New Owners Revive a Newspaper as Industry Fights to Survive

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — These days, the news about local news seems relentlessly bad:

Newsroom employment, down by nearly half over the past 15 years. Waves of layoffs continuing to hit both traditional newspaper chains and digital news startups. Cities and towns so denuded of coverage that they’re described as “news deserts .”

But then, there’s The Berkshire Eagle.

The western Massachusetts daily has an expanded investigative team. There’s a new 12-page lifestyle section for the Eagle’s Sunday editions. There’s a new monthly magazine focusing on the area’s culinary and natural charms. There’s an advisory board that includes cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Pulitzer-winning writer Elizabeth Kolbert.

The newspaper is wider, its paper thicker. There’s even a second daily crossword puzzle.

The Eagle’s revival started three years ago, when four investors with deep pockets and ties to the Berkshires took a leap of faith. They bought it and its three sister Vermont publications from a hedge fund-backed media chain with a reputation for cost-cutting tactics that squeeze profits from struggling newspapers while leaving a diminished staff; the chain has defended its strategy as a way to ensure that local newspapers can survive financially.

Since the purchase, a hiring flurry has brought more than 50 new jobs to the Eagle and its sister papers.

It’s easy to get carried away — the Eagle is still struggling, and its survival is far from assured. Readers are trickling, not flocking, back.

But if it does fail, it won’t be for lack of effort. The Eagle’s owners, editors and staff are waging an all-out campaign to revitalize local journalism in the Berkshires and southern Vermont.

“I want our newspaper to love its readers. And I want its readers to love the newspapers back,” said executive editor Kevin Moran, before resorting to a journalist’s black humor: “Because if they don’t have an emotional connection to the newspaper, they are not going to cry when you are gone.”

Fredric Rutberg has always had that kind of connection to the Eagle — which is why he has put his body, soul and cash into its rescue.

In this Thursday, April 11, 2019 photo worker Zach Charbonneau, of Pittsfield, Mass., throws papers to a colleague while loading vehicles with bundles of papers at The Berkshire Eagle newspaper, in Pittsfield. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Rutberg, a local district judge who was looking for a second act as he neared retirement, pulled together the group of investors who bought the Eagle in the spring of 2016 from Digital First Media, also knowns as MNG Enterprises.

Rutberg, 73, relishes his role as newspaper owner, publisher and president. He hosts intimate gatherings with readers called “Coffee with the President,” promoting the newspaper’s triumphs, including award-winning investigative coverage of the Berkshire Museum’s controversial sale of artworks, the decaying state of the region’s bridges and the struggle to bring broadband internet to rural communities.

From his office at Eagle headquarters, he fields phone calls from readers complaining if the newspaper is delivered late or too far from the driveway.

“They are always shocked when I answer the phone,” said Rutberg, who finally decided to ride along one night with a delivery truck driver and write a column to explain the demands of the job.

Another time, he ended up being the highlight of a chatty Eagle story on favorite kitchen gadgets, posing for a photo with onion glasses and a slightly sheepish grin.

In this Thursday, April 11, 2019 photo pressmen Kit Stover, of Richmond, Mass., left, and Lukus Ladeinde, of Pittsfield, Mass., right, check for correct registration of print from a sample of a newspaper fresh off the press at The Berkshire Eagle newspaper, in Pittsfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

All the while, he regularly travels to Vermont to visit the sister newspapers. He pursues strategies for revenue diversification: The newspaper is developing an in-house ad-agency and hosts paid events, including high school sports galas and a “Conversation Series” that bring experts to discuss topics from faith in politics to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

For Moran, this level of involvement is a thrilling contrast to the Eagle’s former corporate owners. During a rare visit from them in 2015, the agenda was mostly budget cuts.

Shortly afterward, Moran said, he oversaw the layoffs of 19 people at the four newspapers, one of his lowest moments in a two-decade career spent rising through the ranks of the Eagle and its affiliated newspapers. The year before, 18 positions had already been cut.

“You see this foundation, this whole pillar of your community, start to break apart,” Moran said.

___

Rutberg and his three partners seized a short window of opportunity when Alden Global Capital was putting several of its newspapers up for sale following failed negotiations to sell off the company’s media properties, known as Digital First Media, to a private equity firm. The sale returned The Berkshire Eagle to local ownership for the first time since 1995, when the debt-saddled Miller family that had run it for more than a century first sold it to a media chain.

