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Pittsfield Gazette Publisher Jonathan Levine Dies At 54, Ending Paper’s 30-Year Run

The longtime publisher of the Pittsfield Gazette died after a bout with cancer on June 11th. WAMC has this remembrance.

Jonathan Levine, 54, was a Pittsfield native, and founded the Gazette in his hometown after graduating from Brown University three decades ago. He was the powerhouse behind the paper, which will cease publication with his death.

“He was an incredibly deep thinker, incredibly bright, I mean, crazy bright. I don't even know how to describe it to people. A love of the arts, and a love of travel and adventure. He actually was a pretty adventurous guy. Despite all the time he spent at government meetings until seven or eight at night, he led a fun life," said brother Ian Levine. “Jonathan was always driven. He was a very bright child, and he put it to work and he put it to work in theater, he put it to work in writing at a young age. He was actually a minor syndication writer at the age of 15 or 16.”

Despite his prolific work at the Gazette, which published around 1,500 issues, Levine wasn’t one to talk about himself.

“He told me he got into Yale and decided not to go," said his brother Ian. "And I just sort of chuckled. I said, I don't think there's anybody that doesn't go to Yale when they get in. And that was very fitting. That was him both in terms of being humble about it. He had never even told his brother that he had gotten in.”

Levine’s love of theater was evident in the pages of the Gazette, with detailed reviews of the Berkshires’ offerings every season.

“He didn't love the big Broadway production as much he did the small regional, and he traveled the country to pretty remote spots for theater festivals that were under budget, just people practicing the craft out of the limelight," explained Ian. "That's the type of theater he loved. And I think he found it much more authentic.”

Andy McKeever, now the director of communications for the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, spent years working alongside Levine on the Pittsfield beat as a reporter with iBerkshires.

“He had this sort of old school vision of journalism, that he was going to attend every single meeting, he knew everybody in City Hall, he was just doing the sort of the grinding out work when it came to policies that impacted people's lives," said McKeever. "He would be sitting there through every single meeting, he would have every single detail. And his institutional knowledge was really unmatched because of all that work over the time.”

Given Levine’s plethora of passions, his brother Ian says it was hard at first to narrow down causes that would he would have liked supported in his honor.

“We landed on the South Congregational Food Bank in Pittsfield. It's something that that he thought was just a wonderfully run organization and always in need for people with food in the Berkshires," Ian Levine told WAMC. "That was something he was very passionate about. He was also passionate about the local theater community and supporting them. And obviously, the other charity that we called out was the National Kidney Foundation because it was a kidney disease that was at the root cause of the issues Jonathan ended up succumbing to.”

Levine did not marry or have children, and is survived by siblings Ian, David and Cathy, as well as three nephews and a niece.

The Gazette’s website boasts over 3 million visitors as of the month of its publisher’s death.

A celebration of Levine’s Life and of the Pittsfield Gazette will be held at Mazzeo's on South Street on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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