‘BORING BROADSHEET’ FOLDING OF TRANSCRIPT, CLOSING OF ADVOCATE LOOKS LIKE AN EXECUTION-STYLE HIT … plus … WILL INAUGURATION DAY INCLUDE A WRANGLE AND A TANGLE?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JAN. 6, 2014) — “What goes up, must come down. Spinning wheel, got to go round.”
There’s so much spinning now at the Boring Broadsheet that a coat of paint would dry in a Pittsfield minute. How else does a newspaper kill two of its nameplates — in this case the daily North Adams Transcript and the weekly Advocate — and pretend it’s being done for the benefit of its readers and will result in expanded coverage? Two less papers = “expanded” coverage. No way.
Thus, the BB again takes a steaming dump over what THE PLANET considers journalism’s first obligation, which is to the truth. As for its first loyalty, which should be to its readers, that went by the boards 18 years ago.
The Transcript will merge with the BB on Jan. 20, according to publisher Kevin Corrado, the newbie and outsider brought into specifically to engineer the hatchet job. All signs point to an overall plan, which will end in the death of the BB itself.
Just like that, 170-year-old Transcript disappears. The Advocate will simply vaporize into the ether on Jan. 16, joining Judge Crater and Ambrose Bierce in vanishing without a trace.
Corrado gave a creepy description of the move, likening it to conjugal bliss: The two dailies, he said, have “been engaged for a number of years, and now we’re making the marriage official.” To use his twisted analogy, it’s more like the murder of a dominant spouse over his or her weaker partner.” This is no wedding. It’s a liquidation, more of an execution — a gangland hit — than a slaughter.
The Transcript has been running on fumes since the BB took over with the intent of running it into the ground. A BB administrator with knowledge of the paper’s finances told THE PLANET that following the bankruptcy of BB parent Media New Group of Denver, Colo., the higher ups made the decision to wind down Transcript operations to get “huge tax write-offs against debt” during the time it took for the slow death to take place. Asked why the BB couldn’t be more straightforward about its plans, our source laughed and said, “Right,” as in “Are you kidding me? This paper? Do that?”
Here’s another embarrassing piece of spin that Corrado was ordered to dish out cold: ”These journalists will continue to do what they do best — and that is cover Northern Berkshire County. With this, The Eagle renews its commitment to serving the communities of Northern Berkshire County, while carrying on the longstanding tradition of being the voice for the region.”
When did a newspaper, or any local business for that matter, “renew its commitment” to customers by shutting down two branches?
The BB announced that the Transcript’s “current staff” would be absorbed into the paper’s Pittsfield newsroom. Clever. This pledge comes only after the publisher first fired a gaggle of Transcript employees prior to the shotgun wedding.
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The news of the Transcript/Advocate double execution was the lead story at newspaperdeathwatch.com, a site that chronicles the mounting woes of daily print journalism.
“The company is known for its practice of buying multiple newspapers in the same region and centralizing production, ad sales, business operations and even editorial operations to cut costs,” the website reports. “Some former staffers have complained that MediaNews sacrifices journalistic quality for the sake of profits.”
Indeed, according to sources at the BB, speaking on condition of anonymity, this is only the next in a string of many “internal changes” that will be made at 75 S. Church St. in the months ahead. Sources said changes would include hour reductions, pay cuts, job elimination, and “readjustment of benefits.” En ex-BB staffer let go last year told THE PLANET of a “massive layoff” on its way in 2014. Indeed, there’s a buzz floating in the newsroom that 2014 will be the last full year of the BB‘s operation as a print daily. Circulation and ad revenue continue to shrink, our source says, who adds that the recent changes in the online product (redesign and charging for access) “have thus far fallen well short [of projections].”
Corrado wrote this of the changes:
“We are raising the bar when it comes to news-gathering for our readers. In this era of digital media, merging the Transcript with The Eagle will enhance journalism’s viability in the Berkshires for years to come.
“By merging the news staffs into one coherent department, the result is a formidable news-gathering force delivering the quality reporting, breaking news and watchdog journalism that readers expect online and in print.”
… which is, of course, a crock of guano.
The BB is buying the farm and doesn’t have integrity or respect for its readers to level with them. If this is the BB’s version of “raising the bar,” what does falling into the porcelain commode look like? The answer, of course, can be found with each thinning daily product, both print and online versions.
“Formidable news-gathering force.” — Yeah, like the one that sacked its sports reporter after one day on the job for doing his job. When the Special Interests complained, the “formidable news-gathering force” through the young man under the bus.
In the end, it will not be the Internet that killed the Boring Broadsheet. It will be (a) its sale to a rapacious, profit-mad company and (b) its decision to get into bed with the power centers that it is supposed to fearlessly cover. The BB turned chicken. It lost its nerve. It abandoned its role as the lead carrier of the Fourth Estate. At its core, all good journalism should be constantly disturbing the peace. The local daily should be a watchdog of We the People‘s interests, not a lapdog of the GOB.
INAUGURATION DAY: A WRANGLE AND A TANGLE?
Today, Pittsfield swears in its new government. Stay tuned for the election of the council president, which will be Melissa Mazzeo over Jonathan Lothrop in a final score of 8-3. Our spies indicate she will select Chris Connell as her VP. Of course, there’s always the chance of last-minute maneuvering.
Also, the council adopts its rules for the new session. We wonder: Will that be the routine, straightforward event it has been for many years in the past, or will it end up in a wrangle and a tangle? If the latter happens, remember THE PLANET picked up on it first. Should that happen, it would provide a strong indication that the next two years are going to be stormy, with plenty of Palace intrigue to keep us all entertained. As always, the next two years boils down between a choice for good government and leadership or politics as usual.
MUCKRAKERS? YOU BET WE ARE:
Muckrakers are journalists who seek out and expose the misconduct of prominent people or of high-profile organizations — answers.com, 2013.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.