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October 19, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Hosting our Times debates

Our front pages yesterday and today have been dominated by coverage of our own Gloucester Daily Times debates involving a total of five contested city races, all held Wednesday and Thursday night at the Gloucester Stage Company.

In fact, Thursday’s front page also featured a photo from the debates’ opening night, spotlighting the Ward 2 race between Melissa Cox and Ann Frontiero Mulcahey, and teasing to full coverage in the days that followed. And all of that created an interesting dynamic — one that newspapers usually try to avoid.

Let’s face it. We not only provided lead story and photo coverage this week, but we were a part of the news ourselves as the hosts for these events, while fielding and posing the questions to the candidates. And that’s not usually the way that we at the Times — or other media outlets — work.

So, why do we host these debates? Shouldn’t we simply cover the debates hosted by other organizations and leave it at that? Why, you might ask, does your community’s newspaper do that?

Because we believe that presenting a series of debates like the ones held at Gloucester Stage this week provides an important community service each election season.

As I’ve often noted in the past, we don’t just see our role as covering news throughout Gloucester and our Cape Ann towns — we see ourselves as a part of our Cape Ann community as well.

I know I’ve always thought of our Times debates as a part of our community’s election process, dating to the first one we hosted – a clash during the 2008 State House race election, when we brought together then-Rep. Anthony Verga, then-challenger Ann-Margaret Ferrante and a third candidate, Astrid afKlinteberg. That began a series of such events at Gloucester Stage, which has always been gracious in hosting these events for us, and which I believe is a nearly ideal debate setting — with its intimate 195-seat capacity, three-sided seating, and theater-quality lighting.

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