In this Thursday, April 11, 2019 photo pressman Lukus Ladeinde, of Pittsfield, Mass., left, works on the printing presses at The Berkshire Eagle newspaper, in Pittsfield. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Today, Rutberg and co-owner Hans Morris, a former president of Visa, are forging ahead without two of their original partners. Stanford Lipsey, a longtime newspaper publisher, died in November 2016, with his share passing to his wife, Judi Lipsey. Former M&T Bank CEO Robert Wilmers died in December 2017.

The year before, Wilmers had declared the goal of building “the finest group of community newspapers” in the country. And the new owners swiftly made changes that reflected their frustrations as Eagle readers, down to replacing thin newsprint that curled in humid weather and was unbecoming of a newspaper that won a Pulitzer for editorial writing in 1973.

Moran was suddenly scrambling to add staff.

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo President of The Berkshire Eagle newspaper Fred Rutberg, left, speaks with Lanny Lambert, of Pittsfield, Mass., right, at the conclusion of a “coffee with the president of the Berkshire Eagle” gathering, in Williamstown, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Rutberg and his partners wanted a “world-class” arts and culture section worthy of a region that boasts the Jacob’s Pillow dance center, a theater scene that lures Hollywood stars and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Under the corporate owners, the features staff had been whittled down to two editors, who relied on syndicated stories on food and gardening to fill out pages that were shared with the Vermont papers.

Now, features editor Lindsey Hollenbaugh oversees a staff of seven. She launched Landscapes, the 12-page lifestyle section that includes only local stories, aside from The New York Times best-seller list. Landscapes has taken readers to a theater rehearsal with actor Jon Hamm, followed around a pizza delivery driver on the coldest night of the year and explained how on-duty firefighters weave grocery shopping into their shifts.

“Suddenly, I had all the freedom in the world with very few constraints,” said Hollenbaugh, who first joined The Berkshire Eagle in 2010. “We feel like we won the lottery.”

The expanded investigative team gives voice to overlooked communities in the Berkshires, the hilly, westernmost region of Massachusetts, where 130,000 people are scattered across 30-plus towns and villages.

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo President of the Berkshire Eagle newspaper Fred Rutberg, top right, engages people during a “coffee with the president of The Berkshire Eagle” gathering, in Williamstown, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Geographic differences make the Berkshires a challenge to cover. Some towns are New England charmers that draw artists and New York City tourists, including Rutberg’s town of Stockbridge, home to the Norman Rockwell Museum. Others, such as the main city of Pittsfield, are still struggling with the ripple effects of losing thousands of jobs when major employer General Electric gradually packed up and left in the 1980s and ’90s, hastening a population loss that shows no signs of slowing.

The Eagle strives to be indispensable to all those communities, and its reporters say that effort is being reflected in the story requests they get from readers.

Exasperated residents from rural Sandisfield led reporter Heather Bellow to investigate a pipeline company’s failure to live up to a 2-year-old promise to fix a rural road , so damaged that tar stuck to the feet of dogs and people. Text messages from anguished neighbors prodded her to keep pushing for answers about a fire that killed a family of five in the town of Sheffield, long after the tragedy faded from national headlines.

The hard part is persuading the people of the Berkshires to pay for this type of in-depth coverage.

“Our business plan was simply to increase the quality of the content and attract new readers,” Rutberg said. “We’ve made more than a bona fide effort at the first part. We are in the second right now, and the jury’s out.”

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The Berkshire Eagle’s overall paid circulation fell more than 20 percent during the first year under new ownership, before key initiatives such as Landscapes were launched. Rutberg counts it as an achievement that circulation remained mostly stable the second year, at more than 15,000 on weekdays and nearly 18,000 on Sundays, still half what it was a decade ago.

On the bright side, digital subscriptions are finally ticking up.

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo Lanny Lambert, of Pittsfield, Mass., left, listens listens during a “coffee with the president of The Berkshire Eagle” gathering, in Williamstown, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“In our industry, flat is the new black,” Rutberg says cheerfully, his go-to catchphrase when anyone asks about circulation.

Like many newspapers, The Berkshire Eagle increasingly relies on revenue from paid subscriptions, as major advertisers migrate to online giants such as Facebook and Google. Rutberg said the Eagle has suffered from the decline of the Berkshire Mall, which saw key retailers J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Best Buy leave over the past four years, taking their ad dollars with them.

