Published: Thursday, April 21, 2011 11:30PM
"The publisher barred us from reporting the awful details in the CEO story" writes Conor M. Berry, former senior crime reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, explaining how The Eagle's publisher and CEO, Andrew Mick, directly interceded to limit not only the scope of Mr. Berry's reportage but also exactly which details were to be given to the public (and, more importantly, which were not) regarding two pedophilia cases involving Angelo Stracuzzi, one of Berkshire County's then most powerful civic, political, and business figures.
Mr. Stracuzzi was also CEO of a bank the advertising dollars from which were (then and now) largely responsible for keeping The Eagle afloat.
Andrew Mick, Publisher and CEO, The Berkshire Eagle
The following is Mr. Berry's revealing discussion (posted to PlanetValenti) about what transpired at The Eagle when he became aware of the original criminal charges filed against Mr. Stracuzzi by police in Biddeford, Maine, which allegations included multiple counts of 'Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor' involving boys whose ages at the time were approximately 15 and 13 years-old:
"You win: So, I’m feeling some pressure, as a reporter, to peel the onion further, especially since the “citizen journalists” of the online world are mentioning the awful, tawdry details of the Greylock CEO case and I haven’t written word one — though I did, in a rather delphic way, allude to some bizarre sets of circumstances.
"Didn’t the CEO’s mother warn him against picking up hitchhikers?!
"I was originally told, point blank, by two well-placed law enforcement sources that the underlying charges, the ones The Eagle avoided covering initially, stemmed from allegations that the CEO in question solicited sex from a group of boys or pre-teens up in Biddeford, ME.
"At that point, I had no idea the allegations stemmed from two separate incidents spread over two evenings. I actually learned that from you, Mr. Heller. My source said, and I quote: “He offered money to some boys for a [blank].”
"Once I learned of the disposition of the case from Maine law enforcement officials, I was disturbed by the underlying charges — the ones that were dismissed by the state of Maine.
"I was fully prepared to report on these original, more disturbing charges, but my editor told me to hang tight until he ran it by the publisher (understandably, my editor didn’t want another Massimiano story on his hands, and frankly I didn’t want to be maligned in another full-page color ad in my own paper! Incidentally, what kind of thought goes through a publisher’s head when he accepts $20,000+ for an ad mocking his paper, his editor and, arguably, the only reporter at his paper who was asking any intelligent questions?).
"Hold on, Heller, here it comes: The publisher barred us from reporting the awful details in the CEO story.
"I was told by my editor that, according to the publisher, if the bank CEO had incurred more recent charges, whether they be in Maine, Connecticut or Massachusetts, for that matter, we could proceed. But we were NOT to focus on charges that were, by then, already a half-dozen years old. Particularly charges that weren’t ultimately pursued by the state of Maine, but rather dismissed by the state of Maine.
"I’ve alluded to all of this before, Mr. Heller, but you apparently weren’t satisfied with my allusions.
"Not for nothing, but this sort of back-and-forth discussion is nothing new in the world of newspapers, but rather something that boils down to “news judgment.” I’m sure you’ll have a field day with that phrase, but every paper in America, depending on its trajectory and mission, has its own sense of news judgment. Some papers are more to the left, others more to the right.
"For a small, regional daily such as The Eagle, there is a pronounced sensitivity to the “names in the news,” the “power structure,” or, as you fellows frequently refer to them, the “GOBs.”
"During my 3 1/2-year tenure at The Eagle, I was called into my editor’s office several times so he could give me “heads-up” about the publisher hearing such and such about me … that the publisher had heard that I was asking this guy about this matter, and that gal about that matter, etc., etc.
"It wore on me, frankly, and I did feel that it inhibited me from doing my job as a reporter, which is to dig and ask questions, regardless of how unsavory the issue at hand is, or regardless of how powerful (or delusional?) the subject of the questions may be.
"Very disheartening, indeed.
"And I can honestly report that this was the first time, in my relatively long journalism career, that I ever felt the long arm of the publisher’s office sticking itself into places it had no right to be stuck. Pardon whatever unsavory imagery that phrase may conjure …
"I won’t detail other cases of publisher intrusion, but I often found myself in a defensive posture, defending myself against crimes, rumors and innuendo that simply weren’t true. In a word, I was disgusted, and my frustration was well known in the newsroom.
"That aside, I can’t say enough good things about my managing editor, a native son of the county, who never shied away from hard news or news that may have rocked the boat. He was my rabbi, and I’ll always respect him for that.
"On a final note, when an editor picked up a proof of the full-page ad (the one in which Massimiano, that powerful little man, maligns me as a reporter and threatens to sue me) and brought it into the executive editor’s office so we could digest its contents, the publisher very angrily stormed into the executive editor’s office and chastised we goofy news guys for examining the ad, which was promptly taken away from us. Again, welcome to bizarro world.
"PS — I apologize, Mr. Valenti, for using your forum to respond to Mr. Heller, but his own blog spots don’t get any traffic, and, for better or worse, he seems to have found a new home on PlanetValenti. You should charge him rent, Dan!"--------------------------------------------
Conor M. Berry is no longer writing for The Berkshire Eagle; he now reports for The Republican in neighboring Springfield, Massachusetts.
From Mr. Berry's Web page at The Republican:
Write to G.M. Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other articles of interest in this series:
>When Will The Publisher Stop Covering For The Banker? -- Just what does Greylock's disgraced ex-CEO have on The Berkshire Eagle's Andrew Mick? -- What else is The Berkshire Eagle failing to report?, Saturday, June 19, 2010
>State of Maine v. Angelo Stracuzzi -- What The Berkshire Eagle Fails to Report, Thursday June 03, 2010