Article

PLANET HAS PROVEN A MODEL FOR JOURNALISTIC SUCCESS AND MONEY-MAKING … QUESTION IS, THOUGH, WHO AMONG THE LOCAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA WILL DARE TO SUCCEED?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

Part 3 of 4

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, AUG. 27, 2014) — One thing has never changed about the news game. Pay close attention, all you would-be investigative reporters out there (don’t speak up all at once). THE PLANET is about to share the singlemost important piece of advice you will ever receive about enterprise journalism. It is a philosophical presumption you can and should make when going into even the most buttoned-down, lid-locked story. The presumption is this:

There are always people in the know, and almost always at least one of them will talk.

The “E” Revolution Has Changed the News Game

On the set of PLANET VALENTI TELEVISION (Photo by Dave Bubriski)

For every controversial issue, especially those involving law breaking and venality, there are always those who know what’s going on behind closed doors. Of these, some won’t like it. The internet, social media, e-mail and other electronic communications have made it easier than ever for these potential sources to actualize their involvement in clean government by telling what they know of the invariable double-dealing going on “in the name of The People.”

That new electronic capability has been the big game-changer, but it’s interesting how the local mainstream media acts as if it hasn’t realized this sea change.

As the only true local outlet that is not compromised by commerciality and advertising, THE PLANET has been able to “go where no local media dares to go.” As our coverage dared to look into matters left untouched by the mainstream media, our site has continued to grow.

The Experiment

The irony is that when we began THE PLANET nearly four years ago, we had nothing else in mind than to conduct an experiment. We started this site for several reasons:

1. It would become a daily writing exercise, like working out at the gym to stay in shape for the game. We had long been in the practice of filling notebooks with jottings and observations. With THE PLANET, we more-or-less formalized some of the journaling habit’s output into a more public offshoot.

2. We wanted to write extensively for the relatively new medium of the Internet to see how it was different than writing for print. The differences are dramatic.

3. We wanted to see if we could post a new, daily story and keep it going for a year. At first, we thought this would mean commenting on events. Soon, however, as potential news sources began to discover we were the only game in town to reside in the rarified air well above the unprincipled, untrustworthy intersection of local politics and media advertising, they began coming to us. We didn’t look for the news. The sources came a calling. This phenomenon has led to the addition of investigative work to our commentary over these four years, and counting today’s post, 1,035 columns in 1,422 days — a publication rate of 73%.  This is an output unmatched in this area’s modern journalistic history, the equivalent of 20 full-length novels over nearly four years primarily dealing with the public life of a once-proud city.

4. We wanted to see if we could start THE PLANET with zero exposure. THE PLANET didn’t even send out a press release. We simply began writing, relying on word of mouth. Over time, the traffic increased.  Along the way, several stories help put us on the map, including our work in the Peter Moore-Meredith Nilan case, when we went to court to fight, and win, a battle against censorship that attracted nationwide attention. Also, the sheer number of exclusives and scoops we have posted has made THE PLANET the “go to” site.

5. As we continued to post daily, we altered our experiment. THE PLANET wanted to prove that becoming relevant in the local press didn’t depend on capital investment. Rather, it depended on the quality of coverage.  For a generation now, as Pittsfield lost its manufacturing-based economy, too many major offices of public life have been taken over by what we collectively call The Suits — a relatively small handful of “Players” who have used their positions of importance and power not for the good of citizens but for “insider trading” to “take care” of a favored precious few. Our coverage has exposed some of this, proving there is relevance, and money to make, for any medium that consistently provides this type of content. We make no money off of THE PLANET., which we offer as a public service. Others who wish to make money, though, can do so with the model we have proven. All it takes is talent, determination, fearlessness, the backing of upper management, and a set of Big Ones to look behind the curtains The Suits insist must stay shut “for your own good.”

To the Local Press: Give ‘We The People’ a Reason to Trust You

We won’t promise to keep THE PLANET going for any haul — short, medium, or long. We have run the experiment and have proven our ideas. There are no more worlds in this particular sphere to conquer. One day, we will exit as we arrived, of a sudden. Be that as it may. Such is the life of the mind, ever on to the new challenge.

Until then, THE PLANET will keep on keeping on, excited but not hopeful for the day when a local medium takes our model and builds upon it.

Will anyone in the local mainstream media take up the challenge to own the community and make a fortune in the process?

The “platforms” of the news business have changed, but it still comes down to crusading. Citizens need to know they have someone in The Fourth Estate who will go to bat for The Little Guy.

——– 000 ——–

Tomorrow in our our finale, THE PLANET shares the inside story of a former Digital First employee who, as Howard Cosell would put it, “tells it like it is.” You won’t want to miss it.

——————————————————————————————

“Cause a man needs a woman to love him all the time.” — Johnny Horton, “North to Alaska,” theme song from the John Wayne film of the same name, (1960).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

13 Responses to “PLANET HAS PROVEN A MODEL FOR JOURNALISTIC SUCCESS AND MONEY-MAKING … QUESTION IS, THOUGH, WHO AMONG THE LOCAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA WILL DARE TO SUCCEED?”