One thing Rutberg said he can’t do is pass the cost of his heftier newspaper onto readers because of a price hike by the previous owner. Digital First Media raised the cost of home delivery service by 60 percent in 2014 to $300 a year, even as the paper grew thinner.

Through a spokeswoman, Molly Curry, Digital First declined to comment for this story. In the past, Digital First has countered criticism of its tactics, saying it runs “newspapers profitably and sustainably so that they can continue to serve their local communities.”

In a letter earlier this year to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the company’s chairman noted that advertising and circulation declines were threatening the newspaper industry generally. But he said Digital First, also known as MNG Enterprises, believes in the industry “and we know how to operate successful newspaper businesses over the long term.”

It remains to be seen how sustainable the expanded Eagle will be under its new owners.

The newspaper charges $13 a month for a digital-only subscription, letting people read three articles online before hitting the pay wall. Social media drives a third of the newspaper’s digital traffic, a double-edged sword because many readers bristle at being asked to pay for content they see on Facebook.

In this Tuesday, April 9, 2019 photo Berkshire Eagle reporter Heather Bellows, seated center, and Eagle photographer Ben Garver, standing at right, attend a news conference with Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington, not shown, in Pittsfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“I just don’t have time to sit down and read an entire newspaper. I’m on Facebook 10 minutes a day; I’m not going to get $13 worth of news,” said Jenna Lanphear, a 40-year-old Pittsfield beauty salon owner, applying lemon nail polish for Amy Sinico, a day care center director who also does not subscribe.

“It’s very frustrating,” Sinico chimed in. “When they put a link on Facebook and then you click on it to read more about it, but you can’t because you have to buy the subscription. Don’t put the link on Facebook then.”

A recent Pew Research Center study found this to be typical. Only 14% of American adults said they had paid for local news within the past year, via subscription, donation or membership.

Half the respondents noted that free content is available to them. In the Berkshires, Lanphear and Sinico pointed out, people can get news for free from television, radio and two digital news sites, the Berkshire Edge and iBerkshires.com.

Lanphear did sign up her 13-year-old daughter for a summit of high school journalists organized by The Berkshire Eagle’s education reporter, Jenn Smith — one of many efforts the Eagle is making to re-establish itself as the center of civic life and deepen its interaction with readers.

Smith, for example, takes nominations from parents and teachers for a “Classroom of the Week” column. She visits each class for the story then drives back to deliver a frameable poster of her column and a gift certificate for teaching materials.

And earlier this year, the Eagle invited high schoolers to organize and moderate one of its “Conversation Series.”

The idea came from Marie Butler and Jordan Bradford, two Pittsfield High School juniors who attended a “Conversation” on faith and politics last fall only to be disappointed by the lack of diversity among the panelists (three white men) and the audience (mostly white and older).

Bradford and Butler say most of their classmates are preoccupied with the news, which they follow on the smartphones they never part with. On Twitter, they follow NPR, President Donald Trump, social activists and a few of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Last year, hundreds of Pittsfield High School students walked out of class after the shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo, editors and writers monitor screens in the newsroom at The Berkshire Eagle newspaper, in Pittsfield, Mass. The paper now features a new 12-page lifestyle section for Sunday editions, a reconstituted editorial board, a new monthly magazine, and the newspaper print edition is wider. That level of expansion is stunning in an era where U.S. newspaper newsroom employment has shrunk by nearly half over the past 15 years. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“Since our generation has a lot of access to the internet, the politics that happens in our government is kind of right in our faces,” Bradford said.

That kind of enthusiasm doesn’t automatically translate into new readers for a local paper like the Eagle.

Bradford’s parents don’t subscribe, although they pick up the paper when their star swimmer daughter makes the sports pages. Butler regularly reads the newspaper because her parents get it delivered, but she doesn’t know anyone else who does.

“I’m definitely alone in that arena,” she said.

___

The newspaper is experimenting with ways to promote itself as a source of unique stories about the Berkshires.

Its online editor, Noah Hoffenberg, found that traffic from Facebook to the Eagle’s digital site increased when he posted fewer stories and opinion pieces about national politics, which had been triggering negative comments and accusations of bias.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, said it’s good practice for a local newspaper to market itself as a refuge from the divisiveness of national politics. But he said people invariably turn to television and radio for basic information, eroding the perception that newspapers are indispensable.

