WMECO GOUGES CONSUMERS ONCE AGAIN, BUT THE BORING BROADSHEET LOVES IT. THE PLANET DOESN’T, & WE’VE GOT THE STEAM TO PROVE IT
BY DAN VALENTI
In my weekly op-ed column this week for the Pittsfield Gazette, I shall be writing about the Berkshire Eagle. I shall comment on its sad descending from winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 to its present-day toothlessness, a situation prompted by an out-of-state chain ownership that cares nothing about Pittsfield, Mass., except the money it can generate.
Lately, though, the Eagle hasn’t been generating money but losing it. All sorts of rumors are swirling about a sale of the paper, and they were fanned by reorganization of Dean Singleton’s Media News Group following bankruptcy. Singleton is out at Media News Group president and the media chain is in receivership. Or didn’t the Eagle tell you that?
!!COMING TOMORROW, THE PLANET’s EXCLUSIVE LOCAL FEATURE: “SO WHO OWNS THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE? IS IT BANK OF AMERICA?” or “GOODBYE, PITTSFIELD”
Ask most anyone in the area who know of the once-famed Berkshire Eagle, and they will tell you why the now-shamed rag is such a lousy paper. Indeed, they will give you verse and chapter on why the Boring Broadsheet isn’t even a shell of its former shell.
Pity the Poor Electric Company
Today’s case in point is its coverage of the latest price hikes announced by Western Mass Electric Company. The page 1 bylined story by Trevor Jones presents the latest hammering of The Little Guy as not so bad, and. actually, good news. That’s how much the Eagle cares about the average citizens. It reports on a rate hike that will choke many people, and it takes the spoon-fed corporate position.
Jones tells readers that poor WMECO wanted $28,4 million more from consumers but had to settled for a paltry $16.9 million. He then writes: “It lowers the rate hike that WMECO had sought from 6.1 percent to 4.2 percent.” See, the long-suffering electrical urchin must now deal with a “lower rate hike.” Yes, and to think these words passed through the hands of an editor. Back in the day, the desk editor would have thrown the story back at Jones for a total rewrite.
Not content at downplaying the significance of a 4.2 rise in your electrical bill, Jones then takes the press release from the state and spits it up as presented. Jones goes with the state’s mythic “typical residential customer,” divides his usage by 12, and comes up with the fuzzy math that this poor bastard will only have to pay 0.4 percent more each month. He does nothing to try to present what this will mean regionally for the specific customers covered by this specific increase. That would have meant phones calls and legwork.
WMECO: We Gave the Slobs a ‘Very Thoughtful’ Rate Hike
Jones then goes on to quote the WMECO mouthpiece and PR flack (whom he identifies with full name and title twice, violating the most basic of style rules) and regurgitates the written statement from the chair of the state Department of Public utilities, which granted the latest assault on Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack’s pocketbook.
Jones tells us that when he quotes state DPU Chairwoman Ann Berwick, he’s using her written statement. Translation: “I didn’t pick up the phone or use the computer to ask my own questions. I took what she spoon-fed me.”
This type of lazy, paint-by-the-numbers journalism is what make The Eagle a joke, and, sorry Tim, but it lands on the desk of executive editor Tim Farkas for permitting an effort one would expect from a student newspaper.
The WMECO PR flack told Jones that the rate hike was “a very thoughtful” request, although the electric company is “slightly disappointed that certain aspects of [the hike] were cut back.” Folks, just so you realize what has happened, let us explain: WMECO has just received another 4.2 percent of your money, and they have the steel ones to publicly express their “disappointment” in the local rag.
We feel their pain, don’t we? Perhaps the readers of The Planet can send in their nickels and dimes to help WMECO get over the “loss.”
Missing from the Story: What Does The Little Guy Think about Jump in Rates?
Apparently, Jones didn’t think it was important to talk to WMECO customers,who are now going to have to pay more without getting more in return. He didn’t think of asking the guy who’s just been laid off and can’t find work what he thinks. He didn’t think of asking the single mom who’s holding down two jobs, going to school to better herself, and is trying to raise two kids if she’s “mildly disappointed” that the electrical conglomerate didn’t get every last stinking penny it wanted. He didn’t think of asking the senior citizens, who are trying to figure out whether they should go without food this month or pay their electric bill.
Jones did tell us, however, Sanda Ahearn, WMECO’s PR dog, says the company “felt very strongly that this is something that is very important for the BENEFIT OF OUR CUSTOMERS!” (The Planet added the capitals, underline, italics, and exclamation point). See, WMECO was thinking of you all along!
If you wish to comment on Jones’ story, send him an email at
The Eagle Has Betrayed the Citizens of Pittsfield
This is precisely the type of story you get from a newspaper that has betrayed its community, its citizens, and its responsibility not to “objectivity” but to truth. Please share both Jones’ story and The Planet’s with everyone you know. Compare the two and ask: Who loves you, baby?
Maybe we can accelerate the number of people who are dumping the Eagle, now estimated at 3,000 a year and climbing.
We do thank the Eagle and WMECO for the rate hike and its coverage, because it provides The Planet with a handy device to introduce a series we have been planning for a while. We call it “The Electrical Rip Off: Raising Your Costs & Fattening Their Profits.” Unlike the Berkshire Eagle, we looked behind the scenes of this rate hike and used it to educate ourselves on how the electricity game is rigged against the consumer. We will present Part I in our series on Friday.
Our goal will be to educate readers of how the electrical system works. What is a kilowatt hour? How do you figure out how much it costs to run any given electrical device? Why these relentless rate hikes? What’s wrong with so-called Green Energy? Why do electrical rates vary so much both within the same region and outside of localities? Why a switch to “free market” electricity clobbered the consumer (remember, The Planet is the biggest fan of free association in transactions). We look at the answers to these questions and more.
We also invite your comments on the rate hike because unlike the Boring Broadsheet, The Planet is on the side of We The People. We invite you to give WMECO and the Eagle “what for.” If only to vent, the exercise will do you good on this wintry day.
TOMORROW, THE PLANET DARES TO LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN HIDING THE SHOCKING RE-EMERGENCE OF THE EAGLE’S “OWNERS,” MEDIA NEWS GROUP, FOLLOWING BANKRUPTCY.
UNTIL THEN, LOVE TO ALL.