iBerkshires Celebrates 14 Years of Covering the Region
Doesn't sound like much but in the virtual world it's pretty significant.
iBerkshires.com is celebrating its 14th birthday today. (That's why there's balloons and candles all over our site and Facebook page.)
We're only 9 years younger than the World Wide Web. And we're among the oldest, if not the oldest, hyperlocal news site not attached to any other media, print or otherwise. Even the much-ballyhooed iBrattleboro.com (no relation) didn't go live until 2003.
iBerkshires has been a little bit of everything over the years, a mix of press releases, community bulletin board, citizen journalism, professional reporting, sports write-ups and lots and lots of photos. We were even, for a short period, aligned with a print partner, the now defunct Advocate.
Over the past seven or so years, our mission has become clearer and more focused: Providing the community with local news that matters most to them. We leave our competitors to worry about about what's happening far outside the borders of the Berkshires.
And we know that's a winning recipe because we've grown 74 percent in the last year alone!
We posted story No. 46,238 this afternoon (a scoop on St. Joe football); that's nearly 8,000 more articles since our last birthday party back in 2011 but it doesn't include all our sports stories, blog posts, obituaries and thousands of images.
Since spring 2011, we've covered some memorable news events: The devastating impact of Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, crashed the iBerkshires website (our Storm Center page has had 27,770 hits) and forced us to turn to Facebook to get the word out on flooding and road closures. It also provided our readers with a way to inform others about what they knew.
We proudly display our Community Recognition Award from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition citing our "impressively close to real-time" news reporting and the high level of citizen journalism.
More sadly, we also covered the tragic loss of Army Spc. Michael DeMarsico, the first North Adams resident lost to war since 1968 and the third Berkshire County resident within a decade, as well as the funeral of Army Spec. Mitchell K. Daehling of Dalton.
It hasn't all been bad news.
We covered the opening of MCLA's new Fiegenbaum Center for Science and Innovation. We got to celebrate Aunt Bennie Madigan's 114th birthday (she's got a century on us!) and look forward to our invitation to her 115th. We've spoken with Gloria Steinem, watched Billie Jean King lob tennis balls to Williams graduates, met with candidates running for statewide office and current state officials, covered dozens of business openings, school events and fundraisers, fires and accidents.
Our biggest story going into our 14th year is the demise of Northern Berkshire Healthcare and the closure of the 129-year-old North Adams Regional Hospital. The original post has more than 26,000 hits and we're working to keep North County residents up-to-date with continuing coverage of this complex issue in the coming weeks and months.
We've also updated our website and added hyperlocal portals for Pittsfield, North Adams, Williamstown and South Berkshire. Expect more changes in the coming months as we continue to innovate in how we provide news coverage.
What you won't ever have to do is pay to read the news at iBerkshires.com. That's thanks to the many local businesses and agencies that advertise on our websites.
Andy McKeever is now our Pittsfield bureau chief (contact him at amckeever@iBerkshires.com), working with correspondent Joe Durwin, and Rebecca Dravis has joined us as community and arts editor. Stephen Dravis is covering sports and Williamstown and Jack Guerino has come onboard to help cover North County, with a focus on Adams and Cheshire. We also have some great freelancers, photographers and columnists covering a variety of events and new salespeople.
As we celebrate 14 years and growing, we want to thank all our dedicated readers for making us so successful.
Remember, tell them you read it on iBerkshires!
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Opinion: Those Who Shall Not Be NamedThere has been talk that a hate group with a pattern of disrupting the funerals of servicemen and servicewomen may make an appearance at the funeral of Michael DeMarsico on Saturday.
iBerkshires has determined that it will not name this group, it will not photograph this group, it will not interview this group, should it appear, and it will not tweet about this group.
We will not allow this group to use us to further its mission or promote its website through search engines. Our colleagues may argue that this is news and should be covered. That is their decision to make.
This extended family preaching a message of intolerance seems to have a pattern of announcing protests, getting everyone in a tizzy and then not showing up. Last fall, they threatened to protest at the funeral of a Plymouth soldier killed in Afghanistan. They didn't appear, but did get news articles "explaining" their views and an explosion of social media centered on them.
That's a pretty good PR strategy. We're not falling for it.
If these people arrive, and usually it's just a few, what's the newsworthiness in interviewing them? Because they're holding signs? Because they're near a funeral? Because they're upsetting people on an emotional day? What will they say or do that will be different from what they've said or done a hundred times before?
It makes for a "hot" story but we're not all about the clicks. We cover Berkshire County, and the things important to the people of Berkshire County. And based on the incredible turnout on Wednesday, what the family of Michael DeMarsico is going through is important to Berkshire County. Burying North Adams' native son with respect is important to Berkshire County.
Those people are not.
The group has every right to protest; we strongly support its First Amendment Right to speak out, however distasteful. But it seeks coverage; it lives on grief and controversy and anger. We would prefer not to feed it. That is our right.
