(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 2012) — WTBR station adviser Larry Kratka, his impatience growing at THE PLANET‘s persistence in questioning, declared in an e-mail: “Enough.” The story is over.

No mas? No way!

Everyone Loses When a Journalist Gets Owned

Once again, Kratka is wrong on the caper that in our memoirs shall occupy a footnote as The Great WBTR Flip-Flop. He’s been wrong consistently through this story that, in a way that must have pleased his GOB masters, he tried to hide. Bury. Cloak. He was wrong to announce the Sturgeon show as a done deal. He was wrong caving in to the pressure. He was wrong trying to coverup. He was wrong trying to coverup his coverup. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong do not a right make.

KRATKA AS GOOFY: Typecasting?

This type of behavior would be bad enough in anyone, but in a so-called journalist, who not only became the story but became one of the bad guys in the story, it’s reprehensible. Kratka, who in his role as station adviser serves as the example for students, provided his minions with a terrible life lesson: When “They” pressure you, the best thing to do is immediately cave in, go against your word, violate your professional ethics, and remove your back bone. Kratka would protest, but that is what he just taught his students.

A Free Press: Safeguard to Democracy

Moreover, Kratka violated ethical standards of a profession without which there would be no freedom, no democracy, and indeed, no America.

The press must act as a safeguard to democracy. It is the last and most important safeguard against totalitarian rule. Without a free, independent, and fearless press, the public remains misinformed at best and hoodwinked at worst. The built-in corruption and tendency for malfeasance that accompanies institutional life in the public sector would remain hidden and covered up, as it has for 25 years now in the county seat, the city of Pittsfield. Only a free, independent, and fearless press can provide a proper public forum for participatory democracy. Never has this been more true than in the age of cyberspace.

Kratka’s behavior, lead example now among the behavior of almost every mainstream journalist now working in Pittsfield, explains why the city has been led to ruin — because so-called journalists like Larry Kratka look the other way. Kratka, as well as the editors and scribes on the Boring Broadsheet and local radio, know the stories. They have access (theoretically) to the same information pool as does THE PLANET. The difference is that we dare to fulfill our duties and responsibilities as a journalist and they do not. They are owned. We are not.

Our job is to serve as watchdog. If we don’t monitor those in power, who will? If we don’t give Voice to the Voiceless, who will? If we don’t pursue and expose corruption, who will? It boils down to a fundamental principle, put so well by Bill Kovac and Tom Rosenstiel in their classic, The Elements of Journalism:

Journalists must serve as an independent monitor of power.

An "owned" journalist sees nothing and says nothing, even though he hears plenty.When a so-called journalist gets owned in this way Larry Kratka did, the entire community suffers. Kratka, in selling out Bill Sturgeon and caving into political pressure, did more than hurt his victim, Bill Sturgeon. He did more than hurt himself. He damaged Taconic High School, the School Department, and every citizen in Berkshire County, to whom he has the obligation of truth and honesty, purporting as he does to bring them news via WBEC and the other chained stations in the Vox chain.

Decision Made, Credibility Shot, Kratka Has One Chance at Redemption: Fess Up on Wednesday, in Public, Before the School Committee and Name Names

In approving Bill Sturgeon‘s show then canceling it, against what he says were his own wishes because of outside political pressure, Kratka has destroyed what was left of his credibility as a newsman. He has been revealed as a taskmaster for anonymous political bosses. He refuses to say who they are. Until he identifies who pressured him and why he gave in, nothing Kratka says of does from now on at WTBR, Vox radio, or mumbles at the Fourth of July Parade should be believed.

When outside “political types” (his phrase) pressured him to drop the previously approved and vetted Sturgeon show, Kratka had two choices: (1) Cave in and sell the man down the river or (2) Tell those who were leaning on him where to get off and fight for the station and for the man.

Sadly, to what is most likely Kratka’s own great consternation and regret, he took the 30 pieces of silver. He blew his penultimate chance at reparation when he refused to name those responsible. Tomorrow, Kratka will have one final chance at professional redemption by appearing before the school committee, voluntarily Wednesday night (June 6), and identifying the people behind his decision … at that time, in that forum.

