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Baldwin Leaving 'TalkBerkshires' & Area

By Tammy Daniels

Sherman Baldwin and producer Michael Valenti discussed 'TalkBerkshires' future.

Sherman Baldwin is cutting ties with "TalkBerkshires" and leaving the area.

The embattled radio host announced his decision Friday afternoon to a handful of media and supporters at Chapters Bookstore on North Street, ending the short-lived radio show in its current form.

"I'm very disappointed. I really am ... but it's not to be," he said. WBRK pulled the plug on "TalkBerkshires" two weeks ago in a controversial move that had some Baldwin supporters crying censorship.

Baldwin, however, is hoping the independent program will be resurrected in some form with his producer of three months, Michael Valenti.

"I know he has the raw talent for it," said Baldwin of his young colleague to whom he's handing over the show. "I'll do everything I can to support him ... I cannot be clear when or where, but I do believe 'TalkBerkshires' will be on the air shortly."

But he said the call-in radio show's success will be more assured "without my personal baggage."

The 50-year-old radio personality went on the air in late May last year, swiftly becoming the go-to host as the local election season heated up. He featured roundtables and pared-down debates and sessions with Mayor James Ruberto and challenger Daniel Bianchi along with the numerous City Council candidates.

'TalkBerkshires' also hosted a debate between the 10 mayoral candidates and put the pressure on Bianchi to appear at the final mayoral debate just days before the election. He was proud of the comments of an older resident who told Baldwin he'd gone to the voting booth the most informed and educated he'd ever been because of listening to the show.

"TalkBerkshires" and its host also became active in local community efforts, such as the Hometown Committee and the search for a llama killer. (Baldwin said checks sent to him toward a reward won't be cashed until someone is caught.)

 

Valenti and Baldwin remain upbeat on the future.

For three hours every weekday afternoon, Baldwin has chatted up state and local politicians, lawyers, bankers and local businessmen, among others, growing sizable fan base  —  and critics.

Baldwin's involvement in the Berkshire Job Summit, a private endeavor in conjunction with major advertiser Allen Harris of Berkshire Money Management, led to public airing of Baldwin's "personal baggage" — his conviction on fraud charges in the late '90s related to finishing filming of the cult-hit "The Crow."

Not that he'd hid the conviction. In fact, he'd been featured in an Albany Times-Union article on ex-cons trying to move on with their lives during his brief stint there on WROW the year before. But the story was mostly unknown in the Berkshires.

The troubles piled on —  the job summit generated controversary and stepped on established toes and what Baldwin calls the "Massimiano saga" seems to have been the last straw for station owner Willard "Chris" Hodgkins.

Baldwin had taken a call a month before from James E. Monahan, who is accusing Sheriff Carmen Massimiano of molesting him nearly 30 years; two weeks ago, a related segment on libel claims against The Berkshire Eagle by Massimiano with both local lawyer Rinaldo Del Gallo and Clarence Fanto, former Eagle managing editor and now a freelance writer.

He said Hodgkins not only knew about both two call-ins, he approved them; the next morning, however, he was fired.

Baldwin said he has no hard feelings with the Hodgkins, though he simply said "no comment" when asked if he was pursuing legal recourse. He and Valenti were also mum on where they've been shopping the program.

"It was clear to me that 'TalkBerkshires' had a definite purpose in the community," said Valenti. "It gave an opportunity for a dialogue to exist. I think we made a believer out of a lot of people.

"It would be a shame not to continue the name."

The headlines may have helped Baldwin; he's already talked to two Boston stations.

"I do talk radio. It's really who I am ... at 50, I've learned that when I'm out of talk radio is when I've had more trouble in my life," he said, adding "I was pleased to hear that I have created enough of a name for myself in Massachusetts that it could continue to be my home."

Baldwin had hoped to remain in the Berkshires, where he arrived just a few years ago as a morning DJ on the local Vox stations. But a bigger market might be more suitable, without the  "increased sensitivities" of a smaller community.

"I thought I would be here forever. That's not the case but it'll be a part of me forever," said Baldwin.

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