PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, DATE, 2013) — Along with education, the greatest safeguard of democracy and civil liberty is a free and active press. In Pittsfield, the press is free. It is not active.

The mainstream media, “led” by The Boring Broadsheet and followed lockstep by the non-existent news coverage of the radio stations and other news outlets, has become captive of outside ownership looking only to please the local GOB network of “Big Shots,” officials, and sacred-cow advertisers. It does this to preserve what’s left of the bottom line so that The Almighty Profit$ can be sent back to HQ. The result has been compliance with, instead of coverage of, news makers and nearly all aspects of public life, including politics and public education.

THE PLANET presented an example on this week, whereby the BB failed to provide a word of coverage on the at-large council debate sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette, conducted Monday night at BCC. Moreover, twice they ignored the contentious Ward 6 debates, the first at PCTV on Oct. 23 sponsored by this website and the second The Gazette‘s at BCC. Think about this failure on the part of the daily newspaper toward citizens. It’s bad enough that the BB doesn’t take the lead in sponsoring debates, but its triple worse when it refuses to cover debates put together by other media. If you ever need proof that the BB is part of an overall effort by the GOB to keep citizens “barefoot and pregnant,” there it is.

The BB has presented little to no coverage of the proposed revision of the city charter. To the contrary, the BB has led the way in (a) suppressing interest in the election, (b) guaranteeing low turnout on election day, (c) assuring that most of the voters will be hard-core activists for establishment candidates, and (d) assuring what few “regular” voters bother will be as blind and uninformed as possible — unless they read The Gazette or visit THE PLANET.

Now comes another example of how The Boring Broadsheet ownership and editorial staff not only fails its duty to the public as a beacon of the local Fourth Estate but also readily throws its own under the bus when the local establishment doesn’t like what it prints. When the Fourth Estate becomes democracy’s Fifth Column, We The People suffer. You won’t find a peep of this in the BB or the North Adams Transcript.

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THE PLANET received a communication from one of our readers. The message began with this note:

When you were dealing with the Meredith Nilan issue, the local mainstrean dudes, Scribner, Farkas, Levine did nothing openly  to support you. Glad you are going to speak up for this guy. This may have been the work of the Eagle’s new publisher. More importantly,  how sad that our educators try to silence a voice. Not a good lesson plan.

It then included this article, written by Elizabeth Cleary on Oct. 25 in The Taos (N.M.) News:

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By Elizabeth Cleary | Updated 

For small-town newspapers, striking a balance between reporting the news and maintaining rapport with sources is often a never-ending challenge. Journalists must report on officials who they’ve known for most or all of their lives, and perhaps a source is a longtime advertiser with the paper. Reporters must ensure outside relations don’t color their stories, and any journalist worth her salt knows that slanting the news for the sake of appeasing a source is a big no-no.

But The North Adams Transcript, in North Adams, Mass., must have been absent for that lesson.

Last week, newly hired sports reporter Isaac Avilucea wrote a story about a high school soccer player who transferred from a school called Mount Greylock to the McCann Technical School.

In the story, Avilucea paraphrased his source, who said the academics and athletics at McCann were inferior to those at Mount Greylock. She explained that she transferred to McCann because the girls at Mount Greylock weren’t nice to each other. Avilucea included a quote in the story in which the source compared the Mount Greylock girls to the movie “Mean Girls.”

School officials at both schools weren’t happy about the article: McCann’s people didn’t like that their programs were called “inferior” and Mount Greylock didn’t like being painted as a “mean girl” school. So they complained to the editor of the Transcript. The editor’s response? He fired Avilucea, who relocated from New Mexico to Massachusetts less than a month prior to take the job a the Transcript. The editor-in-chief and sports editor jointly wrote an editorial in the paper apologizing for all of the “harm” the article caused.

I admit, Avilucea is a close personal friend of mine, but anyone with any sense of what it means to have journalistic integrity, or quite frankly, anyone with a heart, should feel outraged by how the Transcript dealt with Avilucea.

In the end, Avilucea told me that the paper’s editor, Mike Foster, told him they simply couldn’t keep him on board because the superintendent had banned Avilucea from the McCann campus, and you can’t report on high school sports if you’re not allowed to set foot on the field.

