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Top Left Corner

TLC #75: DA Harrington discusses new juvenile justice initiative

Berkshire County Courthouse, photo by Alexius Horatius; [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkshire County Courthouse, Pittsfield, Mass., photo by AlexiusHoratius; [ CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

A report on The System

Harrington says “tough on crime” compatible with justice reform.

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TLC #74 — DJ Oli Real on Summerfest Talent Show

DJ Oli Real; photo courtesy Oli Real
DJ Oli Real; photo courtesy Oli Real

A Westside Legends Community Event

We spoke this week with DJ Oli Real about the first ever Summerfest Talent Show taking place at Pittsfield’s Durant Park on August 18 from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. This community event is family friendly and hope to amuse, entertain, and showcase some of the best sides of West Side.

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Mighty Thunders and Borrowed Light open 2019 season at Hancock Shaker Village

Barbara Ernst Prey, School Room, 2019, watercolor on paper; [source Hancock Shaker Village].
Barbara Ernst Prey, School Room, 2019, watercolor on paper; [source Hancock Shaker Village].

by Jason Velázquez

This is the Top Left Corner. Today is Saturday, May 25, and you’re listening to episode #72. I’m your host, Jason Velazquez, and as always, thank you for tuning in. We have a huge show for you this week. We start off with a short hop over to Lenox where we check in with Shakespeare & Company, whose 2019 season kicks off with the Wavery Gallery. Then we spend the remainder of our show at Hancock Shaker Village, which begins its season with the opening of two major installations, Borrowed Light: Barbara Ernst Prey, and While Mighty Thunders Roll: Popular Artists Sing the Shakers, produced by Jeffrey Gaskill. We’ll finish up with some key segments of my conversation with Matt Lorenz known by his one-man band — The Suitcase Junket. Oh, and we’ve got some boss tracks from his new album to share with you, too.

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Berkshire County legal system comes under the gaze of court watchers

Berkshire County Courthouse, photo by Alexius Horatius; [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkshire County Courthouse, Pittsfield, Mass., photo by AlexiusHoratius; [ CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

by Jason Velázquez

The public has had a fascination with justice, or at least the meting out of punishment, since at least as early as the Middle Ages. Gathering some rotten produce and taking the kids down to the local stocks, gallows, or executioner’s block is a sure way to turn any Saturday morning into memorable family time.

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TLC #68: 2020 Regional Transportation Plan

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Sunday, October 28, 2018 and you’re listening to TLC episode #68. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is soliciting public comment on the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan until November 1; photo courtesy BRPC.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is soliciting public comment on the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan until November 1; photo courtesy BRPC.
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TLC #67: A hot property, office of the Northern Berkshire Register of Deeds surveyed by two candidates

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Tuesday, October 23, and you’re listening to TLC episode #67. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in. On this week’s show, we explore the topic of the Registry of Deeds.

Deborah Moran, right, and Maria Ziemba, both staff members at the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds, vie for the top spot of Register Nov. 6; photos courtesy the candidates.

Unless you’re a real estate agent or a tax assessor, this government office is often overlooked until two neighbors have a property line dispute. And, although much of the focus on the elections next month centers around more high profile local or Congressional seats, the top position of Register of the Deeds is up for grabs every six years. Here in Greylock Nation, Berkshire County is divided up into North, Middle, and South Registries, each with their own staffs and head Registers.

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TLC #66: Bodies & Minds, Books, and the Blues

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Thursday, August 30, and you’re listening to TLC episode #66. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in. We’ll be talking about bodies, minds, books, and the Blues this show, and hearing some great tunes besides.

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TLC #65: INTERVIEW — Tahirah Amatul-Wadud

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.

Congressional Democratic primary challenger to 15-term Richard Neal

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Thursday, August 21, and you’re listening to TLC episode #65. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, I’m grateful to have you here with me.

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TLC #64: Hay Day — brand new old-fashioned fair in Williamstown

SOooo good to be back behind the mic. I won’t get all TL;DR here, since the show itself is an hour and a quarter (I got carried away in my enthusiasm…). I do want to provide you with the promised links to Hay Day, Rise for Climate, and Hemp—An Amazing Plant, though, so do read on.

