The first phone call Monday night was mysterious.
A person who did not identify herself said she was curious why we didn’t have anything about “Mayor Kirk having to throw Mac Bell out of her fund-raiser” that had been held Saturday night.
I thought that conjured up some interesting images, but I gave the woman the only answer I had: I told her that we had not heard about any such incident, but that we would look into it.
I frankly suspected that, if there was somehow any clash between Gloucester’s mayoral candidates, it didn’t quite happen as she had described. Then, however, came an email from one of our semi-regular letter writers, saying that there had been a confrontation of sorts between the mayor and Mac, and other calls followed, suggesting, like the letter writer, that it ought to be worth a story.
Was it? I thought about that for a minute then decided it was at least worth pursuing. For starters, I called Lenny Linquata at The Gloucester House, where the mayor had held her Saturday night fund-raiser. He confirmed that Bell had indeed turned up, and that the mayor had asked him to leave.
With that, reporter Marjorie Nesin contacted both candidates, who essentially confirmed Lenny’s version of what had taken place – and had their own explanations as to why they acted and handled things the way they did.
Now, was that worth a story? You bet.
In fact, as the day wore on, I felt the story Marje crafted from her conversations with Kirk and with Bell was indeed a tale that readers would find interesting. The result was “Bell proves unwelcome guest at Kirk benefit,” which ran across the top of Wednesday’s lively front page, with photos of both from their campaign kickoff visits to the Times several days earlier.
Now, this clearly was not a story about each candidates’ campaign stands. Neither had announced any new economic, education, budget or other policies. And we don’t generally do any coverage of political fund-raisers, given that, if we covered one, we’d feel obliged to cover them all — and there’s really no reason to do that.
So, you may ask, did this story deserve top-of-the-page attention? Did it deserve Page 1? Should it have been a story at all?
Why, in other words, did your community’s newspaper do that?
Well, we did it partly because the fact that the city’s two mayoral candidates had clashed a bit was indeed news, in my book.
Another factor was that talk of the brief verbal exchange was already making the rounds of the city, and it gave us a chance to document and clarify what happened. Finally, I felt the exchange and the story gave voters a look at the candidates’ personalities — perhaps looks that don’t always come out when they’re outlining their views and carving out positions in what should prove to be an interesting race.
By virtually all accounts, here’s what happened: The mayor was kicking off her re-election campaign with a fund-raiser, which hed been declared open to the public — and Bell decided he’d show up.
Sound crazy? Maybe, but Bell noted there was a context to it.
He noted that, a week earlier, at least a couple of Kirk campaign workers/volunteers had shown up at his kickoff event, when he greeted voters and outlined his views. In the latter case, however, Bell showed up himself, and Kirk asked him to leave, noting that his presence made some of her guests who’d paid for the party “uncomfortable.” She also indicated that she didn’t want to be discussing “campaign strategy” with her challenger in the room.
Judging from a couple of letters, calls, and online comments at gloucestertimes.com, the story has generated a mixed reaction, with — not surprisingly — differing views from both sides.
Did it advance either campaign? Did it change anyone’s view of either candidate? Maybe, maybe not. But we thought you at least deserved to know about it, and that made it a story.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.