Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
---- — When staff writer Steven Fletcher covered Wednesday night’s meeting of the Gloucester Community Arts School Board of Trustees, a number of different news stories surfaced.
And when Steve and I exchanged messages late that night and talked early Thursday morning, we decided at least one element was worth posting as a breaking news story — the news that, after several weeks of negotiations and executive sessions, the board had reached an agreement with Executive Director Tony Blackman on a new contract. So we posted it on our gloucestertimes.com website late Thursday morning, noting, as always, that much more on the story and on the meeting would be coming in Friday’s Times.
Folks looking for that same story in Friday’s paper, however, would have found a Page 1 lead story focusing on the concerns and questions raised by charter school parents and a former teacher and founder, all voiced at the same meeting. The new agreement reached with Blackman was certainly included, but in this case, the spotlight was on the comments and issues raised by parents and former GCACS arts teacher Kathleen Dailey, one of the school’s founding board members.
What changed, you might ask? If the contract agreement story was worth breaking news, wouldn’t it be the focus of the charter school story in the next day’s Times? And if the parents’ comments were deemed more significant, shouldn’t they have also been the focus of the breaking news story?
Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?
Stories and meetings such as this always pose some interesting dilemmas. But one of the the biggest factors is deciding how best to use our breaking news format on gloucestertimes.com.
Yes, the issues raised by the charter parents and others were more significant — especially when posed to a board that’s supposedly looking into parents’ petitioned concerns regarding the school’s leadership. But a story regarding the parents’ concerns — with board members and Blackman’s reactions to them — was far more complex and time-consuming to pull together.
A breaking news story – and, in this case, the text message sent out with it — is meant to be a finite, relatively brief story that simply lets the reader know that something has happened. And in that vein, it is not necessarily a story encompassing the “big picture” of an issue or an event.
In this instance, yes, the news about the contract was well worth reporting — as we did in our online breaking. But it frankly paled in comparison to the larger issues raised at the meeting by charter parents who not only voiced that the school had drifted from its founding goals, but noted they had withdrawn their children from it. That’s a story difficult to tell through a quick, breaking news report, but a very significant story when it comes to assessing the big picture of the charter school’s future.
A similar issue arose in another Thursday/Friday story — the story regarding the town of Manchester’s plan to spray for mosquitoes in the face of a confirmed presence of Eastern equine encephalitis in mosquitoes found in neighboring Hamilton.
In that case, the breaking news story and text update posted late Thursday afternoon focused on one thing – letting Manchester residents know that the town would be spraying along Pine Street north of Route 128 on Thursday night, and that, while the insecticide is deemed safe, they should remain inside during the spraying operation.
The story in Friday’s paper, however, focused on the steps Manchester and other communities are looking to take as mosquito-borne illnesses gain more of a foothold in our area – noting that Manchester’s initial spraying efforts had already been carried out the night before.
Our gloucestertimes.com breaking news coverage, our text-alert service and our up-to-date coverage in Facebook and Twitter.com are all important tools for getting you the first word about the news that’s happening in our home communities. But as this week’s charter school and mosquito stories show, that first word is not the last — and it doesn’t always paint the big picture.
As always, let me know that you think.
Questions? Comments? Is there an issue you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.