Will he do that? Will he own up to his responsibilities to the students, adults, parents, school officials, and everyone else he has let down by failing to find backbone in the face of a blatant and successful attempt at coercion. The irony, of course, is that Sturgeon planned a show as tame as the gentle breeze that would fail to propel a sailboat across the width of the Housatonic. He planned an interview-only show, no opinion. This leads to another question: Since when is having a judgment on the events and public personalities of Berkshire County and Pittsfield a High Crime and Misdemeanor?

Where Does It End?

Kratka caved in this case by axing Sturgeon? When else, with whom, and why has he caved? With John Krol? With Ashley Sulock? Why wasn’t Jim Campagna invited back to WTBR? Who got to Kratka on that one? Campy filled admirably for Krol during election season and showed a refreshing irreverent streak that was exactly what the doctor ordered for the moribund Good Morning, Pittsfield. We support the concept of GMP, but it’s tame hour, one that former councilor Mike Ward docile, even when the show had Dan Valenti — that notorious one-man mob scene — on for the full hour.

Incredibly, Kratka told THE PLANET this escapade and explosion is not a story. We beg to differ. Here we have a valuable community asset — namely, a high school radio station — funded by taxpayers. Under Kratka’s direction, the station has strayed from its original charter to provide on-air broadcasting experience for students interested in radio.

Instead, it offers an ungainly mix of adult shows and student involvement. Let’s be frank: WTBR as it presently operates does not exist for students. It exists mainly to give broadcasting wannabes in the adult community their 15 minutes of local “fame.” Enjoyable musical shows such as those hosted by Andy Poncherello and Mike Pezzo have a place on local air, but is that place WTBR, high school radio? THE PLANET supports shows such as Krol’s Good Morning, Pittsfield. Is WTBR the place? That’s a separate issue. We won’t argue this here.

The main point is that Kratka has also revealed that his actions are driven by political consideration and not by programming ones. Perhaps we should rename this sordid affair, Who Do You Trust?

Kratka’s True Concern: Politics, Not Programming

This taxpayer-funded venture pays Kratka a stipend equal to 17% of the station’s entire budget. In contrast, every member of the school committee serves for free. Is this money well spent, especially now that it’s out in the open: Kratka can be “had.” He runs the station based on political considerations from and for people he refuses to name. How much of his work at WBEC etc. is also the product of hidden political agendas? It’s the next logical question. Is he “for sale” at Vox in the same way he was at WTBR. It would be hard to see how that could not be, since WBEC provides his cost center. Why would Vox want to employ as news director, no less, someone as compliant as this? Or have we just answered our own question in the very words of the query?

The Great WTBR Flip Flop represents an urgent signal to the school committee to immediately suspend all operations at WTBR until Kratka comes clean. He must identify the “political types” who caused him to bail out on Sturgeon. If Kratka refuses, he should be summarily dismissed from WTBR for cause. What Vox does with him is Vox’s business.

After dealing with Kratka, the committee and the public must honestly ask if WTBR should be kept on the air. Would the thousands of dollars it takes to keep the station going not be put to better use, say, to provide a dozen scholarships for students with plans and aspiration for college?

Many Questions Loom

Meantime, these additional questions must be answered:

* What, exactly, do the words of the original charter for WBTR say? Radio, like newspaper though not falling as quickly, is a medium in demise. Is the original charter, written who knows how long ago, still applicable to students in 2012 in this age of smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, and podcasts?

* What is the WTBR mission statement? What does it say, exactly? Who wrote it? When? Does the mission statement still apply? Is it being fulfilled?

* Who holds the actual license agreement? What does it state? What does it require from the station?

* How many other high school facilities can be taken over by adults when not being used by students the way Kratka has OKd for WTBR? For example, can Joe Kapanski used the woodworking equipment to build a cabinet or use the auto body shop to fix his car?

