A Letter from the President: News, notes and updates on The Eagle
I would like to give you some details on what has been happening here over the recent weeks and how it affects you.
Last month, I told you that The Berkshire Eagle has started to redesign both its print and the online editions, and I asked you to participate in an online survey. Thanks to the responses you made to our survey, we believe that the redesign will be better and the content of our publications will be more interesting and attractive to you.
I also mentioned that we began to do our own page composition of The Eagle in Pittsfield again, after years of it being put together at a remote site where lots of other publications also were assembled. This change meant that we were able to hire five new full-time employees, including several recent MCLA graduates, to do this work. We can now make the paper look more like we, and hopefully you, want it, not the way someone who has never set foot in the Berkshires thinks it should.
This in-house control has also given us the flexibility to "hold the presses" to include in-depth stories and photos of last week's devastating mill fire in Pittsfield. Previously, this important news would not have been reported in print until Wednesday.
On a happier note, this capability will allow us to extend our deadlines in the future to include more breaking news of governmental votes and meetings, cultural events and sports scores.
Editorially, last weekend's editions were also a break from recent tradition. First, we editorialized in the contested primary election races for state Senate and Legislature. In the past, The Eagle did not publish its opinion on primary election candidates except where the winner faced no opposition in the ensuing general election.
After consideration, we concluded that the two primaries being contested on Thursday were both important and rare. Consequently, our readers deserved to learn who we think would be the best among those candidates. In doing so, we took the risk that the candidates we endorse in the primaries may not be the candidates we endorse in the general election; however, we believe that you, our readers, are sophisticated enough to understand how such a result is both possible and consistent with our job to endorse the best candidate for the particular election.
We also made an unusual editorial decision when we chose to endorse Hillary Clinton for president of the United States two months before the election. Traditionally, newspapers wait until just before an election to endorse. However, as the editorial stated, we think that this election is truly unique in that a major party has nominated a candidate who we believe is unfit to hold such a high office.
Two months' time will neither remove the barriers to fitness nor prepare Donald Trump to be president. Therefore, we decided to announce our decision now and join the vanguard of publications that are also choosing to break with tradition on this matter.
When my colleagues and I announced our purchase, our stated goal was to make New England Newspapers the finest group of community newspapers in America. We remain steadfastly committed to this goal. One of the major functions of a community newspaper is to act as a "town square" for that community. Whether or not you agree with our editorial opinions, I hope you view these changes in the context of making The Berkshire Eagle a more engaging town square.
As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fredric D. Rutberg is president of New England Newspapers.
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