“Weather and traffic — some people find that is the only news they care about it. If they are getting that, they may not be revved up to pay for a local newspaper,” Edmonds said.

Some people might also take their local newspaper for granted: The Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans believe their local news outlets are doing very or somewhat well financially, when in fact many newspapers are struggling to survive.

Moran said it is not lost on anyone at The Berkshire Eagle that “we are trying to swim upstream.”

In this Thursday, April 11, 2019 photo Berkshire Eagle photographer Stephanie Zollshan, right, speaks with tattoo artist Brian Brown, of Dalton, Mass., left, at his tattoo parlor, in Dalton. Zollshan photographed Brown for a Berkshire Eagle section called Berkshire Landscapes. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Independently owned newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. Of the 1,200 newspapers that have been sold in the last five years, most were owned by families or small private chains, according to a study by Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor whose research on the subject gave rise to the term “news desert.”

In May, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet bleakly predicted the demise of “most local newspapers in America” within five years, except for ones bought by billionaires. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, both national publications, are thriving after being bought by billionaires. The Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Las Vegas Review-Journal are among other major American newspapers that appear to have steadied themselves after being sold to local wealthy individuals.

For many other newspapers, especially smaller ones, the future prospects are uncertain.

In January, Rutberg wrote a column in the Eagle appealing for several hundred new subscribers.

He made the same appeal at a trendy cafe in Pittsfield during a recent “Coffee with the President,” his second in a week. His audience was mostly middle age and older, not surprising in a place like the Berkshires, which has struggled to hold on to its working-age population.

A few younger customers poked their heads in while Rutberg spoke, then backed away, coffees in hand.

The older audience promptly brought up newspaper delivery. One man approvingly noted his paper has been arriving on time and launched into a discussion about tipping drivers. Another worried about how the city’s new ban on single-use plastic bags would affect the bundling of the papers.

Rutberg patiently assured them that the newspaper would visit their homes to install green plastic tubes where the paper can be inserted, something he said the old owners had stopped doing.

Days earlier, he was still glowing after a trip to Boston to accept the JFK Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which The Berkshire Eagle won for its commitment to community journalism, a vindication of his late partner Bob Wilmer’s dream.

“We are going to stick with this,” Rutberg said. “This is our commitment as long as humanly possible.”

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By ALEXANDRA OLSON Associated Press

Trump Campaign Raises $24.8M in Less than 24 Hours

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump raised $24.8 million less than 24 hours after kicking off his reelection campaign, a figure that dwarfs what the top Democratic contenders took in over the course of months.

The staggering total was announced in a tweet on Wednesday morning by Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. She declared that it was proof that “enthusiasm across the country for this president is unmatched and unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

Trump’s massive haul is a demonstration of the power of incumbency, underscoring simmering Democratic worries they are not doing enough to prepare for the matchup with Trump. It’s also a sign that Trump’s fundraising operation is already in high gear at a time when many Democratic donors have yet to engage and their party contends with a sprawling primary that has drawn more than 20 candidates.

Many Democratic White House candidates have hyped their fundraising pulls in the 24 hours after launching their campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden reported a $6.3 million haul in the first 24 hours, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke took in $6.1 million and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported $5.9 million.

Trump beat all three combined, including the front-runner Biden, whom he bested by nearly fourfold.

Still, his campaign has yet to release a breakdown of how he raised the money, leaving it unclear how much was raised from wealthy Republican megadonors, versus grassroots supporters who chipped in a few dollars online.

But the cash will add to the existing gulf in resources between Republicans and Democrats.

Trump already reported $48.7 million cash on hand at the end of March, spread across three committees tied to his campaign. The Republican National Committee had an additional $34.7 million during the same period.

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, had just $7.5 million with $6.2 million in debt, records show.


By BRIAN SLODYSKO Associated Press

Jason deGrom, Alonso Lead Mets Past East-leading Braves 10-2 (Video)

ATLANTA — Jacob deGrom took a shutout into the ninth inning, Pete Alonso homered to highlight the first four-hit game of his young career, and the New York Mets routed the first-place Atlanta Braves 10-2 on Tuesday night.

Bouncing back from an ugly 12-3 loss in the series opener, the Mets pounded Braves starter Julio Teheran for six runs over four innings and cruised to a victory that eased some of the tension from a disappointing season.

