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'TalkBerkshires' Stifled

Staff Reports

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.

The press release can be found here.

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.

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Public Relations is Topic of Next Berkshire Visitors Bureau Forum

Staff reports

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Berkshire Visitors Bureau invites any business person in Berkshire County to attend its next forum on Wednesday, Feb. 14, when the topic will be public relations – specifically, participants are invited to "share (your) ideas and strategize messaging for the Berkshires."

The forum will take place from 3:30 to 4:30, at the Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183.

Forums are free and open to all businesses in Berkshire County; for a full schedule, click here.

Update, Feb. 24: Due to the weather, today's forum has been canceled. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

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Pittsfield Co-op Offers 'Basic Banking'

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Co-operative Bank has been designated a "Basic Banking for Massachusetts" bank by the Massachusetts Community and Banking Council.

It is a participating bank in a low-cost program designed to encourage state residents with modest incomes to open bank accounts and use banking services.

"It is our intent to serve the entire community and make our services available to anyone who wants them," said bank President Jay Anderson. "We're certainly happy to be recognized for our efforts to meet the needs of individuals with limited incomes who need a checking or savings account."

There are no eligibility requirements for Basic Banking accounts. Free checking accounts are offered to students up to age 18 and seniors aged 65 and older.

Pittsfield Cooperative Bank is a $235 million community bank with locations in Pittsfield, Dalton and Great Barrington. For more information: www.pittsfieldcoop.com

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Berkshire Enterprises Holding Free Business Breakfast Forum

Staff reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Enterprises is presenting the free business breakfast "Building and Maintaining Trust— One of the Keys to Successful Business," on Friday, March 5, from 7:30 to 9.

The forum will be a discussion of participants’ experiences dealing with others as customers, employees, bosses and business owners, with a look at what can be done to build and maintain trust. The forum will be lead by Steve Fogel, program director of Berkshire Enterprises.

The breakfast will take place at 1 Fenn St., on the third floor board room. Anyone who is interested in attending should register emailing Steve Fogel at sfogel@berkshireenterprises.com or by 413-441-3688 (cell). Space is limited and reservations are required.

 

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Job Summit Organizers Shrug Off Negative Press

By Tammy Daniels

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.

 

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