New England Newspapers Inc. publishes three daily newspapers — The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.); the Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vt.) and the Brattleboro Reformer (Brattleboro, Vt.) — along with one weekly, the Manchester Journal (Manchester, Vt.)
New England Newspapers Inc. traces its origins back to the Western Star, a weekly newspaper founded in 1789 in Stockbridge, Mass. That paper changed its name and place of publication several times, as well as its ownership, but it was a continuously operated enterprise, which eventually became the weekly Berkshire County Eagle in 1852.
Kelton B. Miller, along with several partners, purchased that paper in 1891. The following year, on May 9, 1892, it began daily publication as The Berkshire Evening Eagle. Miller soon bought out his partners, and the paper remained in the Miller family until 1995.
The Millers purchased several other newspapers along the way, including the Bennington Banner in 1961, the Brattleboro Reformer in 1969, and the Manchester Journal in the early 1980s. They also launched a commercial printing division in 1961.
Over the years, The Berkshire Eagle and its sister newspapers became very highly regarded. In 1973, one of the Eagle’s editors, Roger Linscott, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writing, attracting national attention to the Millers’ newspapers. The Eagle became an attraction for journalism school graduates starting their careers, and many of those reporters went on to renowned careers throughout the journalistic world in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine and others.
MediaNews Group, based in Denver, purchased these newspapers from the Millers in 1995. MediaNews added the North Adams Transcript to the group in 1996. The Transcript was merged with the Eagle in 2014. MediaNews Group, itself, was combined with other entities to form Digital First Media.
In 2016, a group of Berkshire-based investors purchased New England Newspapers Inc. from Digital First Media. The original ownership group consisted of:
- Stanford Lipsey — Publisher Emeritus of The Buffalo News
- Hans Morris — managing partner of Nyca Partners, a venture capital firm in New York City, and a part-time resident of Stockbridge
- Fredric D. Rutberg — former Berkshire County attorney and judge who resides in Stockbridge
- Robert G. Wilmers — The longtime chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., and part-time resident of Stockbridge.
Stanford Lipsey died in November 2016 without ever having the chance to visit New England Newspapers. His share of the enterprise has passed on to his wife, Judi Lipsey.
Robert G. Wilmers died in December 2017. During his tenure as a co-owner, Mr. Wilmers won the respect of New England Newspapers Inc. employees for having learned the business through his genuine effort to know about them.
The board of directors of NENI currently consists of Hans Morris, Fredric Rutberg and Judi Lipsey — plus Martin C. Langeveld, who was long associated with the company’s newspapers under the ownership of both the Millers and MediaNews Group.
Under the Millers, The Eagle, Banner and Reformer were considered to be some of the best small-market newspapers in the United States. In fact, famed press critic Ben Bagdikian told Time Magazine, in an Aug. 28, 1972 story, that he believed there were only three great newspapers in the world: The New York Times, Le Monde of Paris, and The Berkshire Eagle.
The current owners have re-established journalistic excellence as a goal, with the vision of publishing the best group of community newspapers in America. To do this, we will continually strive to improve the quality of the news and features we publish. If we can publish great newspapers, both in print and online, increased readership and advertising will follow.
Berkshire County is a unique spot that attracts, by virtue of its natural beauty, cultural traditions, and proximity to major intellectual hubs, artists and writers of international repute.
Over decades dating back to Miller ownership and before, many of the luminaries who reside in our community, as well as community leaders in various sectors, have contributed content to The Eagle.
Under the current ownership, an Advisory Board has been established drawn from this pool of leaders and luminaries, with the purpose of brining their talent to the paper in various ways: to contribute content, and to advise, inspire and instruct the news staff.
The Advisory Board meets at the paper’s offices from time to time to meet with and talk to our reporters, including attending occasional brown-bag lunches. Currently its members include:
- Oren Cass, Lenox resident, former adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
- Gregory Crewdson, award-winning photographer, Berkshire County resident.
- William Densmore, former owner of newsweeklies in Berkshire County, currently the principal of Densmore Associates, which provides services to companies, universities and individuals concerned with changing media ecosystems, resident of Williamstown.
- Shirley Edgerton, cultural proficiency coach for the Pittsfield public schools, organizer of many programs for the city’s youth.
- Linda Greenhouse, former NYT Supreme Court reporter, now instructor at Yale Law, resident of Stockbridge and New Haven.
