One story got more play than virtually any other on the pages of the Times and on gloucestertimes.com this week.
And that might have seemed odd, given that the entire story revolved around a single, Thursday night meeting.
But our coverage of Thursday night's state Department of Public Health hearing regarding the planned joining of forces between Lahey Clinic and Northeast Health System — with Addison Gilbert Hospital, of course — carried from Tuesday's Times right through this morning's (see news story, Page 1).
And while it's hard to argue there were many stories more significant for Cape Ann and its people, that might seem excessive.
Did this hearing and story really merit that level of coverage? Why, you might ask, would your community's newspaper do that?
First, yes, we thought the hearing was worth the attention it got as it played out both on Page 1 and on our Opinion page.
The state Department of Public Health is, after all, one of three entities that can approve the Northeast-Lahey deal, require conditions for it, or, if it somehow came to that, reject the whole deal. And Thursday's hearing was the public's first chance to make their feelings known directly to those who will make those decisions.
It was in that vein, then, that we felt the need to let readers not privy to activists' email lists to know about the hearing, so they would have enough time to go and speak. So we began the week's references to it with a Monday editorial urging residents to attend, then followed with a major Page 1 advance in Wednesday's Times — noting that Peggy O'Malley and her Partners for Addison Gilbert group were organizing a push to stand up for AGH, and that they, too, were encouraging others to do the same. The Opinion page also included letters outlining the concerns for AGH's future, and also noting the Thursday hearing.
Then came the fun part. Recognizing that timing can, indeed, be everything — and that readers would justifiably expect coverage in Friday's Times — we committed to providing that. Yet there was a basic problem: we knew the testimony at the meeting itself would carry beyond our deadlines.
What to do? First, staff writer Steven Fletcher spoke during the day Thursday to O'Malley and others, and learned that the prime theme of their Thursday night presentations would be to try to get the DPH to require guarantees for Addison Gilbert's future as a condition of any partnership agreement.
That news alone went a step beyond what anyone had reported previously, so Steve was able to get that aspect of the story in place just prior to the meeting itself. Then, with the meeting going on, he provide the updated information that those speaking on behalf of maintaining Addison Gilbert's core services included Congressman John Tierney and Mayor Carolyn Kirk, both of whom stepped forward to address the DPH panel. That news made up the core of Friday's story.
On Friday, Steve then added extensive testimony and more information about the hearing as it had played out Thursday night, and updated our coverage on gloucestertimes.com. Then, Steve crafted a more thorough version of Friday's online story for today's Times — hopefully answering readers' questions about the hearing and the status of AGH as the affiliation proposal moves forward.
Would it have been better to get the full hearing coverage into one piece? Of course. But we wanted to let you know as much as we could as soon as we could — and we wanted to give you the full picture when all was said and done, hence the Friday-Saturday coverage.
As always, let me know what you think.
Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you'd like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000 x3438, or firstname.lastname@example.org.