I’m immediately reminded of an issue that arose in Española in early 2012 between the Española School board and the newspaper that covers Española, the Rio Grande Sun. The school board and superintendent of schools there said the education reporter failed to cover “positive” stories about the schools. Soon after such remarks were made, the superintendent mandated the Sun’s reporters had to ask her permission before they could come come on any of the school campuses. Reporters also had to disclose to her the subject of their potential story and send questions prior to interviewing sources at the schools. The superintendent, Evelyn Maruska, said she was enforcing a policy that had been in place for years, but Sun reporters said that in the past, all they had to do was check in at the schools’ front offices before reporting. Sun reporters said that since the policy was in place, obtaining such permission from Maruska had proven to be a challenge, The Albuquerque Journal reported.

As a result of the new regulations, the Sun pulled the plug on coverage of the high school sports team, The Sun Devils, until the restrictions on reporting were lifted. In the space where the paper’s sports coverage would have gone, the Sun printed photos of all the school board members as well as the superintendent, and urged readers to contact the officials and ask the policy to be changed if they wanted sports coverage back.

Instead of throwing their reporters under the bus for the sake of catering to school officials, as the folks in North Adams did, they sent a clear message to the school district and found a way to hold school officials accountable for their actions. The issue was, in the end, resolved.

The second we as journalists start sacrificing our colleagues for the sake of maintaining positive relations with sources, we’ve failed our readers and we have failed in our professions.

The Poynter InstituteBuzzFeed and local radio in Massachusetts have picked up on Avilucea’s story. On his blog, a journalism professor at Seton Hall University criticized Avilucea, saying he failed to attribute when he called McCann’s academics inferior, and said Avilucea should have handled the quotes of a “child” with more care. Perhaps these are fair points. But by firing the reporter, you’re sending the message to school officials that they, not the reporters and not the editors, get to dictate reporting in the newspaper.

Avilucea says he’s now seeking employment at other newspapers in the Northeast.

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 The BB and the Transcript, as you may know, are owned by the same company: The Media News Group, which, after bankruptcy, is owned not by a news company but by a holding company. The ownership of the BB and Transcript are, you see, not only twice but thrice removed from Pittsfield and North Adams, respectively. The local ownership doesn’t care about the city of its people. As their ever-decreasing circulations head to their inevitable crash landings, thoughtful citizens can only wonder what it must be like to have a daily newspaper that fights for right.
“Feeling alone, the armies of the road. Salvation a-la-mode and a cup of tea.” Ian Anderson, “Aqualung,” (1971).



  1. C. Trzcinka
    October 30, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    This is a good article by Elizabeth Cleary in the Taos NM News about the sleaze at the North Adams Transcript. The Eagle and Transcript are writing their own script for their demise. Who would pay attention to newspapers that censor the truth? The reporter didn’t express an opinion but reported on the opinions of others. There is no excuse for this. Here in Bloomington we have competition between the student news paper– which squelches nothing–(I could use a little less GLBT coverage) — and the local “Herald Times” which gets hammered if they don’t cover something. The IndyStar also covers Bloomington which adds to the mix. Journalistic ethics needs to be enforced by competition and transparency.

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Correct-a-mundo. The reporter gets canned for reporting! This incident aptly sums up the state of the newspaper once known as The Berkshire Eagle and the company that runs it.

  2. dusty
    October 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    It is really rather difficult to find a newspaper of this size that is so lacking in content and or educational value. I wish the people of Berkshire county would just stop buying the damn thing for a couple of months and let it die the death it is begging for. Is there a Kervorkian equivalent for newspapers?

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      The Kevorkian equivalenti is plummeting circulation.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      Great idea!

  3. amandaWell
    October 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Dear Pappy, Little Pedro,and the Bearded Wonders! It is time to get the big loss tonight. I have waited long enough to see the look of losing the big game, tonight is the night. I want to see the scour on your brow, not unlike when Barry gets admonished by little Missy at a council meeting, or when the mayor gives a wrinkled brow while admonishing councilors for asking to many questions.
    But wouldn’t it be a sight to see a look of unpondering disbelief, not unlike when J Lo was told that there were no hot dog buns left after ordering a hot dog at the ol ballyard’. That is what is going down tonight oh might Pappy

    • jlo
      October 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Amandawell – what a sourpuss!

  4. amandaWell
    October 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    …cards take it to the limit!

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      They took it to the limit … of failure!

  5. amandaWell
    October 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    The Cards showed class Amanda, maybe you could take a cue from all this. Let’s hope the Championship’ doesn’t go to our politicians heads. J LOW thinks he’s the Saviour of Red Sox folk lore. This ones for you, Pops!

