This Side Up

It's going to be different ... but how?

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 6/4/20

By the first week in June, things are usually humming. If not for COVID-19, it would be mid-celebration for Gaspee Days - the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Festival having been held, and the concert and fireworks with the 5K and the parade the following

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This Side Up

It's going to be different ... but how?

Posted

By the first week in June, things are usually humming.

If not for COVID-19, it would be mid-celebration for Gaspee Days – the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Festival having been held, and the concert and fireworks with the 5K and the parade the following weekend lined up and ready to go.

Typically by this time, the New England Institute of Technology will have held its graduation and a notable commencement speaker – there have been sports celebrities and highly acclaimed educational, governmental and business leaders – will have shared their thoughts with the graduates and the community. By this time, we’d be lamenting or “perhaps” celebrating the performance of the Red Sox and speculating about the season ahead. By this time, hotels would be booked as events had people planning to be in Rhode Island. The list goes on and on.

There’s none of that this year. It’s weird, a time warp where even the flow of government is interrupted or dramatically altered. By this time the tug and pull over the state budget would be in full swing. Instead, it seems legislators are in hibernation. On the local level, politics appear to be on hold. By this time in an election year, there would have been multiple fundraisers even if the all Democratic slate of incumbents are going virtually unchallenged. There were a couple of early bird candidates, but little mention of more. And one wonders how that could play out.

Prospective candidates surely won’t feel comfortable going door-to-door to obtain the necessary signatures to get on the ballot. It’s hard to imagine them standing outside a supermarket – while maintaining social distancing – with a clipboard and signature sheets. What then, of campaigning? How is that going to work?

These are different times requiring new ideas and strategies. Will we recognize candidates for office if they’re masked … and if not masked, would they be shamed into wearing them?

I’m intrigued by how it will play out and the role the Beacon will play in informing voters. Will we host virtual debates? It’s possible. Will we host podcasts with candidates? As we have done, we will surely be reporting points of view and the back and forth of campaigns, assuming, of course there are candidates.

Perhaps what we are planning for the high school classes of 2020 will offer a format. This year’s graduates – Pilgrim and Toll Gate graduations are this week – are being robbed of so much. The grads are scheduled to walk across the stage to a virtually empty auditorium, have their diploma handed them and walk out of the school so as not to violate gathering policies. That moment, which might amount to a minute, will be captured on video and then spliced into a video including speeches from classmates, the principal and elected officials. Videos will then be given each of the graduates.

Next week we’ll be publishing stories of the graduations with highlights from the speeches as well as the names of graduates – the kind of coverage we have given graduations for years. In addition, we’re working on e-editions for each school that will appear on our website. These editions will contain transcripts of speeches, photographs from the senior year and so much more.

The Beacon hasn’t attempted anything like this before. We don’t know how it will turn out, but we do know we have to try. The Gaspee Days is looking to run a virtual 5K and Hendricken’s For the Boys virtual fundraiser was more successful in raising funds to help offset tuition costs for those families needing assistance than those that preceded it. Maybe e-editions are the new wave.

It’s fitting that the graduates are leading the way. We look to them and to you to help show the way.

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