GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 22, 2013

Why did My Newspaper Do That? Plotting our coverage of Fiesta

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — There’s a big whiteboard in the back of our Times newsroom, and each week, Photo Chief Allegra Boverman, our reporters and I talk about upcoming stories and map out plans for our likely “centerpiece” packages for the days ahead.

While we generally can’t predict the major news stories that may arise — and while we certainly recognize that, on any day and at any time, a major local breaking news story will bring a immediate change of plans, we can often at least schedule what will provide our photo centerpiece for Page 1. We knew well in advance, for instance, that — in addition to being the first official day of summer — yesterday was the last day of the academic year for Gloucester schools, and that always makes a lively centerpiece, as it did for today’s Times.

Next week is easier to project than most. That’s because, beginning with a story Monday and picking back up in the latter part of the week, our biggest daily front-page presentation will focus on a single event: the 2013 edition of St. Peter’s Fiesta, which kicks into high gear on Wednesday night, then carries right through the outdoor Mass, the Sunday procession, the Blessing of the Fleet, and yes, the three days of Greasy Pole Walks before ringing to a close a week from Sunday.

Fiesta each year presents a number of coverage challenges, including its sheer volume of events and our own desire to try to do something different with it each year. It’s also challenging to find the ideal balance between covering Fiesta, and making sure to stay on top of other Gloucester and Cape Ann news stories have nothing to do with the essentially five-day tribute to the patron saint of fishermen.

There was a time not that long ago that — barring some five-star calamity, such as a major fire — the Times seemed to cover nothing but Fiesta during that traditional last week of June. And I can assure you that won’t happen next week. In my book, that’s not fair to readers who indeed need to know what else is happening in Gloucester, and especially readers in Rockport, Manchester and Essex who may not feel — and don’t want to be — a part of Fiesta at all.

Yet, I can tell you up front that Fiesta coverage will not only be the dominant presence on our front page once it gets rolling next Wednesday night, and it will command extensive coverage on our Sports pages as well – especially as it gets into the weekend.

Isn’t that overdoing it? Doesn’t that perhaps glorify the trouble that can sometimes surround Fiesta as well? Why would your community’s newspaper do that?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that the “trouble” that is often seen as being a part of Fiesta is often not connected with it at all. Fiesta Committee President Joe Novello and his crew have gone out of their way to work with Gloucester police and others to ensure that Fiesta itself indeed focuses on family entertainment, that there should be a “zero tolerance” for public drinking on the grounds, and that will be the case this year, with Police Chief Leonard Campanello promising a stepped-up safety presence as well.

Is daily Page 1 coverage overdoing it?

Not in my book. While it’s clearly not the only news in Gloucester, it is, by far, the event that will dominate the city’s downtown and waterfront over its five-day run.

While competitions such as the Greasy Pole Walk and the seine boat races are outside the box compared to traditional sports events, they and the Fiesta 5k run that steps off Thursday evening are a legitimate and traditional part of the uniquely Gloucester sports scene. And thanks to its wide variety of colorful events, Fiesta makes for lively daily coverage focusing perhaps not on the biggest news of the day, but on a very special time for Gloucester, its fishermen and its people.

So gear up, folks, for St. Peter’s Fiesta 2013. We are. And as always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? is there an issue you’d like to addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3432, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.