Who’s ‘Terrified’ of Whom? 

Prior to THE PLANET blowing the lid of this story, Kratka told WTBR’s Facebook page, first quoted by Joe Durwin of “The debut of the Bill Sturgeon show has been put on hold, possibly for good. There are apparently some officials in Pittsfield government who are terrified of what Bill would do to them.”

No, Larry. The officials were not terrified of Sturgeon. You were terrified of those “some officials.” Why? Tell us. You must come clean, for your own good and the good of your career. Who are they? That’s your last shot at regaining a modicum of respect, to say nothing of self-respect.

Kratka deemed the Flip Flop  a non-story.

Au contraire, mon ami.

This story goes directly to the heart of a cancer that continues to eat away at Pittsfield. It involves the stifling of free speech, the free flow of information, and the ability of We The People to self-govern. It does this through intimidation, retaliation, and fear. That’s why websites such as this one remain vital. We represent, though not solely, the city of Pittsfield’s last best chance to break out of the tar pit. We remain a check on tyrannical abuse by the powerful of their constituents.

THE PLANET is the only website not for sale, for hire, for rent, and not susceptible to outside influence. We are not for sale. We are unbought. We are unbossed. We shall continue to post for Freedom, for Truth, and for The American Way.



This is a cautionary tale. It’s a tale as old as teenagers, automobiles, and high school graduations and proms. ‘Tis not a happy tale, but one that finds replay despite the best efforts of parents, teachers, and adults to get kids to listen.

Please, adults, clip this article and let your teenager read this.

CINCINNATI (AP) — A car carrying five teenagers went airborne as it sped over railroad tracks in northeast Ohio early Sunday and crashed, killing the 18-year-old driver hours before his high school graduation and two of his passengers, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

The other two passengers, one of them also an impending graduate, were hospitalized.

Less than 13 hours after the crash, Brunswick High School students left empty seats covered with flowers at their graduation ceremony to remember driver Jeffrey Chaya and Kevin Fox, who was critically injured.

“It was very sad,” Superintendent Michael Mayell said after the commencement ceremony at the University of Akron. “There were a lot of tears.”

The 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling at a high speed just after midnight when Chaya lost control in Columbia Township, troopers at the Elyria post said. The car went airborne and off the right side of the roadway, then swerved across the left side of the road, hit a ditch and tree, then flipped over, according to the troopers’ report.

Chaya, a senior football player, and two passengers, 17-year-old Blake Bartchak and 16-year-old Lexi Poerner, were killed, the patrol said.

Without a shred of sympathy but with all the empathy we can muster, THE PLANET says, “Do not weep. Let the dead bury their dead. These kids got what they were asking for. They asked for it not with words but with actions. They drove recklessly. They made a series of bad decisions inside of a speeding 1.5-ton hunk of metal, plastic, and glass. They experienced a simple consequence of natural law. Speeding automobiles, airborne, do not get along well with roadsides.”

Read. Learn. Act wisely or not. Accept the consequences.









  1. Bill Sturgeon
    June 5, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    Dan, Larry just wants this to go away. Speaking for me, I am not going to go away until I find out who is “The Wizard (s)” behind the curtain. Many people are telling me it is this one or that one. I want Larry to name the person or persons.

    Last night at a fundraiser I heard that the fallback person that Larry is going to blame is Pam Malumphy. Let me make it clear to everyone. I spoke with Pam and she did ask NOT TO HAVE ME TAKEN OFF THE AIR – OR THAT MY PROGRAM SHOULD BE CANCELED MY PROGRAM. She told me that she was concerned about the “Air” time for the kids and I believe her. So please DO NOT blame Pam.