  1. Jonathan Melle
    August 26, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    Maybe Dan Valenti’s journalist blog about Pittsfield politics will change things for the better in Pittsfield. The little guy is being screwed in our top-down politics of the 21st Century. Pensions have disappeared, wages have declined, there is no more job security for the average working stiff, healthcare inflation is out of control, higher education leaves students with so much debt they can’t buy their first home in their 20′s. Maybe there will be a revolution?

  2. C. Trzcinka
    August 27, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    It has been a nice run but keep in mind all of the issues not covered. The shooting in Morningside is the most recent. The Planet is a good government watchdog but there is more to life — and to the economy — than government. The press should also be covering important daily events. The business model needs to incorporate this too.

  3. dusty
    August 27, 2014 at 2:01 am #

    When the Pittsfield Gazette first arrived on the scene it was unveiling some negative political doings. That is why I subscribed. but then as they seemed to cower to the suits I dropped my subscription. I assume if you want advertising dollars in this town you don’t step on the toes of the connected business owners who are connected to the politicians. It is a powerful tool for the GOB.

    • MrG1188
      August 27, 2014 at 5:44 am #

      Hey Dusty, in my experience business people usually go anywhere they can make a buck. Dan has it right, and it is fairly simple; provide relevant, quality content (on any and all subjects, as it’s just as important to write about crime and senior issues and education as it is about government corruption, but Dan is just one guy!) which will attract an interested, committed audience which then attracts advertisers. I’m confident if Dan wanted to share his numbers, and they were solid, which I assume they are, and he wanted to open up to advertising, advertisers would line up to spend their money…because that’s where the people are, and that subsequently is where the money is!

      • dusty
        August 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

        I remember when the Gazette first came out. there were business s that would not carry the paper. I am pretty sure it was because they were not city hall friendly at the time. I am pretty sure they were told not to have it out with the conforming to the GOB rules Berkshire Eagle.

  4. Pussy Galore
    August 27, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    SQUIGGY CUBA RESIGNS?

    • Jonathan Melle
      August 27, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      NEWS ARTICLE:

      “Report: Jimmy Ruberto resigns as Westfield State trustee”
      Berkshire Eagle, August 27, 2014

      WESTFIELD — Former Mayor James M. Ruberto has resigned from the Westfield State University board of trustees.

      Jim Ruberto, who accompanied then-university President Evan Dobelle and 20 guests on a trip to Cuba last year, submitted a resignation letter to Governor Deval Patrick in May without stating a reason, the Springfield Republican first reported on Tuesday.

      Jimmy Ruberto, who served four terms as Pittsfield’s mayor, leaving office in 2011, joined the Westfield State board in June 2013, nearly three months after joining Dobelle and others on a trip to Havana that coincided with two exhibition games played by the school’s baseball team, the Springfield Republican reported.

      Dobelle, who also served as mayor of Pittsfield during the 1970s, resigned from the university post after six years in November, amid mounting criticism of his lavish spending as president, often on travel.

      Details on the trip became public recently following investigations by the state Inspector General and state Attorney General’s offices, both of which have challenged Dobelle’s spending.

      Attorney General Martha Coakley recently sued to recover nearly $100,000 in public funds allegedly spent by Dobelle on personal expenses.

      Dobelle has maintained that his spending benefited the university and any personal items charged to WSU-related credit cards were later reimbursed.

      Information from the Springfield Republican was used in this report.

  5. JerryPosner
    August 27, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    Always a great read, and I am continually impressed with the sheer volume of output. Excellent experiment, Dan. Kudos!

  6. Jonathan Melle
    August 27, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    MAYOR DAN BIANCHI’s Facebook post today (8/27/2014) –

    Let’s get the word out: tomorrow night, Rest of River Cleanup Public Input Meeting, Herberg, 7pm. This is your chance to provide feedback about the proposed EPA’s plan. Please read below for detailed information:

    On August 28th and September 4th, the City of Pittsfield will be hosting public comment meetings on the EPA’s Housatonic Rest of River Cleanup proposal. The meetings will occur at 7pm in the Herberg Middle School auditorium, 501 Pomeroy Avenue. Each meeting will begin with a brief overview of the EPA’s cleanup proposal and will then provide a time for the public to comment on the proposed EPA river cleanup plan. Community input will help inform Pittsfield’s comments to the EPA.

    Residents are encouraged to comment directly to the EPA by emailing, faxing or mailing their comments. All comments must be submitted by October 1st, 2014.

    Email: R1housatonic@epa.gov
    Fax: 617-918-0028
    Address: Dean Tagliaferro
    EPA New England
    c/o Weston Solutions
    10 Lyman Street
    Pittsfield, MA 01201

    • Sillence Dogood
      August 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

      the EPA is withholding information on the magnitude and impact of this project. The impact will be devastating to the river and those who live near it. It’s being proposed only to placate the envirochondriacts, the GE haters and to provide Job security to the local EPA.

  7. Gene
    August 27, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    The experiment we are all grateful for. Thank you DV.

  8. Dave
    August 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Exactly, Dan has “spies” who will give him info that they know he will publish, and keep their names secret. Those same people wouldn’t dare talk to the BB, even if the names weren’t put out there, certain people could probably get that info. Of course, if Dan needed hard to get info, would he trade a name of an anonymous poster for said info(wink wink nod nod), if his “spy” was disparaged in a particular post?
    Any thoughts on the $250,000 grant from the PEDA fund for the BIC? I think this may be the best investment from this fund since conception.