DeGrom (4-6) dominated, allowing just five hits, struck out 10 and helped himself at the plate, leading off the sixth with a double and coming around to score.

6/18: Mets vs Braves

Jacob deGrom's brilliant start was backed by huge nights from Alonso, McNeil and Conforto as we took game two in Atlanta. #MetsWin!

Posted by New York Mets on Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson hit back-to-back homers off deGrom in the ninth, ending a bid for the second shutout and fourth complete game of his career. Robert Gsellman came on for the beleaguered Mets bullpen to strike out the final two Atlanta hitters.

Michael Conforto added a long homer in the eighth, and Jeff McNeil went deep in the ninth to finish off the 15-hit barrage.

Conforto and Todd Frazier both had two RBIs. McNeil added three hits, and every Mets starter had at least one.

Teheran (5-5) lost for the first time since April 30.

Senate Passes Gianaris Bill Mandating Lead Testing of Water Fountains 

ALBANY, NY – Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris on June 18 announced the Senate passed his legislation requiring schools and parks to test water fixtures for lead and make repairs to any deemed unsafe.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of our children and we have a responsibility to ensure we are not endangering them through public water supplies,” said Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris. “I am proud the Senate passed this critical safety measure that will save children’s lives.”

“Gantry Parent Association is deeply appreciative of Senator Gianaris’ leadership in ensuring our children’s water is safe to drink where they learn and play,” said Meghan Cirrito, Chair of the Gantry Parent Association. “Schools and parks are the heart of any New Yorkers childhood and, thanks to the Senator’s championing of this cause, parents can rest a little easier knowing there is a process in place to keep drinking water safe.”

New York State Senator Michael Gianaris. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Michael Gianaris

The legislation requires schools and parks to test for potable water every three years to determine if there is any contamination. If elevated lead levels are found, the location would have 90 days to remedy the situation. Results would be submitted to the state and displayed online for public review.

A law enacted in 2016 required schools to test for lead in water every five years; no such mandate exists for public parks. Senator Gianaris’ legislation increases the scope of testing to include parks, requires testing occur more frequently and creates open data disclosure of the information.

In 2016, the New York Times reported 83% of New York City school buildings had at least one fixture contaminated with lead. The schools with the highest rates of contamination were found in Queens, with one school having fixtures containing lead at more than 40 times the safe limit.

Neymar Loses Appeal Against 3-Game Champions League Ban

NYON, Switzerland — UEFA has rejected an appeal by Paris Saint-Germain against Neymar’s three-match Champions League ban in a case that can now go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

UEFA says its appeals panel confirmed the ban on Neymar for “insulting match officials” after PSG was eliminated by Manchester United in March.

After the match, Neymar published profane comments about video review officials who helped give United a stoppage-time penalty in the 3-1 victory.

Neymar, who was injured and did not play, said the video assistant referees “do not understand football.”

The UEFA ruling means Neymar will miss half of the six Champions League group games next season.

PSG and Neymar have 10 days to file an appeal at CAS.

Eternal Be the Memory of Constantine “Dean” Limberakis

BOSTON – Constantine “Dean” Limberakis, of Lynnfield, MA passed away on June 11. Beloved partner of Paul J. Cassettari, devoted brother to Andra Delis and Carrie Nicholeris, loving uncle of Anastasia Sabarsky and her husband Leon, Elizabeth Manning and her husband Richard, and Mark Nicholeris, loving great-uncle of Matthew Manning and family.

Dean was an administrator and educator in Music Education in the Massachusetts public schools for 36 years, Director of Music for Hellenic College Holy Cross and Choirmaster for the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England since 1989.

The Funeral Service was held Monday, June 17, 2019 at The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England. Visiting Hours were held on Sunday, June 16 at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Cathedral. Burial was held in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, MA.

Constantine “Dean” Limberakis received his BM and MMEd degrees in Music Education from Boston University, College of Fine Arts, with minors in Voice and Conducting and is also certified in Integrated Creative Arts from Fitchburg State University (Massachusetts). He is a veteran of WWII – Military Police and Honor Guard for the Imperial Palace in Tokyo – and the Korean Conflict (Special Service Armed Forces). He hosted a weekly radio broadcast of religious programming for the troops on the front lines and toured with a Soldiers’ Troop Variety Show as conductor, show manager, and producer. This variety show was performed for the troops on the front lines.

