The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Valley Advocate

A visit

Today I took a walk down to the offices of the Valley Advocate, now located in the same building as the Advocate's new owner, The Hampshire Gazette. There is a beautiful old tree in front.

In the Advocate's 35 year history, the Gazette building is the fifth location of the paper's headquarters. Their first office was opened in the Amherst Creamery building in 1973, but a year later they moved to an old house in Amherst on Amity Street near the Jones Library. They quickly outgrew that space, and in 1981 relocated to an old mill building in Hatfield where, among other things, parts for guns had once been manufactured - the irony of which was not lost on the many staff members who were also peace activists. In the year 2000 the Advocate was sold to the Tribune Company, which relocated them to office space in Easthampton. When they were sold last year to the Gazette, they left Easthampton and moved into the Gazette building on Conz Street in Northampton where I visited them today.

The reason for me going there is that there is an article coming out in the Advocate that I helped write and I had to sign some papers in order to get paid. After all the public service work I've been doing, it's nice to finally do something for money! I suspect I will be doing more things for the Advocate in the future, but more about that another time.

I must say I found the new Advocate offices to be quite nice. They are roomy and bright but to get to them you have to go through the Gazette newsroom. Here is the section of the newsroom devoted to the Gazette website.

The Gazette has an excellent website, but it is heavily criticized in the blogosphere for keeping mostly behind a paywall. That flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that the key to online success is to give your content away for free and then sell the readership (eyeballs) to advertisers. The Gazette argues that such a change is premature and will undermine the value of their printed product.

Less controversial is their new printing press. The future of the product known as newspapers is in doubt, but the technology known as printing is not. There will always be a demand for printed material, even when newspapers become mostly online there will be at least a small number of printed versions made for news stands and coffee shops. The desire to read things on paper will most likely never disappear, and those who own high quality presses will always find people who will pay to have things printed. The Gazette is obviously proud of its new press and promotes it as soon as you come through the door.

Unfortunately, at the time I came by the two people I know best at the Advocate, Editor and radio personality Tom Vannah and Senior Writer Maureen Turner were not in. I did however spot my old friend Associate Editor Stephanie Kraft, shown here helping Editorial Intern Chase Scheinbaum.

I first met Stephanie back in 1995 when she was my guest one night when I was the fill-in host on The Dan Yorke TV Show which used to air on Channel 40. She has been with the Advocate since the earliest days, and as we talked this afternoon about the old times she reminisced about how the original Advocate staff used to pause every day to go outside for a marijuana break. She did not tell me whether that tradition still continues.

We talked about Springfield politics for a bit. Kraft seemed skeptical about the Sarno Administration, expressing the fear that he would let "the bad guys back in" once the Control Board leaves. She also expressed surprise that Frankie Keough went to prison, stating that she always believed he would end up being murdered because of how he played people against each other in ways that created bitter enemies. Perhaps if the titanic power struggle between Keough and "Papa Ray" Asselin over who would be Papa Ray's successor at the Springfield Housing Authority had reached its climax there might indeed have been bloodshed, but we will never know because the FBI intervened and sent both Keough and Papa Ray to prison.

We both expressed regret over the many things we believed to have happened in Springfield which we could never write about because they cannot be proven with solid evidence. We were united in expressing the wish that the true and complete history of modern Springfield might one day be written.

Also present in the office was Advocate Associate Editor and blogger James Heflin.

This is staff writer Kendra Thurlow and Listings Editor Tom Sturm.

After a pleasant visit with the Advocate folks it was time to sign the paperwork and leave.

I don't know when the article is coming out, but it deals in varying degrees with two topics on which I am a recognized expert - drugs and gay sex.

Earlier in the day I was surprised to see that the UMass cafeteria known as The Hatch is already closed for the summer. Hey, everybody is still on campus for finals!

The first time I ever partied at UMass was as an underage drinker who snuck into The Hatch. I was still a student at The High of School of Commerce at the time. On the bill that night was a group called Cricket Hill, a sort of rip-off of the Jefferson Airplane, and a musical maniac called Sweetpie - a boogie-woogie piano player who used to perform in a loin cloth or less in an era when nudity on stage was still scandalous. Later, when I was a college student at UMass me and my friends used to get stupid drunk there while supposedly doing homework.

The times sure have changed - today there isn't even a bar in the Hatch. Because it was closed today the other eating places in the Campus Center were crowded, such as the coffee shop.

The same was true of the Blue Wall.


Tony said...

The Advocate would do well with your contributions. What are they waiting for?

LarryK4 said...

The Gazette has been in cyberspace forever but they still don’t seem to get it. The Editor’s Blog has not been updated in a freaken month. The “paper” itself is still in beta, yet they said it would come out of beta at the end of February.

Laurie Loisel (a good writer for sure) has a column in today’s hardcopy reacting to the incident at Smith College that you first broke the news over (two LONG weeks ago) where pissed off lesbians shut down the free speech of a goofball speaker.

And speaking of hardcopy, they get out the print edition before the cyber edition???

Anonymous said...

Geez, what do I have to pay you to post a different photo? I looked better than that when I had the flu!


Bill Sweet said...

My guess is they still have those daily marijuana breaks, or at least they did as recently as when Al Giordano was there. :-)

VanDog said...

I have not picked up an advocate in five years. I use to read it all the time, but when it started it's obsession with Bush, well, let's just say that some of the stories made my skin crawl. Yes! I can accept the Advocate as a liberal newspaper, but they use to write quality local stories. They even wrote about crooked local politicians who are Democrats, Oh My!

When I think of all the ad dollars I use to spend in the Advocate I twitch.