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 7:08 am #

      Most interesting. Since our stories on THE PLANET, we, too, are hearing “this one” and “that one” as the dark forces behind Larry’s decision. Sure, Larry wants this to go away, but at this point, it can’t. Our investigation continues, and we are learning more, enough to ask additional questions and make reasonable conjectures. Some of that “more” will be on THE PLANET tomorrow. As a personal note I don’t mind making public, I was disappointed when I learned you had been suddenly pulled from the air — this after the grand announcement by Kratka. Everything seemed in order, and as you know, I was in full support to have you follow John Krol. Then I find out, with no notice, from one of my readers that you were not on the air on that appointed day, the Tuesday after Memorial Day. It was at that point that that the “chatter,” as you guys in intel call it, began. From the get-go, the decision to pull the show had an odd feel to it. It went from odd, to bizarre, to anomalous. Then, Larry essentially said, “Don’t look behind that curtain.” That’s when we HAVE to look. THE PLANET sends its best.

    • levitan
      June 5, 2012 at 7:14 am #

      Blaming Pam would be typical of those folks. I wouldn’t believe it, and I would think whoever does that is likely closer to the source than she is.

    • Dawn
      June 5, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      Pam wants Krol gone. Just call it like it is.

      • danvalenti
        June 5, 2012 at 8:12 am #

        Malumphy’s name has been coming up with greater frequency. At this point, it’s just chatter, but is there more?

  2. taxmano
    June 5, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Lots of people want Krol gone. He’s like the annoying teacher’s pet in grade school. Now he has grown up to be the GOB’s pet. That’s why they object to Bill but not him…

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      THE PLANET counts both men as friends.

  3. Fred
    June 5, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Can we all assume you will be at the courthouse tomorrow for the Nilan case? I believe it is tomorrow. We are all looking forward to your reporting!

  4. Still wondering
    June 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    This whole thing needs a better name. Suggestions?

    Larry killed the radio star?
    Dirty business down on Valentine Road?

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      The Kratka Kaper.

      • GMHeller
        June 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

        How about spineless toady?

    • Larry
      June 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

      How bout what a Kratka-shit!

      • danvalenti
        June 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

        This takes the award so far!

  5. Chet Hunter
    June 5, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    I must say I could care less about this non story. Dan this is all you have to write about for the last 4 days? Who cares what goes on at a high school radio station?

    • Home Run
      June 5, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      You seem bored by the recent topic.Perhaps you can reply to my following opinion. It seems you did not get a chance to see yesterday or did not get a chance to reply. Since you seem so bored by Dan perhaps you can respond instead to my statement below. Would love your insider input. I could so I lighten us all.


      To answer your question about McNally .. Well it is quite simple. If the UEP can keep squeezing the tax payer and operate with selfish concern, well then there is every likelihood McNally will become Intrem super.

      Just as the UEP ignores any ones need but their own so too acts the school dept. The fact that McNally was the principal of Taconic when a whistleblower law suit was brought against PPS seems to be of little consequence to the school comm. A law suit that brought forth major violations of students’ civil rights and Special Ed law amount other things.

      The UEP acts in a similiar fashion with neglect o the city’s tax payers.

      Sounds to me like The UEP and mcNally are like two peas in a pod. Too hard to tell one from the other.

      Just my opinion Chet.

      • Chet Hunter
        June 5, 2012 at 11:51 am #

        HR You give the teachers Union way too much credit on who will be temp superintendent. Why do you dislike them so much?

        • Dead to Rights
          June 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

          Are you connected in any way with the teachers’ union?
          Please answer. You said something earlier (I won’t say what) that gave you away. You are not who you claim to be, are you? Or do you want me to drop DV a line? Or do you want me to out you here? Jsut asking.

          • Chet Hunter
            June 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

            D.T.R. Do what you have to do , out me if you think you know me!

      • Home Run
        June 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm #


        Credit must be given where credit is due. In the case of the UEP they have been successful in squeezing the life out of the city coffers for years. How can it be argued to not be so? To cite one small example let’s look at the 5 to 1 staff ratio Pittsfield schools supports. I could go on but it would take far to long.

        To answer your question about dislike. It is simply not a matter of like or dislike. Rather it is a clear examination of the facts. The facts are clear in this case.

        • Chet Hunter
          June 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

          HR. If you know who Iam let the Planet groupies know. I’m sure they are losing sleep waiting in anticipation !