- Charles “Chip” Joffe Halpern, currently executive director of Berkshire Area Health Education Center, formerly for 20 years executive director of Ecu-Health Care, assisting low-income people in securing insurance/care, in North Adams.
- Elizabeth Kolbert, resident of Williamstown, author of Pulitzer-winning book on effects of climate change, New Yorker staff writer.
- Wendy Linscott Lamme, lawyer in Great Barrington, resident of Egremont, past or current member of many community boards, such as Literacy Network, Community Health Program (formerly the Children’s Health Program) and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
- Richard Lipez, resident of Becket, Washington Post book reviewer, former freelance editorial writer for The Berkshire Eagle and author of a series of mysteries following the adventures of a gay detective.
- Daniel Lippman, Politico reporter and co-author of Politico Playbook.
- Yo Yo Ma, cellist, frequent performer with BSO, part-time resident of Tyringham.
- Don MacGillis, formerly executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle and national politics editor of The Boston Globe, member of the stewardship committee of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, resident of Pittsfield.
- Don Morrison, former Time/Life journalist, resident of Becket, Paris and Miami.
- Barbara Palmer, resident of Tyringham, director of the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey, formerly project director of an environmental organization in New Jersey.
- Will Singleton, native of Pittsfield who pursued a career in education in other states, including as superintendent of a New York state school district, then returned to Pittsfield and revived the Berkshire branch of the NAACP in 2012, serving until 2014.
- Jennifer Trainer Thompson, former senior vice president of partnerships and external affairs at MASS MoCA, now president and CEO of Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock.
- Joseph Thompson, director of MASS MoCA in North Adams.
- Eleanore Velez, resident of Lee, director of student engagement at Berkshire Community College, current or past member of the boards of Barrington Stage Company, Literacy Network and Berkshire Country Day School.
- Megan Whilden, resident of Pittsfield, director of the Oster Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, formerly cultural affairs coordinator for the city of Pittsfield.
- Simon Winchester, author of several best-selling non-fiction books, former reporter for The Guardian, and founder of a monthly newspaper in Sandisfield, resident of Sandisfield.
Mission: Encourage the people of Berkshire County to take steps to improve the quality of life and economic conditions for all, to vigorously exercise and protect the First Amendment, and to be the voice of the Berkshires without fear or favor.
The Berkshire Eagle editorial board consists of its president, publisher, editor and editorial page editor, and meets regularly. The editorial board meet with key office-holders, political candidates, civic leaders, policy experts, and others invited to present their views during on-the-record meetings.
The editorial board formulates the guiding editorial positions and ensures that these positions are stated clearly. The Eagle's editorials reflect the Berkshires' history, heritage, culture and entrepreneurial spirit.
The Eagle's editorials catalyze change, spur civil discourse, reward greatness and inspire action among the people of Berkshire County. The Eagle's opinions, while stated boldly, are consistent with its public service mission and are the voice of reason. The Eagle's editorials:
- Are regarded as well-researched with sourcing from our news stories, news services and our own independent sources;
- Are an independent voice on issues and never adopt the platform of political or partisan group;
- Add unique, persuasive points to current discourse on topics;
- Lead by taking positions urgently and seizing on opportunities in the local news to repeat and refine positions on our agenda;
- Are refined through collegial editorial board review prior to publication and seek excellence in every presentation, and;
- Use constructive points to encourage local, state, regional and national leaders.
The Eagle's energies focus most on local, regional and statewide concerns that then are articulated in the plurality (three of every five) of its editorials. As such, The Eagle's editorial voice and conscience is seen as the main convener and connector on issues of vital importance, including:
- Civility in life and discourse;
- Education – local and national;
- Local economic development issues;
- Environmental issues, and;
- Questions before local, state and national leaders and legislative bodies.
The Eagle's editorial values include intellectual honesty, integrity, and responsibility. Recognizing the impact of The Eagle’s editorial positions have in the community, the board gathers accurate information and examines in depth all sides of the issues on which we editorialize. The editorial page and the editorial board function independently from the reporting functions of the newsroom.
The Eagle has taken certain key editorial positions consistently, and the editorial board will endorse changes to those positions only after deep discussion and research leading to consensus. These positions include a general predisposition toward free expression, as well as leaning toward progressive ideas, environmental conservation, the encouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the promotion of tourism and cultural entities.