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Brian McCready promoted to metro editor at New Haven Register

17 Apr

The New Haven Register’s assignment desk just got better, with Brian McCready‘s promotion to metro editor.

Brian joined the Register as a reporter in Milford in 2000, and has developed a reputation among his colleagues as one of the hardest-working members of the staff, and a strong reputation for fairness in the communities he’s covered. He has served as Milford bureau chief since 2004.

In his new role, Brian will be chiefly responsible for coordinating news coverage of the Naugatuck Valley and Milford, Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge.

He’ll also be a vital assistant and backup to Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury and City Editor Helen Bennett Harvey, who have been taking on an increased role in planning statewide news coverage and investigative story projects.

After 32 years in print, a newsroom veteran jumps to a digital-only job

29 Nov

As newspapers transition to “Digital First,” with the new skills and radically different job descriptions that can entail, what happens to a person whose entire career has been focused on the print edition?

No doubt, some will not make the transition. Catch up with the past year of layoffs, buyouts and early retirements across the industry for evidence of that.

But for other newsroom veterans, it represents an exciting (and/or nerve-wracking) new chapter in their careers. Their transition is significant for our company because we can’t afford to lose the knowledge and experience these journalists and editors have.

Roseann Iacomacci

Yesterday, the New Haven Register announced a significant newsroom reorganization that, among other things, established a five-person Breaking News team focused 100 percent on speeding news and information to our websites and via social media, blogging and SMS alerts.

The effort will be led by Cara Baruzzi, whose previous role as business editor revolved around preparation of a daily print section. Three other members of the team will be moving over from the copy desk that prepares the Register’s print edition.

Roseann Iacomacci is making the transition to a digital-only job after 32 years in the business.

She started her career at the Bridgeport Post and worked there for more than two decades before joining the New Haven Register in 2002. She started writing wedding and engagement notices and has spent most of her career selecting and editing wire copy from around the country and world to sandwich into print edition pages, writing editorials and plowing through a blizzard of local reporter copy filed for a late-night print edition deadline.

On Nov. 18, Rose left her last late shift on the copy desk at 12:30 a.m.

On Nov. 21, she arrived at 6 a.m. for her new shift – more aligned with the reading habits of the Register’s digital audience.

“My first thought about the shift to ‘Digital First’ was that it was inevitable, but, frankly, perhaps a bit premature. I also thought it was one of those mysteries of business that only accountants and tax lawyers understand, because the print product is still making the bulk of our profits, if what I hear is true,” Iacomacci said.

The New Haven Register’s parent company has been a pioneer in accelerating rapidly to a focus on digital on both the news and advertising sides of the business as print advertising revenue has plummeted across the industry and print circulation has declined.

“I decided to apply for one of the digital jobs because it’s the direction of the future and I want to stay employed,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve had to adapt to many changes: hot lead to cold type, galley proofs to full page setups, paper layouts to computerized pagination and more.”

As she learns dozens of unfamiliar technologies and processes – from embedding a live chat on a web page to maximizing the effectiveness of her Twitter posts, Rose worries that she’s spending more time on the medium, the technology, than the content.

New Haven Register City Editor Helen Bennett Harvey worries what the content would be like if Rose and employees like her weren’t making the transition to digital.

“To me, Rose has always embodied the part of journalism that demands that we get things right,” she said. “She has been relentless in making sure we get our facts straight – as well as making sure we say it in a way that is clear to our readers.”

“By nature, I don’t like change. I’m always a little nervous about it, and sometimes I worry that the actual skills of writing and editing are taking a back seat to the technology,” Rose said. “I guess the exciting part is that we’re sort of pioneers of paperless newspapers. The routines and practices we work out now, and the mistakes we make, might inform the next generation of journalists.”

Bennett Harvey is more confident that we’re establishing the right ground rules with Rose on board.

“Rose, for instance, is the one we can turn to to make sure a headline – while SEO friendly – does not make us sound like grammar morons,” she said. “This talent also plays well into our goal of improving our journalism as we climb toward the digital first goal: There is no good journalism without good writing.”