Putting up the loose hay for winter, year unknown; photo courtesy Williamstown Historical Museum. Hay Day celebrates the town's agricultural heritage.
Putting up the loose hay for winter, year unknown; photo courtesy Williamstown Historical Museum.
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TLC #63—We catch up, then cross the line to cover the Poor People’s Campaign

Lt. Gov. candidate Quentin Palfrey, poet Clarrisa Sacherski, Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention, mystery author Chris Wondoloski, The Poor People’s Campaign

Welcome, Greylock Nation, to episode #63 of the Top Left Corner here at the Greylock Glass. We’ll hear more from Carrisa later in the show, and if you behave, I’ll even treat you to one of her recent poems she was kind enough to record and share with us.

A no-foolin'-around sized force of City of Albany and New York State Capitol police was on hand at the June 4 Poor People's Campaign event. Some twenty-seven arrests were made for trespassing and disturbing the peace; photo by Jason Velázquez.
A no-foolin’-around sized force of City of Albany and New York State Capitol police was on hand at the June 4 Poor People’s Campaign event. Some twenty-seven arrests were made for trespassing and disturbing the peace; photo by Jason Velázquez.

We have a pretty sizable show for you this week. Guests include candidate for Lt. Governor, Quentin Palfrey, Poetess Carissa Sacherski, author Chris Wondoloski, organizer of the first ever Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention Jim Wright, AND special coverage of the June 4 Poor People’s Campaign rally and action in Albany, including speaking with North County activists Sam Smith and Reverend Mark Longhurst, Poor People’s Campaign- NY organizer Barbara Smith, and Vocal-NY staff member G.G. Morgan. Keep Reading

TLC #62 — Remembering the Women’s March: Voices from the Road

Hey Greylock Nation—

Today is Tuesday, January 16, 2018, and you’re listening to episode 62 of the Top Left Corner. I’m your host, Jay Velazquez, and, as always, I thank you for tuning in.

All photos by Jason Velázquez.
All photos by Jason Velázquez.

We’re coming up this week on the first anniversary of the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, with half a million attendees showing up for the flagship event in Washington D.C., approximately 4 million participating in events around the country, and well over 5 million demonstrators world-wide.

Although I haven’t talked much about it, I was fortunate, more than fortunate actually, to attend the Women’s March on Washington. At the last minute Meghan Whilden, Executive Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, contacted me to let me know about an empty seat on one of several busses heading to the Capitol from Western Massachusetts. She wanted to send me down as one of the Berkshires’ own journalists on location at one of the most profound and powerful experiences on American soil of the 21st Century. My bus left from Northampton, Mass about 1:30 a.m. packed primarily with women from the Pioneer Valley, but also a good share of Berkshire residents. The buses leaving out of Pittsfield had all left earlier the evening before.

Our bus arrived and parked in the lot of a stadium outside of the Capitol, and, keeping close to my Berkshires contingent, I made my way toward the National Mall, interviewing people along the way. Long before I saw the columns of the Supreme Court or any of the monuments, I knew that I’d been captured by history and marked in a way that would be almost painful for its permanence.

I reported via Facebook LIVE video and through live audio broadcasts using the Mixlr Internet radio service. I posted photos and text updates until first the cellular service in D.C. got completely clogged, or intentionally disabled—we never found out— and then eventually my phone’s battery ran dry, and I had no way to charge it without finding my way through a rolling pink sea of determination.

On the trip back to Western Mass, I tried to piece together some way to tell a story that was weightier and more expansive than I’d ever been tasked to convey. Harder still was knowing what to do with the strange distance I felt between myself as a man and a reporter at the scene and the women who were returning as victorious participants. There were so many women who’d attended not just the March on Washington, but also the sister events in the Berkshires and beyond, who had their stories and experiences to share as women with other women. Who was I to show up at their campfire and ask to be passed the talking stick? And with such really excellent coverage by so many distinguished national journalists, I couldn’t see what contribution I might make.

I spent a good amount of time on both the way down and the way back talking with Emily Cutts, staff writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I meant to ask her what it felt like to be a female journalist covering the story, and whether she felt she needed to try to keep a level of professional detachment from the events. I don’t know how any reporter, man or woman, could have kept their heart behind a fence, to be honest.

