!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! FARKAS OUT AS EDITOR OF THE BB … COUNCIL VOTES ON SCHOOL BUDGET, BUT THE VOTE HAS NO LEGAL WEIGHT … SCHOOLS’ ANSWER TO TEEN PREGNANCY? MORE TAXPAYER $$ … plus … RESTAURANT BAND KIDS — DONCHA JUST LOVE IT!!
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2013) — THE PLANET has learned that on Thursday, June 6, Boring Broadsheet (a newspaper formerly known as The Berkshire Eagle) editor Tim Farkas was “marched out of the building.” Farkas had been terminated.
It’s not clear if he was fired, left under duress, or resigned. We have not learned the reason for his sudden dissolution, but we should note that at the end of March, Andy Mick stepped down as publisher. Kevin Corrado took his place. Corrado came to the BB by way of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. It’s not uncommon for the new boss to make changes once that person feels he or she has a lay of the land.
Newsroom sources said they were not surprised by the change; neither is THE PLANET. Farkas didn’t exactly recall Horace Greeley or James Gordon Bennett (two legendary editors from yesteryear, for those who don’t know). We met with him once, over lunch, shortly after he took over the BB newsroom. He struck us as a nice enough chap, but in the news business, you judge an editor’s worth by his work. Under his watch, the newsroom declined, morale sank, and many talented workers toiled with and under an ineffective leader. Farkas never gave compelling evidence that he knew Berkshire County, and that will be one of Corrado’s greatest challenges. He must learn the community.
A good editor doesn’t back away from stories. A great editor is fearless. Farkas was neither. Newspapers should question everything, especially those in charge. Newspapers should have a strong investigative reporting team. Farkas did not build one. In fact, he silently presided over the marginalization of both Jack Dew and later Conor Barry, two good ones who were too smart and too good to retreat back into the safe, mediocre, colorless coverage for which the BB has become known. Farkas used the budget cuts that hit the newsroom as his excuse for producing middling, lackluster, forgettable coverage. Leaders don’t use this crutch. They find ways around it, turn loose their reporters, and encourage enterprise.
A good newspaper acts with courage. A great newspaper does that to serve the community, acting as a watchdog — The Fourth Estate — over democracy. The latter, so much in peril from so many assaults on numerous fronts, cannot afford a shrinking press presence, and yet, since the now-bankrupt (and in receivership) Media News Group purchased The Berkshire Eagle only to turn it into The Boring Broadsheet, that’s what the newspaper has given Berkshire County and especially the county seat, Pittsfield. We’ve seen the result, especially with the rise of the GOB and the demise of responsible representation from elected and appointed officials.
THE PLANET has spent the better part of the past score of years exposing what we can, exerting a full effort not to be “objective” but to publish the truth. We have served as a constructive critic of social and communal ills, provoking thought and encouraging a free marketplace of ideas. That accounts for the stellar rise in this website, from day one with no readers to today’s burgeoning online presence, all by word of mouth and compelling stories.
Farkas never connected with the local community. He came in as top newsroom executive after leaving his job as sports editor of the Times Union in Albany. There’s a world of difference between running the sports department (called “the toy store” of a newspaper) and the newsroom, and Farkas didn’t have the elusive “it.”
We hope this signals a change in the newsroom. We hope that under a new editor, the BB can become, once again, The Berkshire Eagle. To do so, Farkas’ replacement will need to revitalize morale, drive excellence through the example of his or her leadership, and install a culture of accuracy, audaciousness, integrity, and undaunted responsibility not to the GOB, not to the Status Quo, not to the Usual Suspects, not to the Chosen Ones, and not to the Special Interests, but to Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski — We The People.
In its deliberations last night on the Pittsfield School Department budget, the city council was meeting as a whole. Boil it all down, the votes that it took were strictly advisory, having no bearing upon policy. The meeting was little more than a public information session, the purpose of which was to give councilors information and the ability to question department heads on their fiscal requests.
The purpose of votes — to send messages to the mayor, up, down, equal, or indifferent. Last night, our Right Honorable Good Friends voted to do nothing to curb the out-of-control school department spending — all but Barry Clairmont, that is. Clairmont dissected the numbers, laid out a reasonable case for fiscal responsibility, and presented it in a dispassionate way, led by the data. His fellow councilors went with emotion, however, too scared to risk upsetting the powers that be within the schools. It’s election season, you know.
Clairmont had this to say to THE PLANET:
Councilor Mazzeo also sends her children out of district, which is every parents right. It’s a personal decision. [Here, he's responding to a point made earlier by one of our readers]
However, she mentioned that she wanted a level funded school budget, which would have been a 1.9 million dollar cut. Yet she didn’t support my 1.5 million dollar cut and said I was on a witch hunt. Go figure.
Then she asked questions that she didn’t go to them ahead of time to ask. I don’t understand why I was wrong and it was okay for her.
All but councilorLothrop, Krol and Capitanio agreed with one of my points. Yet none proposed a single cut, just like last year. I can respect those that disagree with me on a matter of principle, but not when they agree with my points and don’t propose a single cut.