          • Dead to Rights
            June 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

            Your are.. how about the initials DQ, and its not for dairy queen. Should I go further?.

          • Chet Hunter
            June 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

            DTR. Just give out my name and cut out the suspence !

          • levitan
            June 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

            I could care less who you are. I just read the comments.

        • echo
          June 6, 2012 at 7:24 am #

          Plenty of talk about the teachers many dollars go to the union from the pittsfield school system each year?

          • danvalenti
            June 6, 2012 at 7:36 am #

            To arrive at the answer, take the number of teachers in the system, take the average compensation ($70,000 a year salary + benefits), and multiply those two numbers. Many tens of millions of dollars, by far the vast majority of expense for a school department that cost taxpayers a whopping $90+million a year.

    • Pittsfield Pete
      June 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm #


      Why not jus tell us what goes on in the whole school dept and our school buildings and not just our school’s radio station. I bet the themes would be very similiar !

  6. Ron Kitterman
    June 5, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Interesting the lessons we can learn from a high school radio station isn’t it ? I would be very interested in learning why the show was cancelled and who made the decision to cancel it. Are we dealing with a bully ? or a coward ? Blaming it on someone else. Defend your position why Sturgeon was removed and why John Kroll stays. Let’s get this out in the open.

  7. Dave
    June 5, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    The one reason that this “story” needs to continue to be aired is that it again exposes the GOB system. The GOB system has taken a beating lately but is far from dead. The GOB supporters need to understand that “we the people” will no longer tolerate the corruption, nepotism, and favoriism that has permeated local politics for at least the last several decades.

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Agreed, DAVE. Many thanks. Well spoken.

  8. Jim Gleason
    June 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    It’s not like the Sturge is Walter C ronkite or Jim McKay here, is it? Why the big fuss over a non talent like him? His presentation never improved over the time he was at BRK, he mis pronounced most of his sponsors names on a daily basis as well as everybody he tried to talk about, couldn’t pronounce most of his guest’s names and pretty much went nuts in his last days on the air. Why does anyone want him on a kids station with them listening to all of his misinformation? It amazes me.

    • Dead to Rights
      June 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      JIM I think the point isn’t about BS or what anyone wants, the point of this discussion what makes it a story is the fact that after it was approved by Kratka LK cancelled the show. Why? Because as he says political pressure. Theres the STORY. Who is behind this.

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Sturgeon is not any of those you mention, not even close. The issue, though, is how quickly Kratka reversed a well-vetted decision to allow the show, only to back off after he received political pressure.

    • joetaxpayer
      June 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      Jim like him or not, he deserves a show just as much as Mr. Krol. Like Bill said it was not going to be a opinion show or a call in show.He was going to have guests.Sounds alot like Krols show.I don’t understand the fuss.Maybe he could get on PCTV.

  9. Jonathan Melle
    June 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. is a Good Old Boy! Yet, Dan Valenti praises and supports his run for U.S. Congress. I agree with Dan Valenti that the Good Old Boy network that ruled Pittsfield politics needs to come to an end.

    • Larry
      June 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      Nuciforo certainly is not a GOB these days

      • danvalenti
        June 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

        Correct. He got booted out of that club. There was a letter signed by a herd of them telling him so!

  10. Jonathan Melle
    June 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    What has the Good Old Boy network produced for Pittsfield politics?
    * Teen pregnancy rates that double the statewide average year after year.
    * Job losses and high per capita welfare caseloads
    * Toxic waste PCBs pollution that cause cancer in local residents
    * Top-down and exclusive city government

    • Larry
      June 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      Looking at these statements…. Perhaps yo also believe he killed JFK. Get a clue buddy!

  11. Pat
    June 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    I listen to 1420 am everyday at work and really enjoy the non-local radio shows like Mike Hukabee. When Larry Kratka interviews local people on his talk shows, however, things change for the worse. He never asks any hard hitting questions of his guests, panders to, jokes with and constantly compliments his guests. It’s so boring I want to fall asleep and usually turn off the radio until his interview (if you want to call it that) is over. Larry does have a nice speaking voice for radio, but he never challenges any of his guests and its easy to see why the GOB’s like him so much!

