, Gloucester, MA


March 23, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do This? Page 1 attention for a house project

So, the Roma family in Rockport acquired a piece of property adjacent to the home they already own, and is planning to tear down the house and build a new one on the site.

On the surface, that doesn’t sound too earth-shattering, does it? Yet that property transaction and very basic building plan played out as a Page 1 story in the Thursday’s Times.

Why? For starters, Ronald Roma is one of Rockport’s better-known property owners, for a variety of reasons. The owner of the so-called Brick House, which some neighbors and other residents love to hate on Granite Street, both Roma and the house itself made headlines — and spotlighted a concern in Rockport’s local bylaws — when he and a piloting colleague lowered a helicopter to within several feet of the house as if to test its viability for a potential helipad. And town officials scrambled to find a bylaw that could legally prevent any plans for one going forward.

But does that make the Romas’ latest acquisition and building plans front-page news? Is it fair to focus on their building proposals? Shouldn’t we then do similar stories on potentially anyone who buys a house and looks to tear down what’s there in favor of putting up something better?

Why did this new home project merit this kind of attention? Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?

Because in Rockport, especially, the Romas’ latest home project comes within the context of several news stories, given all that’s gone before it.

For one thing, the Romas’ proposal to tear down a building constructed in 1905 — the deed isn’t clear whether that refers to the house, a garage or a shed on the property, though it’s logical to suspect the house came before the other two — was precisely the concept targeted by a proposed demolition delay bylaw that town residents’ shot down last year.

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