I like to think of our Opinion page letters as some of the liveliest aspects of the paper each day.
They are, of course, a means for readers to not only comment regarding stories that appear on our news pages, but also exchange ideas and views on a wide variety of issues, whether local, statewide, regional, national or global. There’s been lively discussion in recent weeks over issues ranging from the Fort hotel overlay district to a Rockport connector road and the state of Gloucester’s schools. Then, there are the letters that discuss and debate national issues, especially as the November elections approach.
This past week, however, there have been a couple of letters that might have seemed a bit outside the box, so to speak.
One was a Friday letter from Alice Lewis, 86, who wrote to describe how how much she enjoyed this year’s Horribles Parade, and a special arrangement by which the Legion Italian Band stopped to play the song “Happy Birthday” in her honor, and other bands happily joined in. Another is the letter that appears today from Maureen Grannan of Newton, who writes about the kindness extended by Cape Ann Samaritans after a flat tire threatened to spoil an outing for a group of Newton seniors headed for a concert at Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performance Center.
Neither of these represent readers taking stands on local issues. And in that vein, you may wonder whether they’re really appropriate for a traditional Opinion page.
Shouldn’t they have just been placed, maybe, among the thank-you notes, or perhaps on the weekly Friends & Neighbors section? Why the Opinion page? Why, in other words, did your community’s newspaper do that?
Well, in my mind, they’re both very appropriate for the Opinion page. Neither is really a good fit for “Friends & Neighbors,” the Monday page that generally features our Poets’ Corner and home photos and little caption stories submitted by readers looking to share family, neighborhood or community news. And while they would fit the listings of “thank-you” notes, both of these letters go beyond that.
Both actually represent the writers telling little stories that speak volumes about Gloucester, Cape Ann and the people who live here. And in that vein, they indeed showcase these writers’ opinions about aspects of Cape Ann life.
I’ve often noted that our front page doesn’t isn’t limited to breaking news coverage or urgent issues needing readers’ attention. There’s also room for stories like last week’s piece by town beat reporter Marjorie Nesin introducing new Rockport Superintendent of Schools Robert Liebow, Marjorie’s Tuesday story on the new Riverside Bistro restaurant and what its presence adds to Essex revitalized downtown, and Joann Mackenzie’s Thursday Page 1 centerpiece on “The Hive,” the new downtown arts space that has grown out of Gloucester’s successful Art Haven and hosts its grand opening on Pleasant Street tonight.
You see, our goal as a community newspaper is not just to cover the breaking news scene, but also to present community information and other coverage that, through words and photos alike, presents a portrait, if you will, of Gloucester and Cape Ann life. And these letters – along with others like them that have run in the past — present views of our area through the eyes of the letter writers.
Not all letters have to be about news coverage that’s appeared in the Times. Indeed, many letters over the years have touched off and carried on entire discussions on issues that never even made the front page, from beach dog cleanup concerns to questions about the flags on Stacy Boulevard.
But some need not be about “hard news” at all. And that was the case with these letters that brightened our pages this week. 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 at email@example.com.