    • joetaxpayer
      October 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Thought tonight’s game was going to a tough one. But since I saw your prediction, I knew it was over.Way to go Sox!

  6. Giacometti
    October 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    AmandaWell…how do you explain Big Poppi winning the MVP award…boy you really are out of touch…I’d comment more but I have an appointment back on earth…AmandaWell get a life !

  7. Tim
    October 30, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    What does an editor do? Don’t they read, revise, and or approve stories? He should have sensed the political backlash and censored the story first… Or he should have suffered the same fate. Instead he keeps his job. I kind of agree with the seton hall prof to some extent… A child said it, so consider the source but i say take it another step forward and try to spin it into a bigger story to your editor, interview more students, teachers, etc. that way you can at least get quotes that show the other side, but make the lead part of the story about the inferior teams and mean girls… By the way, none of that is a secret.

    Shame on the coach and parents for not prepping the girl for potential interviews. Is it refreshing to heart he truth and controversy? Yes, but find other ways to express it that wont interfere with what your teammates are trying to accomplish in this season, or the rest of the school year. Simply stating that you like the atmosphere better and hope you can help the teams excel beyond last seasons record or something would do it from an athletic perspective.

    Also this quote is hilarious: “Mike Foster, told him they simply couldn’t keep him on board because the superintendent had banned Avilucea from the McCann campus, and you can’t report on high school sports if you’re not allowed to set foot on the field.” Neither paper attends the majority of athletic events. Transcript seems to be better, but still, clearly attending the events is not a requirement. They take the vast majority of stories over the phone from the head coach of the home team. Rarely even checking with visiting coach for simple things like spelling of names. The excuses for lack of attendance and follow up are of course endless. Ive even been sitting next to a head coach who called in the only varsity action in any sport, county wide, of the day. The reporter, now the BB sports editor, picked up the phone and immediately hung up when discovering who it was. Coach called immediately back and had to leave the story on voicemail. Story wasnt even printed next day. If that gets you promoted, no wonder the printing of a students opinion can get you fired.

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

      Mike Foster is now no longer with the Transcript! Story tomorrow.

  8. MrG1188
    October 31, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    I don’t completely disagree with the esteemed Seton Hall journalism professor. I think if the reporter was going with a critical story perhaps some further confirmation and attribution was in order. I do disagree with Tim above. I credit the kid for speaking the truth rather than giving a sanitized, scripted response. The press-release/press conference answers make almost ALL journalism tedious to write and boring to read; think Bill Belichick or ANY politician. The unfiltered truthful answers are enlightening, refreshing and frankly, as Tim says, the truth! Isn’t that what journalists are supposed to be pursuing? I would also think the journalist, via the resources of his paper, would have some legal recourse to being banned from public property. The fact that they chose to can him rather than back him up is truly cowardly and preposterous.

    • Tim
      October 31, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      I agree that the reporter should be seeking more from the athlete, as an athlete and a coach i think the athlete should have kept the comments somewhat more guarded, if only for the sake of her team and teammates to keep focus on the field.

      I dont think it came across that way, but i definitely see it both ways. Its a fine line we all have to walk, readers, reporters, and sources/interviewees. I dont completely agree or disagree with seton hall prof, but i do to some extent like you said. As a coach i think the athlete should have been better prepared, there are ways to say it without being controversial or distracting the team… But as a reader of course you want the dirt. And you actually do want reporters getting the dirt. But reporters have the responsibility to check facts or get opposing viewpoints, counterpoints etc.

  9. Ed Shepardson
    October 31, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Isaac Avilucea ‏@IsaacAvilucea 24 Oct

    Was just told Michael Foster, editor-in-chief of The Transcript, resigned.

  10. eddiep
    October 31, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    It’s a shame they can’t see the forest for the trees. The bb doesen’t know just how bad they really are.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      Hoping they find out and straighten out before they get what they deserve.

  11. MrG1188
    October 31, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I think they know Eddie…they just don’t care. I know first hand that they feel they have a “protected monopoly” which allows them to do whatever they like. Their readership has nowhere else to turn, and the possibility of competition is remote at best.

  12. Bill Sturgeon
    October 31, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    It never ends believe me! More to come from the “Fat Man”!

