Rockport, MA — Peter Watson, Editor, Gloucester Daily Times; General Manager, Essex County Newspapers, from 1970-2002, died (dammit) on November 24, 2012. He was 73 years old.
Watson served as editor of the Times from 1970 to 1983 then as General Manager of Essex County Newspapers with continued oversight for the Times among his responsibilities, hiring and working with successive editors for the next two decades.
On his watch, the Gloucester Daily Times campaigned successfully for the restoration of the mayoral form of government and waterfront zoning. The Times at that time was a leading skeptic of development proposals, including the original plan to fill much of the harbor as part of the city's urban renewal program. The Times also stood up to the City Council in 1980 when in the heat of the Unification Church's arrival in Gloucester, a fearful City Council passed an anti-unification church resolution likening that church to the Jim Jones cult which had just committed mass suicide. A week later, after a Times editorial said, in effect, "we are better and we are stronger than that" and a public outcry, the Council retracted its vote.
During his tenure, the Times began accumulating a 35-foot wall of awards, many for being the New England Newspaper of the Year in its circulation category and for top investigative stories and many for Charles A. Lowe photos, who once won six first place awards in one year. He personally nailed the awards to the newsroom wall to "inspire and/or intimidate" the staff which would later work underneath them.
Building on the tradition begun by former owner Phillip S. Weld who in 1948 founded the Cape Ann Summer Sun and traditionally brought in college interns to edit it, Watson initiated with the University of New Hampshire a college internship program that brought decades of college interns to the paper. Many stayed on as full-timers. One has gone on to win a Pulitzer Prize and many employees throughout Essex County Newspapers came through this program. Other former Times staffers from Watson's era have become publishers, editors, and Supreme Court correspondents. Watson oversaw the Times publication of three books, "Portrait of Gloucester: Photos by Charles A. Lowe," and two storm books, "Storm Force: The 1978 Storm", and "Storming Ashore: the 1991 Storm.”. Former Times reporters from Peter Anastas to Kevin Sullivan, including Kim Bartlett, Todd Balf, Kevin Baker, and Tony Mauro have published more than a dozen books.