We were about to go to press when the story changed yet again. I didn’t get to yell “stop the press,” but I did decide to hold the press. The state Department of Health was going to shut down the sold out “Soupy Seminar” scheduled later that night at the armory and we had a page 1 story about the decision. But that morning they wavered. We were still an afternoon paper then, with a deadline of 9:15 a.m., I believe, for the last page.
Organizer Rich Siciliano called me as we were winding down production of that day’s edition to say the event might be a go after all. But he couldn’t confirm by our deadline. I rewrote the story and the headline read ‘Tonight’s ‘Soupy Seminar’ in limbo.’ The event went on and was a successful fundraiser for the armory.
There are many more details to the story, but I refer to it because on my last day as editor here, I recall that story as a classic example of community journalism. Since the dawn of the web and the availability of the latest global news in the palm of your hand, the mantra of small news organizations has been local, local, local. Local news is unique. A soupy seminar is the definition of unique.
Every town has municipal and school governing bodies and zoning issues and they can all get out of hand on occasion as issues and passions rise and fall. But it’s the regular folks who give each town its character, and that, for me, is what made the business so attractive for so long. In my 16 years as a copy editor and reporter at The Day of New London and 10 years here as editor — and a few weeklies real early on — it was the profiles of residents and the quirky community stories that I enjoyed the most.
I had to cover my share of police and municipal and school news. And as editor I needed to pay close attention to it all from all of our towns in order to write columns and editorials. But with so much politicking and ego involved, I really didn’t care for it. It all changes in a month anyway.
I prefer the Ed Liguoris of the world. Ed has devoted his later years to making the Westerly Veterans Memorial one that any large city would be proud of. Others are involved, but Ed is the one who calls me with updates on the next project. The memorial at the corner of Grove Avenue and Granite Street and just outside gorgeous Wilcox Park is now lighted at night and features 17 flag poles. Granite benches are next, and the committee is looking for donations. I’ll miss Ed’s visits and what I call his Italian graft — homemade marinated eggplant, mushrooms, celery and peppers.
I should stop with the names since there are too many to mention. And in 10 years there are many stories that stand out and many that should but that I’ve forgotten. We have published through hurricanes and blizzards, under emergency lighting and without heat, and we finished one issue from my kitchen counter because the office had lost power.
Superstorm Sandy was a big story for us, but no bigger than the flood of 2010, which hurt many more people. Page one was exclusively flood coverage — the cleanup and recovery seemed never-ending — for weeks, as I recall.
The Sun has a strong staff that needs to be appreciated for what it does every day. We are one of the institutions, along with the hospital, library and park, chorus, radio station, and the arts community, that add character and make this small town and the greater region so attractive. And we’ve got soupy, lots of it hanging right now in basements and attics across the region, spicing up that character.
Locals tend to bash institutions while visitors marvel at what they find in a small town. If you’ve been a basher, I hope you’ll step back and appreciate what we have, because it’s pretty cool.
It’s been a challenge, a pleasure and an honor serving in this capacity.