There I was at my kitchen table reading the Mayor’s Daily Notice when I spied the top heading on the front page, “Port Resident Richard Lodge named managing editor of the Daily News”
My wife and I had already decided that we would cancel the MDN starting this coming month as we were increasingly getting nothing or just about nothing of what was happening in Newburyport. It is sad when the comics and Tim’s Tips were the highlight of the day, and most of the time spent was trying to read between the lines and figuring out what didn’t make it into the paper of record.
The MDN has been a disappointment even before I moved here nearly 30 years ago. We subscribed in the hope that it would prepare us for living in the city, but it failed miserably. Only later, did we discover that you had to go to the Obituary page where insightful articles would be inserted that revealed what was really going on in town. To be fair, there were big headlines on major issues but the content was often sketchy. The only thing I have figured over the years is that the editors didn’t want to offend any tourists coming into town. Only later, did I discover there was a darker purpose.
But that’s another subject entirely!
The saddest part of the recent legacy of our paper was its latent and often aggressive hostility toward historic preservation. As anyone with at least one functioning eye can clearly see, the restoration of the downtown started a chain reaction of ever increasing affluence. It has had its ups and downs, but on average, the road to prosperity has been a good and steady thing. And yet, the paper, edited at the time by Bill Plante, was hostile to such a movement. The commonly held belief at that time was to demolish and replace with strip malls and modern buildings that would usher in ‘good times’. As I have seen around the country, it often produced the exact opposite. It gutted the culture and the community and left them as cold edifices of isolation. Worse, the vacuum was filled with the lower baser sorts of our society and a spiral of crime.
I will never forget going to Haverhill when I first moved here to explore and enjoy their dining establishments in a town where that destructive mindset had been allowed to have free reign. The local police thought we were crazy for showing up and gave us a police escort out of town!
But Bill Plante echoed the sentiment of that day, “If we don’t tear it down, it will fall down”. It took a large block of concerned citizens to write up a petition posted in his very own paper to finally convince City Hall that the newspaper did not reflect the community’s view. But this hostility has continued over the years.
Then John Macone came in 14 years ago and everyone in town was excited. Finally, we would get news, yes, real news! Plus, the attitude of the paper would reflect more of the views of the community! Things did get better for a while though the strange fascination with some editorial topics made us scratch our heads. The new Newburyport has a very tiny demographic of fishermen – it is sad reality but their fate rarely affects our city as a whole. This is just one example.
But the ever constant hostility toward historic preservation, though more latent now; was still there. And an ever increasingly shrinking tiny core of dark siders still had undue influence in the paper pushing for an economy that had little to do with heritage tourism or historic buildings or our beautiful environment. Notice the glee recently as the paper put the silly Wolfe Tavern idea on the front page. All that has happened is that now the real Wolfe family won’t be able to name their new restaurant Wolfe Tavern putting a damper on their long-term success.
But there I was reading rather glumly at the portfolio of the new editor when I came to nearly the last paragraph. Sometimes great things are missed if you are not paying attention!
He is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
It flashed across my eyes as a thunderbolt and struck my front door! This was almost unbelievable.
Could this be a rebirth of what was once called the Newburyport Daily News?
How will Mr. Lodge deal with a Mayor who wants to demolish and gut and put in all new buildings? How will he deal with developers who are gleefully joining in the exploiting and gutting of historic buildings in town? How will he deal with dark siders who mock our high quality of life and yearn for the old ugly town of old?
How will he treat those who are pushing for a better quality of life for our city? Will he join, or dare to join the Newburyport Preservation Trust? How will he treat COW or the NRA? And increasingly, as he will discover; the hot displeasure of City Hall if he practices what he believes as our building inspector oversees the destruction of the Newburyport Historic District.
Lightning is hard to control – and it spreads this way and that – but it also follows the path of least resistance too.
Only time will tell! But the clock is ticking on the Mayor’s Daily Notice – even if it is based on just economics; either the paper starts to represent the majority of the citizens who want a high quality of life or Mr. Lodge’s tenure may be a very short one.