But I never got to ask her. The bus stopped moving about 40 minutes south of Northampton and wouldn’t budge again. In a flurry of calls to family and frenzied tapping on Uber, the women and men who shared such powerful solidarity for the last 24 hours made their separate ways out into the pre-dawn darkness and frost. My lot, and that of my traveling companion, was looking more and more dire as Uber drivers started running out, and I couldn’t get my phone to install the damn app anyway. In an act of selflessness and generosity, charity really at that hour of the morning, my newly met colleague gave up her seat so that we could make it back to Northampton. She ended up waiting over an hour in the cold until a friend was able to get there and shuttle her back to Paradise City. Thank you. Thank you again, Emily Cutts. Your strength, exhibited through kindness and self-sacrifice was so…feminine.

It didn’t take me long, sitting starting at the empty white screen of my computer, to realize that what Megan Whilden had done, intended or not, was not to dispatch me to the nation’s capitol to go get that story, but to send me there so that the devastating 24-hour transformation I underwent would inform my decisions on what topics I would cover and how I would cover them from that point on. If it seemed to you that the reporting coming out of the Greylock Glass was steeped in estrogen in 2017, well now you know why.

I looked for stories not just about women in the Berkshires, but about how those women, through their own work and lives, reflected the growing realization that America was about to reckon with a women’s movement that was gaining in power, momentum, and political sophistication. The country would begin to come to terms with gender inequities and injustice not because it was convenient at the moment, but because women had decided they were done with gradualism.

The Greylock Glass reported on many, many women achieving amazing things in education, literature, music, politics, and other areas. When searching for a source to talk to about a subject that wasn’t inherently masculine or feminine, I challenged myself to be sure to contact a woman with equal expertise or credentials if no reason existed not to feature a feminine voice. Finally, just as important to me as including women’s voices in our reporting was committing to give time to stories about issues that may have a veneer of gender neutrality, but which, in fact, affect women disproportionately, and often with strikingly unjust consequences.

What did I learn pursuing this slight editorial tweaking in 2017 was that including women more often in news coverage, as vital actors on the many diverse stages of human experience, as agents of their own fortunes and as agents of change in their communities? I learned that it’s really no professional challenge. It’s just a personal habit. Plenty of men made appearances in our podcasts and in our pages last year, too—when it made sense, in the interest of the informing the audience, to talk with them. But never as the default gender. And while I haven’t analyzed stories and podcasts from 2015 or 2016 to see if last year rectified a gender disparity of which I wasn’t aware, I don’t think I have to at this point. And I don’t think I’m going to have to make any special effort in 2018 to ensure journalistic gender equity. If, as I hope, I’m in a position to hire a reporter this year, I’ll be looking forward to nurturing the habits of awareness in her or in him that took root for me, and for the world, during the first Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

Although I never did come up with a satisfactory way to chronicle my trip to Washington, I did return home with a couple hours-worth of audio interviews. I’ve sifted through those conversations and pulled out a small collection of my favorite quotes. Except for the voice of Kamala Harris at the end, the speakers are going to remain nameless, though some of you will, doubtless, recognize one or two of the women I spoke with. So now, I’d like to share with you, as a small way the Greylock Glass can commemorate that historic demonstration, Ten Minutes of Voices on the Road to the Women’s March on Washington.

PRISM #67: Are you sitting down? We have some big news.

Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre
A ground nesting native bird, the bobolink. Find out more from Jonah Keane of Mass Audubon on the Cornbread Cafe. Yeah it’s a music show, but it’ll all make sense, trust me; photo courtesy Mass Audubon.
A ground nesting native bird, the bobolink. Find out more from Jonah Keane of Mass Audubon on the Cornbread Cafe. Yeah it’s a music show, but it’ll all make sense, trust me. Photo courtesy Mass Audubon.

🎧 The Cornbread Cafe #12 — Listen Free.
Another American Roots festival in Western Mass!
We celebrate the first inaugural Arcadia Folk Festival with mighty tunes from Laura Berman, Faint Peter, Divining Rod, Birds of Chicago, Darlingside, Heather Maloney, The Nields, and Celine Schmink.
Congratulations to Al Timpane! He scored two tickets to Misty Blues Sept. 28 at Jiminy Peak with his Zen-like #CureForTheBlues that boils down to “Change My Mind.” Why do I always forget that method?
Wazzup, Greylock Nation—

Have you ever gotten a piece of good news that was so great, you felt kind of swoony every time you thought about it, even the next day? We just did. Actually, two pieces.

If you read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Columbia Journalism Review, or many other titles, by now you’ve probably heard about the Civil Media Company. Civil is the journalism start-up with a mission to restore credibility to the news, circumvent censorship by authoritarian regimes, and create a clear path to financial sustainability for fledgling news organizations or outlets decimated by declining ad revenues and subscriptions.

