, Gloucester, MA


June 29, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Turning letters into Page 1 stories

Our lead story on today’s front page — the one about Gloucester’s delayed emergency response to a call last weekend, when the Bay View fire station was closed — began with one woman’s letter to Mayor Carolyn Kirk and members of the Gloucester City Council.

And it actually marked at least the third time in recent months that such a letter has spawned what proved to be a Page 1 story.

The first came when a letter to the Times by Gloucester school mom Amanda Kesterson — sent to us as a copy of an open letter sent to city councilors and School Committee members — raised questions regarding the safety of Gloucester schools in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school catastrophe in Newtown, Conn. The other came when Lisa Fornero, Kesterson’s sister, also wrote to school officials and to us over concerns she has with the new “universal” school breakfast program being launched this fall at Veteran’s Memorial and Beeman Memorial schools.

There are, of course, all sorts of means we use to dig out and pursue a news story. Some are breaking news events that we cover live; others come from documented court or city and town board filings that spotlight an issue or potential local project; others are spawned by calls from local, state or federal officials, and even more can come from phone calls and news tips. Yet it’s not that often that a letter from a single resident sparks the kind of story that appears today.

Do we look at every letter as a potential news story? Not really; many letters address national issues best left to debate on our Opinion page or through our online comments section at And many letters are, of course, responses to news stories we have already printed.

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