Our Opinion: Berkshire Record suspends publication

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The decision of the weekly Berkshire Record in Great Barrington to suspend publication is a blow to Berkshire journalism. Readers need many media voices, and the Record has been one.

The culprit, of course, is the COVID-19 virus, which by triggering the closing of non-essential businesses in Massachusetts, has deprived newspapers, including the Berkshire Record, of critically needed advertising revenue. As a South County publication, the Record relies to a large degree on advertising from area cultural institutions, and the critical summer season approaching will be a truncated one at best. This impacts the taverns, restaurants and lodging establishments that also advertise. But the suspension also emphasizes the generally precarious state of print journalism today.

The announcement of the suspension was made Thursday by publisher Anthony Prisendorf and his wife Donna in a note to readers on the paper's cover. ("Berkshire Record to suspend publishing weekly newspaper amid pandemic strain," Eagle, May 1.)

The paper's 10 employees have been furloughed but Mr. Prisdendorf said in a phone conversation that the weekly will maintain its office on High Street and is not taking down its website.

The Prisendorfs opened the Record in 1989 in a vacant storefront on Castle Street. For Mr. Prisendorf, who covered Watergate as the Washington bureau chief of the New York Post, running a weekly "used to be every journalist's dream." Its reporters cover all the South County communities and its ambitious sports coverage suffered a big hit with the cancellation of the spring high school sports season when the schools were closed. The Record also publishes the Berkshire Record Magazine three times a year and two Summer Guides.

By suspending publication rather than closing the weekly, Mr. Prisendorf is hoping for better times ahead. He acknowledged that the summer plans of Tanglewood, which has yet to make an announcement about its season, will have a considerable impact on any forthcoming decisions.

"I hope the Record's not going to be one of those coronavirus casualties," state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat who represents South Berkshire, told The Eagle.

We share that hope.

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