By DAN VALENTI
As of this post, The Planet shall be going dark, show biz for closed, until at least early June. When we return, and only we know the date, we shall be featuring a different editorial focus that shall prevail at least through Labor Day.
In the Beginning…
At the end of September, 2010, we breathed life into this website. The brand name, Planet Valenti, had for many years been featured in the column we wrote Pittsfield Gazette. We had also written for years a columnist with the Berkshire Eagle and for a decade and a half hosted a daily morning talk show on WBRK. In short, we had a household name. That helped get the site going and off the ground. We had seven viewers the first day. The Planet would soon add to that in multiples of thousands.
We relied on word of mouth to “advertise” the site as a consequence of two philosophical assumptions underlying our Grand Experiment into daily cyberjournalism. We knew, and know, that cyberspace — for better or worse — has now kicked out print as the home of journalism. Even having a story in a “paper” seems to make it old and dated, the second it hits print. The Planet knew it could use this principle to put on a one-man show that would run circles around the local Establishment media.
Our two assumptions: First, we would do no traditional marketing, namely advertising. Second, we would not sell ad space. We wanted to keep the site commercial free, totally “unbought and unbossed.” Thus:
Checklist: All the Boxes Marked
— The Planet wanted to see if we could produce substantial content on a daily basis. Check (x). We did that, and 209 posts with more than a quarter million words of content.
— We wanted to prove to the people of Berkshire County that the Stories are there. By Stories, we don’t mean the fluff that clogs the content of local media. We mean the tales of What’s Really Going On Behind the Scenes. Check (x). This area is not unique. Corruption happens wherever there is power and lack of accountability. Our corruption, though, is unique and unusually systemic. The Stories are there, all right.
— We proved that these Stories can only see the light of day if you have journalists willing to take on the dogged work of investigation, fearlessly asking questions and cultivating sources in search for the truth. (x) Check. The Planet broke numerous stories, not only getting word out first but also providing the best and most comprehensive coverage. We pissed off the right people and thrilled the right people. In our experiment to “show them how it’s done,” The Planet wasn’t looking to show anybody up. Rather, we established that any media outlet in town or county — the Berkshire Eagle, the radio stations, any of the weekly papers, any other website — could do the same if they had the right personnel, asking the right questions, with support of the right management. The Stories are there. They won’t go away. They are ripe for the picking. There are Pulitzer Prizes just waiting to be won. It won’t be us, because, frankly, we have no interest in playing savior, a messianic role which has, to our discomfort, become incumbent upon the success of this website. We could right volumes of this point alone, but we won’t.
— We wanted to see if, on the sheer basis of word of mouth and can’t-resist coverage, we could build and grow a website that could rival any media in the county. Check (x). That was done. Our numbers grew substantially, and for a while exponentially, to the point where growth came sooner and faster than planned — It was a pleasant problem to have but a problem nonetheless. We have turned down numerous requests from advertisers, both local and regional. The Planet didn’t exist to make money. We could have gone that way. Our cost centers derive from other work in broadcasting, writing, publishing, consulting, and what we might call entrepreneurship. Honestly, we don’t need or want the money.
The ‘New Way’: Editorial Futures
Based on all this, based on having proven the point that successful, hard-hitting online journalism could have an impact on the area, we want to take a different direction. After our hiatus, which shall run until AT LEAST early June, The Planet will indulge our own interests. That’s the choice when you run the show. You do what you want, YOUR way.
What will be the new way? Generally, we shall be writing about fun stuff, what we enjoy. Specifically, what shall that be? Keeping in mind this will be a work in progress, The Planet expects it to include:
* The Arts — Plays, art exhibits, music, movies, and the like. We will cover not only the Arts but the Artists, a long-ignored segment of the American landscape that needs to be taken seriously, because Artists alone are the best guide to feeling the pulse of what’s happing now and what will unfold in the future.
* Sports — The heart of this will be coverage of the Pittsfield Colonials by The Planet’s recently hired writer, Josh Cutler. Josh will be covering games and writing features. We will provide stories that will press the Eagle to do a better job. Sports shall also include occasional pieces by Your Truly. It won’t only be baseball. The Planet has long gotten over Major League Baseball, turned off by the greed and money. We love the minors. For 10 years, we covered MLB, writing a string of successful books that got us into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, which acknowledged DV with an award for our contributions to the literature of the game. The prize included a lifetime pass. For now, Josh Cutler, a bright, sharp, law student from UMass, will handle the Colonials beat.
* Science, Religion, Spirituality, Philosophy — This odd grouping is not that strange, since each of these fields overlap the other. We have written much about these areas, though to this audience you may not have read much.
The Planet shall continue broadcasting, mainly doing guest sports on area TV and radio. We have had and turned down offers to get back into the grind of daily radio. Been there, done that, and not interested any more. That being said, we do anticipate at some point podcasting from the Internet.
We shall not be covering local politics for a while. Maybe we come back after Labor Day, and maybe not. For now, we are content to step back from the maelstrom and watch as the various squalls, storms, and tornados sweep through — much noise, signifying little. The Planet does anticipate getting involved in Campaign 2011 in some fashion that we shall reveal much later. You’ll have to wait for that announcement.
Into the Hiatus and with It the Future, which is Fun
The Planet will continue teaching. We shall be building up Planet Media Books with two new offerings this year: HOW MEN SEE THE WORLD by Paul Milenski and VERTICALLY COASTAL by Jerri Chaplin, two extremely talented writers for whom we are honored to be Publisher. We shall build up Europolis Management and Europolis Records, which will get us into the music business. Our first release, BEATLESQUE by Mick Valenti, is doing well in downloads at digstation.com and cdbaby.com. Information on all this can be found on this website.
To sum up, it would be accurate to say The Planet is going to have fun this summer, doing what we want, how we want, and when we want. We have eased the workload in other areas, for example, suspending our column in the Pittsfield Gazette, knowing that Jonathan Levine will keep the space warm for such time as we wish to resume. The Planet publicly thanks Levine for his support, his advice, and his efforts on behalf of Pittsfield. He’s the hardest working journalist in the county, covers more meetings than anyone else, and puts out a product that has lost none of its edge. Please continue to support Community Journalism by buying the Gazette.
We know The Planet’s move will produce lots of speculation. So be it. As a public figure, one of the “The Love Me-They Hate Me-But No One is Indifferent About Me” types, we can’t control that. We won’t try. The Planet lets people think, say, and write what they will … unless it crosses The Line. I can’t define The Line, but we know it when we see it.
We will only offer this advice: Unless you hear it from The Planet, don’t believe half of what you’re going to hear. No, “THEY” didn’t “get to” us. We weren’t threatened. We weren’t bought off. We haven’t joined the “Other” side, whatever that is. No, The Planet isn’t on Gov. Patrick’s Secret Payroll. No, we aren’t Messing Around behind the scenes in various seats of power. These and other feverish speculations, while we hope they don’t follow, only point back to the ignorance and insecurity of our good friends who perpetrate them. And they are our good friends. We hereby make peace with all, knowing that people do what they do for reasons we can never know.
That being said, it’s no secret that when anyone asks for advice, our first instinct is to say yes. If if The President of the United States asks, we say yes. If it’s the guy who’s running for Dog Catcher in Lame Deer, we say yes. We say yes to everyone in between. We will build up rather than tear down.
The Planet is in the business of saying Yes. It’s a beautiful word. We look forward to fun. Now we’re off to lunch at Blantyre.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.