Powered by blockchain technology and crypto economics, Civil has already launched a small constellation of Civil Newsrooms—independent news outlets that pledge to adhere to stringent standards of ethical journalism. By doing so, these newsrooms will gain access to many of the resources that a well-funded, well-organized media company like Civil can provide.
Vivian Schiller, former CEO at National Public Radio, was named CEO of the Civil Foundation, the nonprofit created to oversee the platform and promote its standards of journalism, earlier this summer. This month, after an editorial review process, the foundation selected a small handful of local news organizations from across the journalism sector internationally to include in the second group of official Civil Newsrooms.

The Greylock Glass — yourGreylock Glass — has been accepted into this collection of news agencies. Additionally, we have been awarded a grant of 2,000 CVL tokens to pay, in part, for our “stake” on the platform.

I just learned this by e-mail less than 48 hours ago, and I’m still trying to absorb what this all means. I am humbled at Civil’s confidence in our work. I feel a strong sense of validation in the vision of the Greylock Glass—though, if I needed excessive external validation to keep this project going, I don’t know that we’d still be having this conversation  ;  ) . Mostly, I’m in a state of shock and disbelief that our reporting will join that of journalists from publications like The New Yorker, LA Times, BBC, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Gawker, and DNAinfo in this exciting evolution in journalism.

Among the initial organizations participating in this network are the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the European Journalism Centre, the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University. The Associated Press is on board as a major supporter and is creating a process by which Civil Newsrooms can license its content through special arrangement.

I really encourage you to read more about Civil, especially in this article at the NYT and this piece in the WSJ. You’ll understand why I’m still reeling (in a good way) from the acceptance letter I received. Longform in the CJR here.

The other piece of great news I received is in the same vein, but more about our ability to reach a broader audience. The Greylock Glass has been accepted as an Apple News Publisher. If you’re not on an iOS device, you have no reason to know what that means, but if you have an iPhone or iPad, you’ve probably checked out the Apple News app. Again, I had to submit an application, which initiated an editorial review process for the Glass to be considered.

So many people are getting their news via their phones these days, I thought it was worth a shot, so I threw my hat in the ring and waited. I’d just about given up, too, but last month, I received notification from Apple that I could begin publishing on that platform, which I’ve been doing quietly for a couple of weeks. I’ve been working some of the kinks out and am now pleased to announce that, if your device can run Apple News, you can add the Greylock Glass to your list of favorites.

One of the side benefits that the Berkshires will enjoy is that Apple News is a major way audiences the world over can find out about the amazing people, organizations, and events in the Berkshires that we report on every week in the Glass. In other words, Apple News will signal boost information about our local businesses, arts, food, etc., to a global audience of potential visitors to the region. Get it? So while you’re on Apple News, be sure to hit that share button and spread some Berkshires love with the rest of the planet.

Our local focus is the main reason that the Glass was accepted as a Civil Newsroom. That focus needs to be intensified. I am now actively looking for part-time staff writers to report on North County stories that aren’t being covered elsewhere in ways that show how powerful, relevant, or consequential the issues are to the real people involved. An obvious result of this change is that you’re going to see much more text-based journalism on the site in addition to our podcasts.

A core tenet of Civil is that editorial independence is best maintained when news consumers pay for the journalism they enjoy. Of course, the Greylock Glass has NEVER installed data-harvesting, web-tracking ad systems, nor have we resorted to partnering with sleazy companies that place “recommended articles” in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page with click-bait headlines (which also typically harvest your data and track your every move online). We have only ever accepted static ads from local companies and organizations with whom we are proud to be associated. Still, as more and more people use ad-blockers, the writing on the wall regarding the future of this journalism revenue model becomes increasingly clear. And that will probably be a good thing in the end. The Press can never be truly “free and independent” if it always has to worry about offending the advertisers.

So, now that you’ve heard this spate of good news, tell me: aren’t you proud that the Berkshires is home to one of very few local news outlets to be accepted into this second wave of Civil Newsrooms?! That an outfit you’ve been following since its days as a scrappy startup is in the vanguard of technological innovation that will democratize journalism more than any other development in recent memory? Okay…we’re still a scrappy startup, but not. for. long.

Although I will continue to host some of the podcasts, and will do as much writing as I can, my role will necessarily pivot to more closely resemble that of a traditional publisher at the same time I seek to add a much wider diversity of voices to our pages and podcasts. The role of the publisher, as those of you who’ve been in the news biz know, is to make sure the organization is financially solvent and can weather any economic, political, or social storm.