Since retiring in 1989, after 36 years as an administrator and teacher in Music Education in the public schools of Massachusetts, he was appointed Adjunct Instructor for Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and Director of Special Projects as designated by the President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross. Along with his teaching, he had also served as Director of Career Services, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, Manager of Food Services, Director of Housing, and Purchasing Agent. He also helped coordinate special festivities, events, and conferences.

Dean was a member of the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association for some 20 years; wrote a weekly music column for the Lowell Sun during the 1960s, was liaison for the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education, and in 1970 he founded Massachusetts Administrators in Music Education. He was also a member of the American Association for Advancement of the Humanities and the Council for Basic Education, the founder and artistic director of community choruses, concert bands, and orchestral societies in the Greater Boston area and was a member of the Regional College Board ad hoc committee for the acceptance of high school art and music credits for college entrance applicants. He was also guest conductor, lecturer, adjudicator, clinician, writer, and composer/arranger at both regional and national levels. In 2011, he celebrated his 58 years as an Administrator in Music Education, teacher, and lecturer.

Mr. Limberakis had been a choirmaster of children’s, juniors’, young adults’, and adult/senior choirs for some 67 years and was President for some 20 years of The Metropolis of Boston Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians; he was named President Emeritus by the Federation Council.

What will be the “Consequences” for Turkey, Mr. Tsipras?

This past weekend, Mr. Tsipras took two public, powerful symbolic actions, which were clearly planned to impact public opinion.
First, he suspended his re-election campaign and returned to his office in Athens, and second, he convened, on Sunday afternoon, the Governmental Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA).

It is clear that the country was facing a national crisis due to the commencement of drilling by Turkey, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister, in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.

So we were anxious to hear about the measures they decided upon.

Indeed, the Prime Minister, after the conclusion of the meeting, made statements to the assembled journalists, the main point of them being: “The message we want to send today is, on the one hand, what I have already said, to assure the people that they are totally safe , and at the same time to send the message that anyone who violates the sovereign rights of Greece, or who violates the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, a member state of the EU, or who violates International Law in the region, will have to face consequences (συνέπειες) .”

The threat that the actions of the Turks will have “consequences” is not as dramatic as Andreas Papandreou’s “Sink the Hora” (a reference to a Turkish research vessel that violated Greek territorial waters in the 1970s), but it did have a definite threatening tone.

So what will the consequences be?

The Prime Minister could have added that there will be “consequences” he could not disclose, hinting that they will be of a military nature.

But that was not the case.

Instead, he declared that the country will be supported through its multilateral partnerships, in particular, several new tripartite and multilateral partnerships of Greece and Cyprus in the Southeast Mediterranean region – that is to say that Israel will come to our defense.

He also assured that there will a strong response from Europe…in the form of statements condemning Turkey.

“We will move,” he said, “to prepare the ground next week for a Summit” … “to make the right decisions, including the adoption of sanctions if it is confirmed that drilling has taken place.”

Honestly, when I hear such words, I recoil from our inability to learn from the past.

Every time we are in danger, we wait for someone else to save us. I’m not saying that alliances are not very useful. They are.
However, it is delusional to believe, for example, that France will go to war with Turkey for our sake.

But since the problems are longstanding – dating back many decades – we should have made sure not only that the country did not go bankrupt, but that it had a strong economy, which is the only real foundation for strong national security. A country with Turkey as a neighbor should never have stumbled in its economic development and fiscal soundness.

And since the situation is well known, we should stay away from the issue of our oil and gas reserves, and not deceive ourselves that once we brought in foreign oil companies, the Turks would back off.

So what should we do?

The new government that will emerge from the July 7 elections will have an urgent national mission: to give a big boost to the economy at the earliest so that the country will be able to invest in its national defense.

Meanwhile, Turkey cannot be allowed to drill without some kind of a response.

The least that Greece can do is to resort to the UN Security Council.

Of course, Mr. Tsipras avoided confirming or denying that the Turks are now drilling because if he confirmed it, then we would be talking about another level of responsibilities and actions.

And, of course, he will go down in history as the Prime Minister that Turkey drilled on his watch.

