of the quality of its journalism, he decided he had to do something.

He had put in a video monitoring system for other reasons but it did, finally, offer an explanation for the disappearing paper.

“I went all Edward Snowden over this and the result speaks for itself. Hooray for the surveillance state!” Nagler said in jest via email.

The video shows the thief reading Nagler’s note March 13 at around 7:23 a.m. “We open at 8, so he seemed to have us on his 7:30ish schedule,” said Nagler, who asked Berkeleyside not to publish the stills from the video (“I don’t want to embarrass the perp”).

One would think having gotten to the bottom of the mystery, Nagler would be a happy camper. However he tells us he is facing a new dilemma: “I am now awash in the Wall Street Journal and I actually now have to read the damn thing every day or I feel tremendous guilt,” he said.

‘To the man who has been taking my Wall Street Journal’ (03.19.15)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...