The council and mayor still can deal with the school department budget in favor of taxpayers and The Children, but you know, we know, and the man in the moon knows that they won’t.
And so the farce continues.
SEX, SEX, and MORE SEX
Pittsfield may be near the bottom of the barrel in jobs creation, but it doubles the state average in teen pregnancies.
“It’s a whole lot of teen moms and a whole lot of babies,” Kristine Hazard, United Way director, told the Pittsfield Gazette.
Indeed it is, and the answer? Spend more taxpayer dollars. Coordinate with social agencies. Give more money to the public schools. Anne Marie Carpenter, head of the public schools’ psychologists, and the school administration want to adopt a national program “to promote family dialogue.” Kids in grammar school learn about sex. Kids in middle school learn about sex. Kids in high school learn about sex. All God’s chillen learn about sex!
Back in THE PLANET’s day, we had our fathers’ National Geographics, the dictionary, and 15-year-old Roarback Cusava (who claimed to have, you know, “done it,” for our sex education). Oh, and we also had two parents in the home, a clear understanding of right and wrong, and girls who said “no.” Oh, did they ever say no! We made out OK. Today, our little darlings have Learning About Myself and Others (LAMO), 9th and 10th grade “health courses,” free contraception advice and devices handed out in the high schools like M&Ms at Trick or Treat (in this case, it’s Trick and Treat), and the topper of all sex education devices, the Internet, which puts an adult bookstore into the palms of every kid.
Kids wake up with sex over them, under them, around them, and through them. They digest it from the movies, in video games, on TV, on the computer, in magazines, and in every medium under the sun. The Pittsfield School Department, though, wants more taxpayer money to create more programs.
Talk about your cold shower.
MAMA, LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME
Finally, this report from the wires, speaking of the Little Darlins’.
“Welcome,” reads the black-and-white sign on the door of The Sushi Bar. “This is an adults-only environment. No children under 18 please.”
Some outraged parents have promised to boycott the upscale eatery, which opened just last weekend in the Del Ray area.
“Great way to keep me out of your spot,” griped one commenter on the Sushi Bar’s Facebook page. “As a single parent, thanks… we will dine at another sushi bar!”
“In case anyone is wondering, no, I won’t be patronizing this establishment if I’m ever again in the area,” added another commenter.
But the restaurant owners say that they had always planned to make the eatery a child-free zone.
“It’s going to be smaller, more upscale,” co-owner Mike Anderson told The DelRay Patch in April.”No kids under 18. … Adults have said they need a place, too.” He has three kids of his own, he told Today.com, only two of whom would be old enough to eat at his new place.
“We by no means hate children or think they don’t belong in restaurants,” co-owner Bill Blackburntold told WUSA-TV. “They just don’t belong in this particular one.”
Outside of the local community, the movement to ban kids from certain places — planes and restaurants, mostly — has caused widespread debate. Some restaurants, like McDain’s in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, ban younger kids, usually under the age of 6. Even kid-friendly Disneybanned children younger than 10 from some of its Florida resort’s restaurants. And some airlinesare responding to consumers who feel that the skies might be a friendlier place to fly if kids weren’t allowed on planes.
In this upscale Alexandria sushi restaurant, though, diners don’t seem to think that the no-child policy is that much of a problem. Largely, the response to ban on the restaurant’s Facebook page has been positive, with commenters applauding the restaurant for the move. “This is a great idea, and I have two children!” writes one enthusiastic commenter. According to WUSA-TV, the policy has been a boon for the business—the restaurant’s been packed every night.
“They’ve gotten a lot of press over the whole no-kids thing, but I don’t really know why,” wrote “Dennis B” on Yelp.com this week. He gave the restaurant a five-star review. “Just walking into the place you see that it’s not really a place to bring your little ones, even if they didn’t have the policy. It’s small and intimate, with big comfy couches taking up half the restaurant. The kind of place that you want to sit back and relax – almost like having sushi served to you in your living room.”
And even patrons who are parents say they can see the point. One mother, who opted not to share her name, told WUSA-TV: “I understand why they would do that. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“I have three children and I would love to go to a kid-free restaurant,” commented Carl Harper onFacebook. A chance to eat a meal in peace. I have gone to different places to enjoy a meal away from the kids just to be bothered by other people’s screaming children. Also to be bothered by the children who run around acting like it’s Chuck E. Cheese’s.”
“I’m a mom, and I have no problem with that,” added Gretchen Sher via Facebook. “There are plenty of places for my kids to go with my husband and I that welcome families, and we can always get a sitter if we want to go to an adult-only place.”
Others feel that 18 is too old of a cut-off for kids.
“Our son loves sushi and is very well behaved,” wrote a Patch reader in response to the news. “He’s been to several 3 star, upscale restaurants. At 12 years old he’s way beyond the shrieking phase.”
Anderson and his business partners also own the restaurants on either side of The Sushi Bar – Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow, both of which are more family friendly. For families in the area, that means they’ve still got options—even if sushi isn’t one of them.