PITTSFIELD — Working in a 20th century newsroom located in a 19th century building was no longer practical for The Berkshire Eagle in 2022.
So with its lease at the Clock Tower Business Center set to expire in March, The Eagle’s management decided to give the area where most of the newspaper’s personnel are housed a completely modern facelift.
The result is an updated newsroom suitable for the 21st century that is located in the same space as the old one, which The Eagle has occupied since moving to the Clock Tower building in 1990.
“The goal was to give it a fresh, light, airy feel,” said designer Zack Sosne of Bramble Home, a design firm in Great Barrington.
On Thursday, more than 200 people came to The Eagle to attend an open house designed to give the public their first look at the new space.
“I think they’re fantastic,” said Judy Storie, of Pittsfield, about the renovations. Storie was familiar with the old newsroom, having worked on The Eagle’s copy desk for 39 years before retiring in 2008.
“Everything is so open,” she said.
The project, which took about a year from conception to completion, is the first complete renovation of The Eagle’s newsroom since the newspaper moved to the Clock Tower building from the old Eagle building on Eagle Street, and the first major change since the late 1990s when the newsroom was remodeled to bring the advertising department down from the building’s second floor.
Gone are the vertical rows of metal cubicles that served as desks; the large, clunky filing cabinets that held all manner paper files and assorted bric-a-brac; and the worn-out carpet that had covered the floor since The Eagle had moved in 32 years ago.
In their places are roomy workspaces for reporters and editors and advertising representatives, a new conference room titled “The Shed” — so named because of its custom-made barn doors — a small break room, new office spaces, custom woodworking, plants and polished concrete floors.
The old, stained carpeting was difficult to remove in some places. "We had to use commercial strippers," said contractor Eric Taylor of Restorations Inc. in Hinsdale. The concrete had been located underneath the carpeting and was polished by construction crews.
“The carpeting, obviously, had been there for 30 years,” said Berkshire Eagle President and Publisher Fredric D. Rutberg. “It was way past funky. Someone suggested polished concrete floors. It was suggested as a design feature, and everyone said it would look great.”
The idea for renovating the newsroom coincided with the expiration of The Eagle's lease with Clock Tower Partners LLC of North Adams, which owns the Clock Tower Business Center.
“Given all that’s happened in the world with offices, we don’t need all the storage space that we had before,” Rutberg said. “We don’t have miles and miles of files, all those things that are now stored electronically had been stored physically."
“We realized that we could give back the office space, then take that money and throw it back into making the facelift which hadn’t been done in years,” said Rutberg, who declined to say how much the project cost.
“We believe, and I think accurately, that if we want to be a 21st century newspaper we have to look like one,” Rutberg said, “to make the current newsroom into something that is more functionally conducive to the way people work today.
“That was really the driving force,” he said. “We put some social spaces in to let people move around a little bit more.”
Sixteen local firms worked on the project, and their work contributed to some of the newsroom’s unique features, Rutberg said. The work includes custom woodworking by New England Creations from Great Barrington, and custom metal archways by Whitco in Adams.
“We couldn't have done it without a number of local contractors that we used, and some of the unique elements that we added,” said Gary Lavariere, The Eagle's chief revenue officer.
“We’re really proud that we were able to do this for our employees, that we could bring them a much more modern and updated space.”
Sosne, whose younger brother, Ben, is the executive director of the Berkshire Innovation Center, is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design. Sosne worked in New York City from 2005 to 2018 before returning to his native Great Barrington and opening his own firm with his wife, Alison. The renovation of The Eagle's newsroom is his first major commercial project.
“The Eagle’s been in rough shape for a long time so we basically wanted to clear it out and then make it an open, airy environment,” he said. “We wanted to work with the elements that we had. One of the main things was getting rid of the old carpet and seeing what we could do with the concrete floor. The big part of that was polishing the concrete.”
Changing the work stations from a vertical to horizontal layout worked best with the space that was there.
“One of the big obstacles in that place is that columns are all over,” Sosne said. “Cubicles are kind of out of the picture now. We just did a lot of studying on how other companies are doing their layouts. Also, we were able to do it within our budget."
All of these new features were on display during the open house on Thursday, and they all received praise from those in attendance.
“It’s very updated and modern I would say,” said Lisa Turner, of Pittsfield. “I thought it was impressive.
“When I walked in, I said, ‘Whoa!'” said Ron Kujawski, The Eagle’s garden columnist, who was viewing the updated space for the first time.
Jack O’Brien, of Pittsfield, who worked in The Eagle press room for 40 years before retiring in 1995, said he “got lost” walking around in the new space. He liked The Eagle’s new press, which had been installed last winter.
"I’m impressed by the press, no pun intended,” he said.
He also liked the new newsroom.
“It’s great,” said O’Brien, who turns 86 this month. “Everybody seems to have their own little niche.”