Berkshire Eagle Parent Mulling Newspaper Sales
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Eagle's parent company revealed it may be looking to sell off all or parts of its newspaper business.
Digital First Media CEO John Paton announced on Friday that the company is using investment bank UBS to review "strategic alternatives."
"Strategic alternatives — what does that mean exactly?
"Well, it could mean we decide to sell the company. Or sell parts of it. Or expand it. Or stay the course," Paton posted on his blog.
It's been rumored the company has been trying to cut $100 million out of its overall operating budget this year.
DFM operates Digital First Ventures, 21st Century Media and MediaNews Group, under which New England Newspapers falls. The regional group consists of The Eagle and Vermont papers the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and the Manchester Journal.
MediaNews Group, based in Denver, purchased the local papers in the 1990s and declared bankruptcy in 2010. The newspaper group and the Journal Register group, which also had been through bankruptcies, were both acquired by Alden Global Capital; DFM was created to manage the properties and develop a digital strategy.
The results have been mixed. New England Newspapers closed the 170-year-old North Adams Transcript and the weekly Advocate in January. There also have been a number of layoffs and outsourcing within the local papers over the past few years, and a series of layoffs at DFM's other holdings over the past few months.
DFM in April shuttered its much ballyhooed "Thunderdome" news project and last month put a number of its newspaper buildings up for sale, including. Newspaper Guild staff working at some of its major properties have advertised for "local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms."
Paton, however, in his post said, "After a rocky five years, the newspaper industry is firmly back on its feet again."
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Digitial First Puts Vermont News Buildings on the Market
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Digital First Media, owner of New England Newspapers, is shedding itself of more real estate.
On the market along with The Berkshire Eagle Clocktower building are the locations of its three Vermont papers: Bennington Banner, the Brattleboro Reformer ($850,000) and the weekly Manchester Journal ($275,00).
The company announced on Tuesday it was putting 51 properties more properties on the market, for a total of 70 with a value of about $85 million, according to reports in the Denver Post, DFM's flagship paper.
In a press release from Twenty Lakes Holdings, the company's real estate management firm, posted on Poynter, Steve Rossi, president and chief operating officer of Digital First Media, said the strategy was to free "the company from the constraints of being overburdened with underutilized properties."
Real estate broker Praxis Commercial has the listings and prices on its website but not for the Banner, which shows up on a list from Twenty Lakes acquired by Poynter.
Digital First has been asking $2.5 million for the Clocktower Building on South Church Street. Its also selling the Sentinel & Enterprise building in Fitchburg and a printing plant in Devens and the Troy (N.Y.) Record building.
The company shuttered the 15-year-old North Adams Transcript and the Advocate Weekly earlier this year and laid off a number of people.
It's been widely rumored that DFM is being forced to cut a $100 million from its operating budget and that it may be preparing newspapers, not just buildings, for sale. The company closed its much-ballyhooed Thunderdome in April. DFM, which took over management from bankrupt MediaNews Group, has some 10,000 employees and nearly 300 newspapers.
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Baldwin Brings Berkshire-style Talk to Florida
Sherman Baldwin in his new studio in Florida — the state not the town.
Former "TalkBerkshires" host Sherman Baldwin has found a home in sunny Sarasota, Fla., on WTMY radio.
The longtime radio host made his debut on "TalkSarasota" last week in the 3 to 6 p.m. spot weekdays. Baldwin said he's trying to the do same type of show he did in the Berkshires, focusing on local issues — politics, business and culture — with call-in questions. He said it's the only show of its type in the Sarasota market, the 73rd largest in the nation.
Baldwin hosted shows in Connecticut and Boston; he's best known around here for his morning program on WUPE a few years ago and his independently owned "TalkBerkshires" that premiered in 2009 after the Capital District station he was working at downsized. "TalkBerkshires" was a success on WBRK but died in a blaze of controversy.
The show was a favorite drop-in point for local pols and personalities who protested Baldwin's banishment from WBRK.
In any case, Baldwin toldhe needed to get back on the air and after a spot on Boston radio didn't pan out he landed in Sarasota.
"I get to go to the beach every day, it's beautiful here," he said. But he misses his WBRK studio, going to Teo's and his Berkshire friends. "I miss the Berkshires dearly. I miss it every day." And while he was a brand name up here, it's been harder to land the big the interviews down South. "I was well known in the Berkshires so getting someone on the line was easy, now the say, 'Sherman Baldwin who are you?'" he laughed.
If you know Baldwin, you know he doesn't take no for an answer. Less than two weeks on the air he's already landed Gov. Charlie Crist.
"I'm doing what I love and that's radio," he said.
We're glad to hear he's back on the airwaves and wish him lots of luck.
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New Owner, New Direction for Berkshire Direct
Allen Jezouit has big plans for Berkshire Direct Inc. Jezouit and a partner (who won't be revealed until next week, he says) purchased the 9-year-old direct-mail company from the Storey family last week.
"We plan on expanding our marketing services to better serve our existing clients and to help local and regional businesses, organizations and nonprofits with their marketing initiatives," said Jezouit.
Jezouit was brought on as vice president of business development last September after four years as marketing director for Redstone Properties and more than 18 years in sales and marketing with Praxair Inc. Since his arrival, he's been moving the company's direct-mail foundation to incorporate multiple platforms for local and national clients.
New services include Web site design and development, Web marketing, mail-fulfillment, e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, social media services, video production, television commercials, and a full-service sales and marketing consultancy. The team will provide new types of leads for businesses that once relied on newspapers and direct mail.
"We haven't done much advertising yet, it's all word of mouth, and we're swamped," said Jezouit on Tuesday.
Berkshire Direct is an outgrowth of Storey Communication's Gardener's Marketplace, which operated for more than 36 years. Storey Communications, founded by Martha and John Storey of Williamstown, sold the publishing company to Workman Publishing; Berkshire Direct was operated by them and then their son, Matt. The Storeys will continue to collaborate on some projects but Matt Storey will no longer be involved.
Jezouit said he and his yet-to-be-named partner have "both worked for big companies and we're bringing that expertise to small companies."
Local clients include Northern Berkshire Healthcare, MountainOne Financial, Williams College, Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, Williamstown Youth Center, Ioka Valley Farm, Williamstown Physical Therapy, Boston Investor Communications Agency, and New England Landscape and Aquatics. Also on the client list are Camp Dudley YMCA of Westport, N.Y., the longest-running summer camp in the country, National Patient Safety Foundation of Boston and Bucknell (Pa.) University athletics.
"It's definitey mine now and we're just going to grow the heck out it," Jezouit said.
For more information, contact Jezouit at 413-458-1721 or BerkshireDirect.net.
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Baldwin Leaving 'TalkBerkshires' & Area
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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