We would ask that people posting through Facebook also not use their name. We do not want it to be found on our website.
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iBerkshires Adds Facebook Commenting SystemiBerkshires readers will notice a change at the bottom of our stories (and soon to be at the bottom of our blog posts) to the use of Facebook for comments.
While we encourage vigorous debate, too often lately our comment sections have been taken over by readers who seem more eager to grind personal axes than engage in civil discourse.
In the old days, people would have to provide their name, address and contact number. We're hoping that using Facebook will keep people on if not their best, at least their better behavior. We also think it will make it easier for people to share articles and information.
We've also made it easier to share through sites like Pinterest and Linked-In. There's been a lot of concern about copyright infringement over posting things on Pinterest. We at iBerkshires have no problem with you sharing articles or photos that interest you on Pinterest or any other social site as long as you don't remove or cover our bylines or image watermarks. Our images and stories also won't disappear behind a paywall. So share away!
We do recognize that posters may be wary of posting with their real names. The old anonymous system is still there — you just have to click on "comments." If you use that system, remember that your comments are not automatically posted. There may be a delay of several hours, up to 24 on a weekend, before someone approves your words.
That system, too, will be changing. It's taking us longer than planned, but we will be moving to a registration system for the entire iBerkshires network, just like we've implemented on our hyperlocals. You'll still be able to have a username for posting but you'll have to let us know who you are.
Registered commenters will be able to post letters, photos, events on our calendar, poems, videos, etc. We're hoping that will create more engaged and active users in the iBerkshires community.
You can post any concerns or questions here or email me at email@example.com.
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Papers Implement Paywall; iBerkshires Still Free
Local newspapers operated by Denver-based MediaNews Group are going behind a paywall next week. The North Adams Transcript and two of the company's Vermont papers, the Bennington Banner and the Brattleboro Reformer, announced the new subscription service on Friday.
The regional flagship, The Berkshire Eagle, is apparently not involved in this round but will likely join the smaller papers if the experiment works.
Current subscribers of the newspapers will be offered a $19.99 year fee for online access; an online only subscription will cost $59.99 a year. You'll get five page views a month before the wall appears asking you to subscribe.
MediaNews Group has been looking at implementing paywalls for nearly two years, starting first in California and Pennsylvania last year. CEO Dean Singleton said in February that traffic at those papers has stayed steady but subscriptions haven't gone up.
The company is testing this newest paywall among many of its smaller titles, all at the same subscription rate.
What will continue to be "free" are the classifieds, obituaries and social announcements, all basically paid advertising sections. You'll also be able view headlines on the home pages.
MediaNews isn't alone in trying to find a way to make online news pay. The industry's been hammered by high overhead, declining circulation and an online landscape that's created a banquet of news sources for readers to browse.
Here at iBerkshires.com (which has absolutely no affiliation with the local newspaper group and which is locally owned and staffed), we will continue to provide news in as timely a manner as possible and we won't make you pay to read it. In fact, the iBerkshires family is growing with the addition of some truly hyperlocal sites like www.williamstown.com that we hope you will not only read but also contribute to.
The way we access information has changed dramatically in the past decade. iBerkshires is experimenting not with paywalls but with community forums that will allow readers to contribute content — an accident, an event, a neat photo. We're also working through our Facebook pages and Twitter feed to encourage readers to comment on and inform their neighbors on what's happening.
If you like what we're doing, then thank our advertisers by clicking on their ads and using their services. You'll be supporting local businesses, the local economy, and local news.
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iBerkshires Congratulates MCLA Grads
iBerkshires wants to send congratulations to two brand-new Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts graduates: Melanie Rancourt and Jonathon DelSordo.
Melanie (the one on the right) is a teacher in the North Adams Public School system and an occasional freelance writer for us. Her favorite subjects to write about: "Twilight," school activities and programs, and Northern Berkshire Relay for Life. We haven't seen much of her in the past year because she's been hard at work earning her master's degree in education. Congratulations, Melanie from everyone at iBerkshires.
Jonathan was our intern in 2009, though it seems just last year. The Richmond resident trucked his way up to North Adams in between summer break and summer work at The Scoop in Lenox and wrote some great articles on baseball, restaurants and roads. On Saturday, Jonathan received his bachelor of arts degree in English.
He wrote for the MCLA Beacon, and Class President Keifer Gammell in his address to the graduates used a quote from him. Jonathan, he said, had summed up MCLA experience: "All of us are different, unique and in no way are we the same as any one other person. That's what makes it so special: Being ourselves in a crowd of others who are different."
He said some very nice things about us when I spoke to him afterward. He's not sure exactly what he's going to do after this summer other than to travel, but I know he'll go far (and I'm happy to provide a reference if he needs one). Congratulations Jonathan from everyone at iBerkshires. Keep in touch.
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