“Rose has come a long way in terms of her skills and the evolution from the legacy print operation to our digital world,” Bennett Harvey said. “We all need to keep honing our digital skills, and to me, Rose has embraced this goal.”

UPDATE: Of course, in reading this blog post, Rose pointed out an antecedent problem. I inserted a quote from Helen Bennett Harvey before the “By nature, I don’t like change …” quote, which referred only to “she said,” making it seem as though Bennett Harvey said it, when it was actually Rose’s quote. More evidence of why we need her!

Curating an earthquake

24 Aug

You couldn’t draw up a better example of a breaking news story that called for audience engagement to be at the center of news reporting.

Gateway students text friends and family after being evacuated from the building because of earthquake tremors Tuesday. Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register

That’s in part because Tuesday’s earthquake – centered in Virginia but felt as far away as New Hampshire and Vermont – was experienced by close to 100 percent of our audience in Connecticut.

So after the desks stopped shaking at the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, The Register Citizen in Torrington and Litchfield County Times in New Milford, editors and reporters turned first to TwitterFacebook and YouTube, to gauge the extent of how the quake was felt locally and across the region, how it was disrupting workplaces, public safety operations and airline and rail travel, and the extent of damage, if any.

Editors’ first step was to send out SMS text message alerts to readers’ mobile phones, confirming that what they just felt was, indeed, an earthquake – 5.8 on the Richter scale. A breaking news email alert followed.

Simultaneously, Twitter was used to report the news, both with original information and a retweeting of reports from throughout the coverage area of readers’ reactions the quakes and institutions’ reports of evacuating buildings or halting events. Readers started chiming in via Facebook and story comments on our websites, and the most interesting and relevant information provided by the audience was incorporated into our main story.

Editors set up a real-time feed of Twitter reactions with the hashtag “#earthquake.” It was an interesting thing to watch, as more than 40,000 Tweets were sent out about the earthquake within a minute of the first tremor. Then they used the curation tool Storify to collect local Twitter reactions and present them in story format. An editor at a sister publication in Pennsylvania even created an “earthquake humor” Storify of the best jokes to hit Twitter about the situation.

Flip camera-wielding beat reporters on assignment in downtown New Haven and reporters and photographers covering the New Haven Open pro women’s tennis tournament were submitting video within minutes of the quake. Sports writer Dan Nowak’s Flip camera video of the evacuation of the tennis stadium at Yale was picked up and used on the national NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Tuesday evening.

Early in the process, our sites linked to an “explainer” on why earthquakes happen in New England and how they’re different from West Coast quakes.

And of course, reporters made all of the old-style beat calls to local fire departments, city hall, the public utilities and other “official sources.”

But for Journal Register Company newsrooms in Connecticut on Tuesday, crowdsourcing and a digital first toolbox of equipment, technology and mindset spread news of the earthquake as fast and as effectively as any breaking news story, ever, in the history of our newspapers.

That speed paid immediate dividends in audience growth. Because the weekly Litchfield County Times posted within seconds of confirmation of the earthquake, monthly unique visitors went from an average of about 100 an hour to nearly 1,000 after the news broke.  A high percentage of that traffic came from Yahoo and Google searches. Traffic on the daily sites tripled for the same reason, and the constant addition to and enrichment of earthquake content kept readers on the site throughout the afternoon.

And the testament to how far we’ve come in embracing a “digital first” mindset is that this happened almost completely on its own … It was second nature for New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury, City Editor Helen Bennett Harvey and reporters and editors throughout the newsroom in New Haven, Torrington, New Milford, Middletown, both in news and sports. I certainly didn’t have anything to do with it. And no corporate deep thinker had to pick up the phone and suggest it. Our reporters and editors know how to use these tools now and when to use them. They are eager to get the audience involved. It’s part of the culture now. And Tuesday’s earthquake experience gives us the confidence to further embrace it as the new normal. It’s an exciting proposition.

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