One of the most basic tenets of writing editorials is the need to maintain consistency.
Any editorial or opinion column you see on this page each day wouldn’t mean much if we, as your community’s newspaper, took a stand on one side of an issue on a Monday, for example, then turned around and voiced the opposite view by the end of the week. The fine art of flip-flopping might indeed work for some politicians, but it does nothing but hurt the credibility of an editorial writer or political columnist — especially today, when a writer’s words are easily saved and found in online archives.
Considering that, more than a few folks might have been surprised by two editorials that appeared this week – one calling for stepped-up state insight over the embattled Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, which we have generally supported since it opened its doors in the fall of 2010, the other being Friday’s editorial that chastised Gloucester’s City Council for crafting a plan that may still slam the door on opponents of the Fort hotel overlay district before they even get a chance to speak at a meeting coming up Tuesday night.
Now wait a minute, you might say. Hasn’t the Times endorsed the hotel overlay zone, and the idea of loosening the limitations on developing a hotel on the former Birdseye site? Yes, we have.
Then how can we tell city councilors they need to listen to more comment in opposition to it? Why would we take a stand like that? Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?
Because, regardless of how we or anyone else feels about the project itself, there is no way — as Friday’s editorial noted — the City Council should procedurally open the Tuesday hearing, then quickly move to close it, and essentially tell the Fort project opponents who earned the right to the hearing through a legitimate petition to just put away their paperwork and go home. It will indeed be a betrayal of democracy if that happens.
In this case, the issue at hand isn’t the overlay zone, or the potential hotel; it’s the idea of the council refusing to let these residents have their say and discuss the added evidence the councilors never got to see the first time around. And, yes, the council is wrong.
In the case of the charter school, readers should remember that — while we continue to support the school and think it should have the chance to keep going forward as an alternative that’s clearly working for many parents and children – we were also critical of the state’s handling of the process, which was botched right in the offices of the state Department of Education. And the new issues clouding the charter for the coming year raise hard questions about its local board management as well.
Does that mean we think the school should be shut down? No. But it needs to get its act together, and state needs to step up its oversight to ensure that’s the case – and that was the basis of the latest editorial.
Being consistent means maintaining the same position, not always backing the same people — especially when they’re in the wrong. I’d like to think that was the case with both of these stories and editorials as they evolved this week.
As always, let me know what you think.
Questions? Comments? Is there an issue you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or via email at email@example.com.