After two decades in which dramatic changes rocked the newspaper industry, The Berkshire Eagle, which experienced all of those changes, has returned to Berkshire ownership.
During those years, a digital revolution quickly transformed a business that had been print-based for centuries. That revolution was accompanied by severe financial challenges that caused budget cutbacks and layoffs that were felt throughout the industry and at The Eagle and its sister newspapers. It constituted a trial by fire that in many ways steeled the newspapers that have come through it.
Financial setbacks combined with a brutal recession led the Miller family, the longtime owners of The Eagle, to sell the newspaper in 1995 to Dean Singleton's Denver-based MediaNews Group. That sale was accompanied by cutbacks, and the adjustment to those losses in personnel and to outside ownership was not easy. The Eagle, however, survived, which was not the case for every newspaper buffeted by industry-wide turbulence in recent years, and under MediaNews Group The Eagle continued to produce solid, Berkshire-oriented journalism.
When MediaNews Group came under the ownership of Digital First Media in 2013, more painful changes resulted as part of an industry-wide effort by newspapers to remain profitable in a time of declining print circulation. DFM, however, has been at the forefront of the necessary expansion of newspapers' footprint into the digital world, and expansion of The Eagle's website and its aggressive move into social media have put it in position to be at the forefront of this transformation.
There are, however, obvious advantages to local ownership that can watch local issues unfold firsthand and develop a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a community. Berkshire County, with its cultural attractions, physical beauty and proximity to New York City, has long benefited from the presence of residents who are able to back community spirit with financial wherewithal to make a major difference. The Eagle's new ownership team should make this kind if difference for The Eagle and by extension the Berkshires.
The Eagle, whose roots go back to the late 1700s, was owned by the Miller family for more than a century, since Kelton B. Miller purchased the paper in 1891. The Eagle now returns to local ownership, poised to build on its advances into the digital era and ideally to serve the Berkshires for many decades to come.