PITTSFIELD, Mass. — WBRK pulled the plug Tuesday on "TalkBerkshires" and its host Sherman Baldwin.
The local talk show has been airing over WBRK 1340-AM every weekday afternoon since last May. But Baldwin, an independent contractor with the station, said station President Willard "Chip" Hodgkins told him at 10:30 this morning that the show was being booted.
Baldwin said the break up was over related coverage of recent allegations of sexual abuse against Sheriff Carmen Massimiano. The sheriff's accuser, James E. Monahan, had briefly called into the show several weeks ago, but Baldwin said the firing was prompted by an appearance by local attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo on Monday talking about libel issues regarding the coverage.
"I'm still shell-shocked," said a subdued Baldwin late Tuesday. He said Hodgkins had offered to bring the show back after a period if he stuck to national news. "It was so clear what this was about."
It wasn't about his past, Baldwin was sure. The radio jock's been in the news for good and bad recently, as his involvement with Berkshire Money Management's Allen Harris in the Berkshire Job Summit last Friday prompted interest in his past troubles with the law.
Baldwin and his producer Michael Valenti are planning to speak to the press at noon at the Crowne Plaza on the talk show's future. Baldwin said he'll also be on "Good Morning Pittsfield" with John Krol on Wednesday morning.
The primary focus of "TalkBerkshires" has been on local issues, particularly those affecting the immediate Pittsfield area where most of this listeners work or live. It's a focus that Baldwin doesn't want to lose.
"I'm not going to give up without a fight," he said.
Update: Baldwin postponed his press conference until Thursday at noon because of Wednesday's snowstorm.
Update Thursday, Feb. 25: The press conference has been canceled on the advice of Baldwin's attorney. "I think this is best for TalkBerkshires," Baldwin wrote in an e-mail that was also posted on the Web site about an hour before the noon presser.
Baldwin wrote that more information will be released in the coming days. Baldwin and Valenti may attempt to Internet stream their program (Baldwin owns the Web site) but those plans are still up in the air.
Baldwin took to the airwaves last Friday to explain the circumstances that landed him prison.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The negative press on the principals isn't affecting Friday's Berkshire Job Summit in Pittsfield.
Allen Harris of Berkshire Money Management said Wednesday afternoon that a flurry of RSVPs this week had bumped the number of attending to more than 180.
"I've had more phone calls about Money Management in the last week than the last three months," he said. "It turned out pretty good."
The summit, focusing on the role of employers job creation rather than employment agencies, brings CNBC's senior analyst Ron Insara, Robert H. Nelson and P. Edgardo Tarratts of the Small Business Administration and marketing strategist Jonathem Salem Baskin.
Harris and fellow organizer Sherman Baldwin of WBRK talk show "TalkBerkshires" were the subject of an article in last Friday's Berkshire Eagle that delved into the two men's legal peccadillos.
Harris was ordered to pay $2 million to former employer Dion Money Management over a client list used to establish his business and was charged with misdemeanor assault over a bar fight in 1994.
Baldwin defrauded investors of funds to ensure the completion of the cult hit film "The Crow" after the accidental death of its star Brandon Lee. The film went on to make $400 million worldwide. Baldwin, however, ended up in federal prison in 1999 for nearly a year and is still paying off a fine.
Harris described the story as an insult. "It was presented like it was new news. It was stuff that was already talked about. It was literally old news."
Neither man has disputed the main facts of the article but both were concerned over its effect — and a paired story on local skepticism — on the summit.
On Friday, after a "press conference" discussing the past charges against him on his radio show, Baldwin said most of the response had been positive. (The entire program, with responses by Eagle writer Clarence Fanto can be downloaded here.)
Representatives of the Small Business Administration debated declining their invite to the summit because of the negative press but have remained on board, said Harris.
Both said they remained committed to $1.5 million in equity investment to the right business - Harris with $1 million through BMM and Baldwin in $500,000 in advertising. Harris said they haven't back away from the investment but did say it was pulled from ads because they focus was too much on them and not on the summit.
Harris is focused on the morning summit that will take the more than a 100 business leaders through Insana's analysis of current conditions, the SBA's available programs and how to bring it all together in branding with Baskin.
"People aren't going to create jobs to makes themselves feel good, they're going to create jobs because their business in growing," he said. "By being brave, by natural self-interest, jobs will be created.
"What we need to do is have a conversation with people on how to make 2010 a good year."
As for the fallout about revelations of his past: "People are calling and they're not saying 'you're a jerk.'"
Note: The Eagle stories will disappear behind a paywall so read them quick.
"Talk Berkshires" on WBRK 1340-AM is expanding its lineup with "Midday Live" hosted by local radio personality and Berkshires native Bill Sturgeon.
"We are excited about Bill coming onboard. He is the epitome of local talk radio and this is really good for WBRK and the community," said Sherman Baldwin, host of "Talk Berkshires," which launched in May and quickly became one of the more active media outlets in the region.
Baldwin says the "immense success" of "Talk Berkshires" made expanding an obvious next step in local talk show format.
Sturgeon's a criminal justice consultant, working with various divisions of the U.S.
Department of Justice for more than 25 years. His areas of expertise include management,
operations, training, security, emergency management, special operations and first-line supervision. He's also been an instructor and expert witness, and has written widely on security, terrorism, correctional
management, and emergency management. He is co-author of "No Time To Play: Youthful Offenders in Adult Corrections" and "Recess is Over: Managing Youthful Offenders In Adult Systems."
He's been hosting an open mike show on Mondays and Tuesdays on WBRK over the past year. Now he'll be heard five days a week from 10 to 1.
The addition of another block of three-hour local talk ("Talk Berkshires" runs from 3 to 6 p.m.) points to the committment of Baldwin and WBRK President Chip Hodgkins for local news coverage at a time when many stations are turning to canned music or nationally syndicated talk shows.
"We're bucking the trend by adding more local talk. It is an investment into our radio station and
the community," said Hodgkins.