, Gloucester, MA

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March 16, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? When news doesn't follow a game plan

If you expected the lead story in Wednesday morning’s Times to include the final vote on the Beauport Gloucester hotel project, you weren’t alone — so did we.

But a funny thing happened on the way to seeing that vote through to fruition late Tuesday night, and actually into early Wednesday morning.

Gloucester’s City Council, rightfully going the extra mile in carrying out its due diligence in gathering information and input regarding the landmark waterfront project, led and listened to more than five hours of presentations and testimony on the pros and cons of placing a 101-room hotel just off Pavilion Beach and Commercial Street. And when the public hearing was closed, rather than launch into voting and final discussion at 12:30 a.m., the councilors correctly pushed that back for one more night – ultimately approving the necessary permits when the meeting continued Wednesday.

All of that worked out fine, but it posed some interesting dilemmas for us here at the Times. And it served as a reminder —as if we needed one — that when you try to plan out the next day’s news coverage, even the best laid plans can be thrown astray.

Wednesday morning’s Times, of course, featured some dynamic photos by photo correspondent Desi Smith from the sometimes tense discussion Tuesday night, and Marjorie Nesin’s story captured the key points of the debate as well. Yet, with no vote, the headline on our lead story was simply “11th-hour cliffhanger” — essentially telling the reader that there was no decision.

Now, you may ask, why would a lead story — with by far the biggest and boldest headline, and covering nearly of Page 1 — basically say that no decision had been made? That, some might argue, nothing had happened?

Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?

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