GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 20, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Bringing home emotions of Marathon terrorist attack

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — From the moment we learned of the two explosions that rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon last Monday, it was clear that this terrifying story would pose all sorts of challenges in terms of media coverage, including for us here at the Times.

Indeed, while the scope of the story has reached far beyond the usual local coverage we provide on the front pages and inside the Times, we’ve recognized all week that the enormity of this terrorist attack so close to home is by far the dominant issue on everyone’s minds, and in their hearts, as well.

Yet, we’ve also tried throughout the week to carry through on what we see as our duties to you as our Gloucester and Cape Ann readers:

To not only present the full, large-scale story, as covered by, in this case, the Associated Press and the major TV networks, but to relate the roles played by Gloucester and Cape Ann residents at the marathon scene and here, as well.

To stay on top of the fast-changing breaking daily news in the bombing story through our online coverage at gloucestertimes.com, through our text alerts, and especially through our Facebook and Twitter.com posts, updated regularly by Features editor Andrea Holbrook.

To continue presenting coverage of other Cape Ann news, so you can stay on top of not only this precedent-setting terrorism story, but in touch with other local news, as well.

That has also meant a lot of decisions, right from the first day, when it became apparent that, to give the marathon bombings the presentation it warranted, we would have to move our local lead stories as of then — on Gloucester liquor licenses and on the Gloucester police finding in last May’s fatal Essex motorcycle crash. Both of those had been pegged for the top half of the page; both ultimately appeared near the bottom, as we focused almost entirely on the marathon terrorism attack.

Then came another decision: choosing which photos best represented the horror of the marathon scene.

Working with Jim Reily on our design desk, we quickly settled on the large-scale shot showing much of the finish-line scene — from rescue crews loading victims into ambulances, to the ravaged fencing and grandstand that had, just minutes earlier, been filled with cheering spectators hailing runners in the marathon’s true spirit. Then, we decided to go with the smaller secondary photo showing responders rushing a man in a wheelchair to get help.

From the photo, it seemed apparent that the man had likely lost a leg in the bombing, and as it turned out, he had lost both. And that drew a couple of calls the next day from readers who understandably felt the image was too graphic.

Was there a need to run that photo? Why would your community’s newspaper do that?

Because, in my mind, we needed to show, not just tell of, the true horror of the finish-line scene. And this photo depicted it in every way — from the horrific level of injuries, which quickly became apparent, to the urgent, yet incredibly focused, commitment shown by the responders, including volunteers.

Throughout the week, of course, we’ve also shown and told of the efforts of our own friends and neighbors here on Cape Ann, from Desi Smith’s touching photo showing the lighting of candles at Wednesday night’s prayer vigil at St. Paul’s Church in Lanesville, to today’s photos showing local kids running their own cookies and lemonade stands to raise money to help those affected by the marathon bombings.

Capturing all of the news and gripping emotions of a terrorist attack just beyond our backyards may be virtually impossible — and thankfully, none of us has had much practice dealing with a story of this horrific magnitude. But throughout the week, between print, online, social media coverage, we have sought to bring you all the news of this unforgettable attack and the hunt for the terrorists — and to bring that news home by reporting Cape Ann’s own response.

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, x3432, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.