Letter to the Editor: On Drilling for Oil off the Coast of Cyprus

To the Editor:

Thank you for the article that appeared in the June 15 issue, Accidental War Worries Grow Over Aegean Sea and Cyprus. I hope that all this oil drilling off the coast of Cyprus will help and not hurt the country and indeed the region, but it looks like the finding of oil is always both a blessing and a curse. I thought we had moved away from oil and gas towards alternative fuels that are not so harmful to the environment, but it seems like people want to rely on old ways of thinking when it comes to energy. It might help Cyprus finally get justice after all these years, but again I hope the cost is not too great. As long as Cyprus is a divided, occupied nation, I don’t think anyone is truly free.

Nick Evripides

Philadelphia, PA

St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek School Graduation

JAMAICA, NY – The Greek Afternoon School at St. Demetrios in Jamaica held its graduation ceremony on June 12, celebrating the completion of another successful school year.

Presiding priest of the community Father Konstantinos Kalogridis began the celebration with a prayer and then wished the graduates all the best in their future endeavors and that God be with them at every step of their lives. He thanked the parents and all those present and wished everyone a “good summer.”

The 8th grade graduates Evgenia Drakoulias, Simonides Kalpaxis, Ioanna Stefanakis, Katerina Tsouratakis, and Nikolaos Hatzigeorgiou presented important moments of their school life from grades 1-8.

They each expressed their gratitude to the Greek school for all the memories and friends they had made over the years. The five graduates of the Greek school, together with the youngest children of the school, participated in a beautiful program with songs, theatrical scenes and musical recitals, garnering enthusiastic applause from the proud parents and grandparents present.

The students of St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek Afternoon School with Fr. Konstantinos Kalogridis, presiding priest of the community. Photo: Courtesy of St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek School

Principal Apostolos Fountas told the graduates that “they should be grateful to their parents and the community of Saint Demetrios, for they have provided them with a proper Greek-Christian education,” and noted that the last eight years of their life are full of memories that they will never forget. He wished the graduates good progress and health and joy in the future.

Finally, he thanked the parents who trust the St. Demetrios School and brought their children to learn the Greek language, religion, and their history.

Fountas also congratulated all the school children and thanked the teachers, Panagiota Kakogiannis, Eleni Kakogiannis, Emmanuela Christodoulou, and Despina Stavrou, as well as Stavros Kilimitzoglou.

Eighth grade students Ioanna Stefanakis and Simonides Kalpaxis were presented with awards by the Hellenic American Owners Association. Principal Fountas thanked the Association for this year’s contribution to the afternoon school.

The ceremony ended with a speech by Fr. Kalogridis, who highlighted the importance of the children learning Greek, as this means that the young people will be more and more connected as they progress through life with Greece and its people and develop their relations with peers in Greece.

The St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek Afternoon School graduation included the youngest students as well. Photo: Courtesy of St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek School

He also handed out the diplomas and awards and congratulated the children for their performance and effort.

Awards for Excellence were presented to: Ioanna Stefanakis, Tryfonas Nittis, Evangelia Amorim, Anastasios Roumeliotis, and Dimitrios Katechis.

Awards for Participation were presented to: Simonides Kalpaxis, Gerasimos Hatzigeorgiou, Victoria Vagiopoulou, Vasilios Seretis, Anna Paparousopoulou.

Attendance Awards were presented to: Ioanna Stefanakis, Tryfonas Nittis, Ioannis Parlambanidis, Vasilios Seretis, and Dionysios Valentis.

St. Demetrios Jamaica Greek Afternoon School is open Monday and Wednesday, 4-6 pm, for all students interested in learning the Greek language and culture. Eighth grade students prepare for the Archdiocese’s Neo-Hellenic Examination. Attendance is free of charge and courses will start again for the fall on Wednesday, September 11.

A reception with sweets and refreshments courtesy of the Parents’ Association, followed the ceremony.

New Paintings by Stephen Bezas on View in Bridgehampton

BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY – The opening reception for the Madmix Art Exhibition takes place on June 22, 6 PM, at The White Room Gallery at 2415 Main Street in Bridgehampton. The exhibition features two new paintings by Greek-American artist Stephen Bezas.

The painting, titled Jelly Beans and Good N Plenty, are both 60 inches by 60 inches.

Born and raised in New York City, Bezas is a painter, photographer, and designer based in Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

According to his biography, Bezas sees himself as a contemporary artist rooted in his early pointillism and grids. He jokes about how his art has been influenced by navigating the street grids of Manhattan, emerging in the grids of his designs.

More information is available online: http://stephenbezasart.com.