The Lowell Sun and the Fifth Congressional District

While many supporters of Niki Tsongas were upset about the Lowell Sun’s endorsement of Jon Golnik, some community leaders – men and women who think more about the strategic needs of the region than they do politics – were appalled. For at least a century, Lowell has been the epicenter of the Fifth Congressional District, a status that has been of great benefit to the city and the surrounding towns. These community leaders realized that had the voters heeded the advice of the local newspaper, the future of the Fifth District would have been placed in jeopardy.

Every ten years, Lowell’s Congressional primacy has been threatened by redistricting. Back in early 1992, the late Paul Sullivan, in a Sun column excoriating the city’s legislative delegation for failing to fight vigorously enough against a redistricing plan that would “cut the Greater Lowell area up like a piece of sushi” explained why retaining Lowell as the center of the Congressional district was so critical:

This city was taken from the mouth of despair as a result of the revitalization that occurred in the 1970’s and 80’s. And that revitalization was solely the result of funds that were pumped in by the federal government. It was no accident that the federal government had chosen Lowell as its site for an urban national park. The city was the hub of a congressional district. In that role, Lowell was the focus of attention of the congressmen that represented it.

In the summer of 2001 while then Congressman Marty Meehan was contemplating a run for governor, Greater Lowell was staggered by a redistricting plan released by house speaker Tom Finneran that would have dismembered the Fifth District. Meehan immediately dropped his gubernatorial bid, announced he would run for reelection to Congress and the entire region pulled together to “save the Fifth.” Once again, Lowell dodged the redistricting bullet.

With redistricting looming again in the aftermath of the 2010 census and the near certainty that the Commonwealth will lose one of its ten Congressional seats, the election of a novice Republican like Jon Golnik would almost guarantee that the Democratically dominated state legislature would obliterate the Fifth District to preserve the other nine held by Democratic incumbents. Reduced to an appendage to an existing Congressional district dominated by a distant city, Greater Lowell would suffer from diminished clout and sustain longterm harm from a disruption of Federal resources.

Fortunately, Niki Tsongas was overwhelmingly reelected and given her relative seniority and her status as the only woman in the Massachusetts delegation, the nightmare scenario described above is unlikely to occur. That would not have been the case had the voters of the Fifth District heeded the advice of the Lowell Sun and elected Jon Golnik.

But the leadership of today’s Lowell Sun does not think or act strategically. The paper’s “Being represented by nobody would be better than being represented by Niki” stance is emblematic of its reactionary approach to most issues. Still, it’s evident that the Sun’s leadership has felt this community criticism over the Golnik editorial. How else do you explain the pathetic editorial on Thursday that sought to justify the paper’s actions by pointing out that the candidates endorsed by the paper – almost all of whom lost the election – received more votes than their opponents within the Sun’s circulation area.

Echoing its slanted coverage during the Congressional race, the Sun’s apologia completely ignored the fact that none of the Congressional candidates it endorsed won anywhere. But the entire premise of the newspaper’s argument – that losing candidates prevailed within the paper’s circulation area – showed how backwards-looking the newspaper’s leadership truly is. The Sun contentedly counts the number of papers it prints each day while the rest of the news-delivery world zooms past on the boundary-less and border-less internet, leaving the local newspaper to fade further into irrelevance with each passing day.

9 Responses to The Lowell Sun and the Fifth Congressional District

  1. Deb Forgione says:

    “to fade further into irrelevance with each passing day”. Is a true statement and sad because every community enjoys a newspaper . A good newspaper will bring both sides to all issues.The fact the newspaper looked down on Lowell as the “peasants” is cause for concern. Concern that as a business person each time I advertise to promote my business in Lowell, the Lowell Sun just told me and my customers we are not their market. The next time I receive an email or call l from their media rep I will ask them to explain that to me

  2. Dean says:

    I man -up and called paper and in a nice way told them that I did not support there position for Congress.

  3. Mimi says:


    The paper’s November 4th editorial was a failed response to your November 3rd post (calling them irrelevant) and the comments, especially those of Fred Faust. How else does one explain this sentence in the editorial?