  13. Billy
    October 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I wake up every morning in Pittsfield and wonder why certain political figures propagandize others for their own self interest?
    I have watched mayor transparency tell The citizens of Pittsfield that there were certain political figures in the city that were the reasons for his lack of accomplishments after two years in office. The man told you Dan that his accomplishments are what turned foes into friends yet he does not tout his record on the highest mountain top? The man. Has chosen to attack fellow political figures who have established records of service to their wards for his lack of a record of accomplishments.

    I then witnessed. The most disturbing lack of professional demeanor in politics at the Ward 6. And at Large debates.
    Joe Nichols not only falsely accused John Krol Of never meeting with the mayor in two years and was swiftly proven wrong but was still unapologetic in his venomous attack.Joe then accused his opponent of lacking integrity and boasted no one could ever question his integrity .He then stated he never voted against the light at Onota st. Newsflash: I would then steer the self proclaimed pizza slinging pillar of truth to former councilor Mike Ward Facebook page. For a video showing his vote against it for all to see.

    If that wasn’t. Bad enough for the night Councilor Mazzeo spent her opening and closing statements bashing her colleagues For her demeanor and her lack of accomplishments while in office. I’m sure she blamed them for gum disease as well.She apologized for being so negative. But continued her tirade the next morning in the Eagle editorial instructing the city that she alone was able to discern the motives of her colleagues and the direction the city should follow.? That is the most brazen dysfunctional display I have ever witnessed in recent memory.

    I would offer the mayor as well as Councilors Mazzeo. And Nichols. To pay for a web page to display their multiple accomplishments but The multitude of viewers coming to the sight might mistake it for a whiteboard.

    I believe it was President William. Jefferson. Clinton that said when you are running away from your own record you run on attacking others

    • C.J.
      October 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Billy, No one spews hyperbole, preverifications,and opinionated half truths quite the way you do. What’s your beef ? To my limited knowledge, there was only one perfect one to walk on earth. His initials are J.C. Are you claiming to be him ?
      A challenge. Call the mayor’s office, talk to his secretary, who keeps a log of the mayor’s appointments and visitations. You may discover that John Krol only meet with the mayor on a one to one basis on 1/13/12, just after his inauguration.And guess what he wanted ? To ask that the mayor keep another councilor’s family member in an appointed acting job. GOB networking,

      • dusty
        October 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        Now there is a story that is not hard to believe. That would be the guy I see taking care of another GOB buddy. Wish I had the opportunity to vote against him and all his signs.

  14. Ron Kitterman
    October 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    As Bill Murray in the movie meatballs , ” it just doesn’t matter “

  15. Bill Sturgeon
    October 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Ron: I think that you are right, “it just doesn’t matter”! I think that the people are just fed-up with politics and politicians, from Washington to Pittsfield.

    The “Powers To Be” work to silence anyone and everyone they cannot control or whose opinions they can’t mold. Freedom of Speech is becoming a lost right!

    • scott
      October 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Like president Obama saying you can keep your existing health care but now hes saying “those are old plans just shop around” Glen Beck annoys me but hes right on sometimes. Not today though he questioned if Christians should even celebrate Halloween when there’s such important issues right now that deserve our full attention then followed up with an hour of Poe stories which I personally enjoy and whats with calling gas station clerks and insulting and mocking them due to.their lack.of knowledge or ignorance not very Christlike.

  16. scott
    October 31, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    I asked an eagle editor flat out once is it eagle policy to not cover certain stories to the potential advertising loss. Of course they wont admit that but it sure was fun asking. Of course like with everyone else around here its all off the record.

  17. Linda
    October 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Fortuntaley we still have DV and THE PLANET. They can’t control him. They can’t mould his opinions. He literally went to court to stand up for Free Speech and Free Press.

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      EDDIE: As MRG says, “They know … they just don’t care.”
      FAT MAN: Can’t wait for the “more.”

  18. Nota
    October 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Dan over 7700,that’s thousand, MA state employees pull down over 100,000 or more, any comment Planet?

    • dusty
      November 1, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      And it would not surprise me if 7000 of them were related one way or another.

    • Thomas More
      November 1, 2013 at 6:10 am #

      18 of ’em “work” at BCC – the retired pres pulls down $125,888.88 per year

  19. Ron Kitterman
    November 1, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Well one ray of hope The Planet receives more hits on it’s web site than than the 6 people who signed up for Obamacare on the first day of operation. This according to internal notes from the W.H. All without taxpayer funding too, I might add.