GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 14, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Staying out of the name game

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — This past week’s Gloucester City Council meeting and its discussion of the city-owned property and building just off Blackburn Circle brought about a strange turn of events.

For, in the course of firming up wording on a nonbinding November referendum for the city elections ballot, some councilors sought to edit into the question a subtle but perhaps significant name change for one of the city’s best-known and, over the years, busiest buildings.

While firming up and reiterating that voters will not be able to choose a school as a future use of the Fuller School building, they also decided to emphasize that “school” would, they believe, never again be part of Fuller’s future. And to that end, the council took steps to refer to the property only as the “Fuller Building Site,” including on the ballot — which will sample voters’ opinions regarding the facility’s future use as a municipal office building — a commercial property, or a mixed-use multi-unit commercial property while also accommodating a public safety complex on the old school’s Charlie Thomas Field.

We’ve noted our disgust with the School Committee’s and the council’s push to avoid — seemingly at all costs – asking the city’s taxpayers and voters whether they would like to see Fuller reused as a school. But it also seems clear that school and city officials will indeed now only refer to the property as the Fuller Building, and the Fuller building site.

Why?

Councilor Joe Ciolino says it’s to avoid “confusion,” even suggesting that calling the building by its former title of “Fuller School building” is misleading. “We need to put an end to the confusion and to the possibility that people envision it being a school again,” Ciolino said, so he and several other city and school officials hope that residents will pick up that terminology as well.

So, will the Times, in all future Fuller-related stories, editorials, letters, photos and captions, drop “school” from Fuller’s nomenclature as well?

Absolutely not.

Now, you may ask, —isn’t this a name change essentially backed by most councilors? So why would your community’s newspaper do that?

First of all, despite this game of semantics, no one has dared put forward any item calling for a formal name change on the building. But even beyond that, readers should note that we frankly don’t feel compelled to join in this little name game with the City Council, the mayor’s office, or anyone else.

Yes, city councilors, school officials and anyone else can refer solely to the “Fuller Building Site” all they want. Indeed, to avoid repetition, we’ve often simply referred to it as the “Fuller site” and the “Fuller property” as well.

But we also recognize that this is frankly little more than a political push to try to distract residents from Fuller’s role for some 40 years, first as the Archdiocese of Boston’s St. Peter’s High School, then as a city elementary school that served thousands of Gloucester kids and families, and then as a centralized home to the city’s fifth-graders in 2007-2008. And while some would also like to have us think Fuller’s been closed as a school since June 2008, let’s also not forget that it still housed the city’s pre-schoolers until this past June.

Our sense is that, despite some city and schools officials’ best spin efforts, most of you will always think of this facility as the Fuller School many of you attended, the Fuller School site, or whatever variation you choose. And I can tell you we have no qualms going forward in referring to it as the former Fuller School that you all remember — and perhaps still think it could somehow become again.

Will that create confusion? Not in my book. In fact, ask anyone in Gloucester what they think of the “Fuller School” building, and see if they’re confused.

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.