    “The Sun’s endorsements were relevant in the eyes of a majority of Greater Lowell voters — the people we serve daily and know best. “

    Also I was surprised that Kendall repeated these sentiments in his column yesterday.

    I echo Deb’s comments, next time someone wants to sell you an ad or subscription, tell them “no thanks.” I will not renew my e-subscription instead find a way to support the two reporters whose writings I enjoy.

  4. C R Krieger says:

    I am less optimistic about the Fifth than Dick.  Those folks down on Beacon Hill see us for what we are (more like the center of Pennsylvania and less like the suburbs of Boston) and with the clout in the State Senate being reduced by turnover and a new lack of tenure, our strength is even less than usual.  But, I guess the argument can be made that the only way we can survive is by not rippling the waters and that thus we need to keep an all-Democrat delegation down in Boston.  That will work for as long as this remains a one-party state.  It is Realpolitik. It is sad.

    I wonder if there is a study of the difference, on average, a district receives in federal funds, based upon the party affiliation of the district’s representative relative to the majority party in the House of Representatives?

    Regards  —  Cliff

  5. Jack Mitchell says:

    Let me begin by saying, I can’t close with a tidy point, a walk away. Unless, of course, it is walking away scratching your head.

    The Sun, no longer to be referred to as the Lowell Sun, the Sun has alientated itself from a large swath of our city and the district. It’s pursuit of a journalistic standard mimicking the comment authors on Topix, has degraded it’s legitimacy. But, it is “the only game in town.”

    I’ve heard folks talk of cancelling their subscription. I don’t even read the rag, unless it forces itself into my mind by shear political momentum. But all the anger, mostly justified, cannot culminate into an alternative source for news.

    If I have one criticism of the Sun, it is their abuse of their monopoly. Odd, ain’t it. Conservatives often complain they are victim of the majority, cramming an agenda down their throats. Yet, here we have the Sun, doing JUST THAT.

    I can’t logically support a boycott. If the Sun goes down, we would likely find it nearly impossible to start up another paper. If we were lucky, the fiscal ship may start to sink and another ownership could come forward. Who knows what that would bring?

    It may be best to just call the paper out for what it is. Brand it with a lable that sticks and begin to work around it.

    Realistically, there will always be suck ups that will guzzle the editors baloney, to get the play they desire. We know that power has corrupted the editors. What we don’t always know is, which of our friends will kowtow for their own narrow betterment.

    Once upon a time, it was City Hall that was fought. Now the 5th Estate is entwined in the mess.

    Blog On!

  6. Arthur says:

    If Massachusetts loses a Congressional seat in the next election , then the required population will be around 700,000 per district.or 70,000 more than currently.The obvious problem I see for Lowell is that the district will likely shift west to capture the needed additional population and to relieve the pressure on the eastward districts.
    For example , Congressman Tierney could get the needed 70,000 or so to hold his Sixth District by returning Haverhill to that district . Congressman Markey might look to Wilmington , Tewksbury , etc. – towns he once represented to fill out his population requirement .
    All this would force the Fifth to the west – adding enough of Worcester County to make up the needed population . This is feasible if Congresssman Olver decides to retire.
    From the perspective of the owners of the Sun , this might be beneficial as they own papers to the west – Fitchburg ( and Pittsfield.)

  7. Jack Mitchell says:

    Well, here is a consideration. The Sun is factoring in its market share when the District lines are redrawn?

    What is the best redrawing of the district in relation to their business plan? Taking Arthur’s points, we could see the 5th losing Lawrence and picking up Fitchburg. That would take The Sun away from the Eagle Tribs domain. Hmmm? Does the Sun’s parent company also own a paper in Fitchburg? Would they dare to advocate for something that is nothing but naked self interest?

    Wait. That is what businesses do. Right? Maximize profit. Yet, as a shaper of public opinion, don’t they have any responsibility to, y’know, the public?

    Silly ol’ me.

    Such wild speculation puts a whole new spin on the Golnik endorsement.

  8. Dean says:

    Arthur, Media News Group also owns The Nashoba Publishing a weelky newspaper that covers the towns west of Lowell.