To that end, I will be unabashedly soliciting support from all corners, starting with this newsletter. As the rabid promoter of YOUR local news alternative, I’m going to make P. T. Barnum look timid by comparison. And I’m not going to stop until the Greylock Glass is the media powerhouse this region deserves.

I promised, when I started this thing, that I’d build it up into a news organization that told local stories in a way that no one else could match and that I’d create jobs. I took care of the first goal, with over three hundred podcast episodes and articles published in three years. It’s time for you to help me make the second objective a reality, too.

In the past, I’ve asked you to contribute $1 a month to show your support for the Glass. If that’s really all you can dig out of your couch cushions, we’ll still take it, but that’s not going to get us where we need to go. The Berkshires, particularly North County, has the chance RIGHT NOW to go from being a region that’s suffered a severe decline in news coverage to being a model of remarkable, community-driven journalistic wealth and ingenuity. We have the chance, together, to show the WORLD how it’s done.

I’m not going to compare your contribution to “the price of a cup of coffee” ever again. That actually cheapens your involvement in the critical democratic institution that a free press is. I want you to care about your news more than that. I want you to really pause for a minute and just ponder the resources it must have taken to achieve what the Glass already has to date. I’m not asking for tips, donations, or gifts. I’m telling you that a window of opportunity has opened that can dramatically improve the news scene around here, but that YOU have to invest in that future.

The way to do that is to become a member. Right now. Like, I don’t even care if you finish reading this newsletter if you’re already on board with this plan. If you come on at the $10 per month level, will you get $10 worth of news right out of the gate? Depends on how you value supporting your local news. The Greylock Glass can’t create the amount of content you get from Netflix for the same money, but then again, Netflix has 120 million subscribers…which, now that I think about it, shows what’s possible when everybody ponies up a little individually.

So I’m putting $10 per month out there as the standard membership level. Some of you will choose the $5 level and others will choose the $25 level. I’m hoping that one or a few of you will kick in at the $100 level. Ideally, I want every single one of you to become a member at some level. When you read the articles or listen to the shows, I want you to know that you made them possible. I want you to take pride in it.

The results, when your dollars start flowing in, will be transformative, immediate, and visible. For starters, you’ll start seeing other people’s bylines on articles and shows. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? People have implied (rather bitingly, at times, I must say…) that I must love to hear myself talk. I don’t actually. But that’s not the point. This has never been about Jason. The Greylock Glass has only ever been about creating a sustainable media company that wasn’t dependent on shifty ad revenue or on the whims and generosity of millionaires. I knew that it’d be a steep uphill climb for awhile. It’s tested my resolve, strained my resources, and threatened my sanity just a little bit since I started out on this journey.

Last year around this time, our news delivery model was so unique that the trade group Local Independent Online News Publishers paid me to speak at their annual conference in Chicago to give other online newspapers an idea of how to incorporate podcasts into their offerings (I’m still grateful to those of you who contributed to my airfare then. You rock.) Since then, another local news podcast site is getting off the ground in the Pacific Northwest, covering the Tacoma area. Fully two years after the Greylock Glass launched in 2015, the New York Times started its local news podcast.

In the last two years, major newspapers across the country have fallen prey to corporate parasites. A national television network was revealed to have forced journalists across the country to read identical editorial statements on air as if they were their own. Journalists here at home have been identified as the “enemy of the people,” and have been murdered and jailed at increasing rates abroad. How do you fight back against these alarming trends? You strengthen the independent press in your own neighborhood to protect your oasis of news freedom.

Right now, the Greylock Glass is poised to enter a phase of unprecedented growth. We’ve been building toward this for three and a half years. With your help, we can propel this online newsthing into the success that will prove the local news is still the most important tool for holding the powerful accountable, reflecting the lives of residents, and helping its audience engage in the community in meaningful ways.

Let’s make history together. Become a member right now.

You can become a member on the website

You can become a member through Patreon

Or you can send a lump sum via PayPal (requires PayPal account)

However you choose to contribute, I thank you for deciding to become a real partner in this thrilling new chapter of the Berkshires’ mightiest independent alternative media thing.

Stay safe, be good to each other, and go easy on yourselves.

Yours —

Jason Velázquez
editor, the Greylock Glass
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