    Free speech is becoming more important than ever here in Pittsfield and in society at large. I have lived here all my life, but I find people are very boring here because they all think the same way and talk about the same thing. They seem afraid or unable to break out of the local politics insular mindset and so you are either with them or against them. True communication really doesn’t exist under those conditions.

    • danvalenti
      June 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      A most insightful comment. Have to agree that LK is a dreadful interviewer. He does have excellent pipes but lousy diction. The impediment to free speech, as you correctly diagnose, is fear, which too many of those in power use to control people. Once you limit free speech, you also begin to dabble in thought control. There are many people, for example, in the school department who would love to come clean but won’t. There are many victims of political abuse who would love to speak out but won’t. There are people who have been molested as children who won’t talk because of they fear the consequences. The common element is fear. As you say, “True communication … doesn’t exist under those conditions.” The WTBR case allows us a rare look at how this works on the inside. It’s unfortunate that Kratka, a journalist, had to be the man in the middle. One expects better from a man in his position.

  12. skier1
    June 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    It seems that the radio station and the daily newspaper in question are NOT locally owned. The BB hasn’t shown good journalism since the sale. It all comes down to the big advertising dollar and how it can buy silence. Kratka is not a journalist. He’s only capable of fluff and usually reads off the BB.

  13. Mike Vincent
    June 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Dan, Here is your blog posting on May 23rd announcing WTBR to have Bill on:High School Radio Should be Run by High Schoolers, Not Adults

    Either the adult programming is robbing students of the chance to do their own shows, or there is not enough student interest in WTBR to fill out the programming day. It has to be one or the other. There is no third possibility. If it’s the first, shame on station manager and student advisor Larry Kratka. If it’s the second, shame on taxpayers for funding a club students don’t care about. The $6,000 or so might be put to better use, say, as scholarships to BCC or restoring one of the city’s fading civic murals.

    High school radio should be by, about, and for high schoolers. With all due respect to my good friends, WTBR should not be a landing place for adults who are frustrated air jockeys. If the kids don’t care enough to keep WBTR going, especially with an adviser as technically capable as Kratka, then it’s time for the station to sign off.
    So why are you bashing Larry Kratka so for doing what you were so opposed to. I could care less wether it aired or not but Larry Kratka is right. Time to let it go. Cover some real news.

    • danvalenti
      June 6, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      In my mind, these are two separate issues. I must separate my feelings about programming decisions (adults on high school radio) from the issue of Larry unjustly canceling the Sturgeon show only because he got pressured to do so. The latter issue trumps all as far as I’m concerned. When I see a so-called “journalist” going against his own beliefs and what he knows to be true because someone put the squeeze on him, there IS no other issue. Thank you for the post.

  14. Teecha Teecha
    June 6, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    seeing as how the masses on here have been debating the PPS budget issues, unions, over-paid teachers (you know they get thousands of $$ in the summer to ATTEND PDP classes?)

    What are your thoughts on the Gov. Walker win in Wisconsin. The tides are shifting in American the time of Big Unions are dead… hopefully.


    • danvalenti
      June 6, 2012 at 6:20 am #

      Quick thoughts on the Gov. Walker win:
      HOOOOOOOOOO-RAY!!! Oh, that Massachusetts would get a few public servants like the Wisconsin Guv.
      He stood up to the thugs in the public unions, and not only lived to tell about it but won.

  15. nomorebill
    June 8, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Larry Kratka was correct in his decision to cancel Bill Sturgeon, before he started. Bill Sturgeon is not a professional.Bill Sturgeon couldn’t care less about anyone’s opinion, other than his. Bill Sturgeon is a little man with a big ego. I for one, do not think it’s appropriate to have him poison the airwaves with his opinions, as he works to shut others down.
    Great job , Larry. You made the right call !