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New Haven Register wins Best Sports Section, Writing awards

8 Apr

The New Haven Register has won first place in the Local Media Association’s annual journalism contest for both Best Sports Section and Best Sports Writing.Untitled

Under the leadership of Sports Editor Sean Barker, the Register’s sports staff last year distinguished itself in coverage of the University of Connecticut women’s run to a national championship and the historic national college ice hockey championship game between two Connecticut teams – Yale and Quinnipiac.

The staff, led by columnist Chip Malafronte, also produced a popular series of stories on great moments in New Haven area sports history to coincide with the New Haven Register’s 200th anniversary. It was one of Chip’s 200th series stories, on Ty Cobb, that won for Best Sports Writing.

The recognition was among nine awards won by the New Haven Register in the Local Media Association’s annual contest, including New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury being named as the organization’s Editor of the Year.

The Register won first place for Best Breaking News Story for its coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and first place for Best Special Section for a special edition it produced a week after the shooting.

It won two second place honors – for Best Front Page and for Best Multimedia Coverage – for its coverage of a plane that crashed into two East Haven homes last year. That coverage was also recently honored by Digital First Media.

The Register also received Honorable Mention in two categories – Best Arts and Entertainment Writing, honoring recently retired Arts Editor Donna Doherty, and Best Breaking News Story, for the staff’s coverage of the historic blizzard that hit Connecticut last year.

The New Haven Register’s sister dailies in Connecticut were also honored, with Viktoria Sundqvist of The Middletown Press receiving a 3rd place award for Best In-Depth Reporting for a data project she did on Connecticut school superintendent pay, and The Register Citizen receiving a 2nd place award for Best Investigative Reporting for Jessica Glenza‘s work on the social media bullying of rape victims, and 3rd place for Best Editorial Writing for editorials on the same topic.

Connecticut police move toward transparency after Sunshine Week investigation

4 Apr

As cynical journalists often frustrated by stonewalling and secretive government officials, we were expecting the worst when we decided to send a reporter to every police department and state police troop in Connecticut  (103 of them) this spring to test compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.FOIA

And the results were pretty bad in a bunch of cases. The New Haven Police Department public information officer telling a reporter that “we keep secrets here” on that department’s way to an “F” grade sparked outrage from citizens of New Haven and open government advocates across the country.

But departments such as South Windsor showed that they are very serious about complying with the law, embracing public access to information about arrests and police activity, and that they have trained their rank-and-file staff well on these principles. East Haven, one of the most-criticized police departments in the state over the past few years, received a good grade, showing that transparency is a key part of its efforts to reform under federal Justice Department oversight.

Most encouraging has been the response since the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen published the results of our project, and other media outlets, including TV stations, the Associated Press, the New Britain Herald and the Hartford Courant, ran their own stories or editorials about it.

Here’s some of the results tracked by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo and Viktoria Sundqvist, who led this project for us:

  • Several departments who received an “A-” or “B” grade vowed to get an “A” if we do a similar test in the future.
  • The state’s Freedom of Information Commission fielded a spate of calls from local police chiefs requesting special training on compliance with the law after they received less-than-perfect grades.
  • The Norwalk Police Department immediately started posting arrest log information online to improve public access.
  • The Middletown Police Department, which received a pretty good grade of “A-,” sent a memo to all police department employees reminding them of best practices.
  • The West Haven Police Department promised to investigate why a reporter was denied access to information, and plans to train staff. State Police promised a similar investigation of why that happened at Troop G when we visited.
  • Westport police announced that it would be making arrest log information available for public access 24-7 in the lobby of its statoin.
  • New Britain police leadership reminded staff that the press and public should not be denied access to arrest log information.
  • And in New Haven, where a reporter was told, “You’ll never get blotter from us, we are just too damn busy,” and “It is not public information; these are arrests, not convictions,” the department has reversed itself, and now has an arrest log available for public access.

New position to focus on Freedom of Information reporting

30 Aug

Journal Register Company newspapers in Connecticut took another big step this morning toward building their newsrooms around the key areas of breaking news, community engagement and investigative and in-depth reporting.

Viktoria Sundqvist

Viktoria Sundqvist has been named to the newly created position of Investigations Editor at The Register Citizen and The Middletown Press.

She’ll have a particular focus on use of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act – using it in her own reporting, advocating for consistent enforcement of the law across our coverage area, and teaching reporters and readers how to use it effectively.

The role was inspired by the work that Mike Donoghue has done with the Burlington Free Press in Vermont in integrating Freedom of Information Act requests into his newspaper’s reporting. In the process, Mike and his colleagues have improved government and law enforcement transparency and strengthened the law itself by using it often and training public officials in openness.

In addition to reporting, Viktoria will be writing about open records and open meetings topics on her “Open Records Connecticut” blog and @ctfoi Twitter feed.

Her role will also include taking the lead on local reporting that plugs into investigative and enterprise projects led by Journal Register Company partners, including Pro Publica and the Associated Press.

Viktoria has served as editor of The Middletown Press the past three years, and before that was managing editor of The Register Citizen, giving her exposure to the issues associated with both coverage areas.

John Berry, online editor at the Times Herald in Norristown, Pennsylvania, is taking over as editor of The Register Citizen and The Middletown Press. Ann DeMatteo, a veteran reporter and bureau chief at the New Haven Register, has been named managing editor of The Middletown Press, and will be responsible for day-to-day news operations there.

Viktoria’s appointment is the second phase of an investment in investigative and in-depth reporting that started last December with the creation of a new investigations editor position at the New Haven Register, filled by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, and a new beat dedicated to “explainer”-style and “fact check” reporting.

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