Mark Brackenbury named Editor of the Year by Local Media Association

8 Apr

New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury has been named Editor of the Year by the Local Media Association, an organization representing hundreds of newspapers across the United States and Canada.

Mark Brackenbury

Mark Brackenbury

Brackenbury was recognized for his distinguished career in Connecticut journalism as well as a remarkable recent tenure of leadership in which he guided the Register’s newsroom through coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a hurricane, blizzard, Boston Marathon bombing, a plane crash and two historic elections.

“Mark is an unsung hero of our newsroom, and Connecticut journalism,”  read the nomination letter that helped earn him the honor. “Unsung because over the course of his 27-year career at the New Haven Register, he has done the work while shunning every opportunity at the spotlight. Time after time, people in positions below him or above him get credit for the work and leadership he has put into award-winning and policy-changing journalism.”

Friends and colleagues will see the award as evidence that sometimes, nice guys do finish first.

“He has been the rock to which the newsroom is anchored through so many changes in the industry and our company,” the nomination said. “He has strong convictions about the news and journalism, and has quietly and consistently held us to them. We once polled newsroom veterans to see if anyone could remember Mark raising his voice. There were only two documented cases in 27 years, and the facts were in dispute.”

“We came to realize just how valuable Mark Brackenbury is and always has been as a newsroom leader when the New Haven Register journalists experienced one of their most difficult years in modern times.”

Brackenbury is a Rhode Island native and Penn State grad who worked as a reporter in New Hampshire and Connecticut before joining the New Haven Register’s staff in 1986 and advancing to the position of managing editor more than a decade ago.

His work and the work he has inspired and guided journalists at the New Haven Register through has been recognized numerous times over the years, including dozens of awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists last year, and recognition from Digital First Media and the Local Media Association in breaking news and numerous other categories this year.

Sean Carlin joins New Haven Register reporting staff

7 Apr

Sean Carlin has joined the New Haven Register’s reporting staff.

Sean Carlin

Sean Carlin

Carlin graduated from Temple University in Fall 2013 with a double major in journalism and political science. At Temple, he worked as a reporter and news editor for The Temple News student newspaper.

He has also worked as a city desk intern at both the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and as a volunteer firefighter with the Blackwood Fire Company in Blackwood, New Jersey.

A November 2012 story he wrote for the Inquirer, “Help in Dealing with the Pain,” was honored with a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award.

He was also recognized with the Lew Klein Excellence in Media Scholarship and the Jay A. Strassberg Memorial journalism scholarship.

Sean can be reached at scarlin@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

Ben Doody named to Editor & Publisher’s 25 Under 35

4 Apr

Ben Doody, managing editor of our Connecticut newsrooms for the past year and a half, has two big things to celebrate today.

Ben Doody

Ben Doody

First, he’s been named to Editor & Publisher magazine’s “25 Under 35″ list of young people who are making a huge impact on the newspaper industry.

Second, he’s accepted a job as managing editor of Heavy.com, a pioneering Manhattan-based national breaking news and pop culture website.

Ben has had a huge impact on our operation in Connecticut. He has taken a lead role on recruitment and hiring, bringing in an array of talented reporters and editors and establishing a remarkable record of improving the diversity of our staff – from 3 minority journalists two years ago to 14 today.

He helped improve our breaking news coverage, and helped launch GameTimeCT.com, one of the most comprehensive and popular statewide high school sports outlets Connecticut has ever seen. And he was a steadying, conscientious force in the newsroom through two major elections, two major hurricanes, a 100-year blizzard, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing.

Keep an eye on our friend and colleague, and on his new venture with Heavy.com. We expect big things.

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.

Keldy Ortiz joins New Haven Register breaking news team

1 Apr

Keldy Ortiz has joined the New Haven Register as a reporter on our breaking news team.

Keldy Ortiz

Keldy Ortiz

For the past year and a half, he has worked as a sports reporter at the Victoria Advocate in Texas. Previously, he was a Kaiser Health Fellow at the Oregonian, covering issues relating to health care. He has also interned on the city desk of the New York Daily News and freelanced for Newsday, the Queens Courier, Queens Chronicle, El Correo de Queens, AM New York, Jerusalem Post, Baseball Player Magazine and Ultimate Athlete Magazine.

Ortiz is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He graduated from City University of New York/Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2010, and from Columbia University with a master’s degree in journalism in 2012.

He can be reached at kortiz@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter @keldyortiz.

Connecticut journalism wins in annual Digital First Media contest

27 Mar
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy inspect the scene of a plane crash into two homes in East Haven last year. The New Haven Register's coverage of the cash is being honored with a companywide journalism award by Digital First Media. (Peter Hvizdak photo)

East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy inspect the scene of a plane crash into two homes in East Haven last year. The New Haven Register’s coverage of the cash is being honored with a companywide journalism award by Digital First Media. (Peter Hvizdak photo)

The New Haven Register and The Register Citizen of Torrington have won two awards each in Digital First Media‘s annual companywide journalism contest.

The Register Citizen beat out much larger sister publications, including the Denver Post, to win DFM’s annual Public Service award for its coverage of the social media bullying of two 13-year-old rape victims in Torrington last year.

Jessica Glenza, the reporter involved in that coverage, won DFM’s Journalist of the Year for small dailies.

The New Haven Register won Best Live Coverage for its response to a plane crash in East Haven last year that killed four people.

New Haven Register Community Engagement Editor Shahid Abdul-Karim won DFM’s Special Contribution award for his work in improving and providing better context to the newspaper’s coverage of inner-city violence in New Haven.

Why we ran that photo of a New Haven man posing with stolen gun

10 Mar
(Photo by Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register) During a photography portrait session with a New Haven Register photographer on Jan. 30, 2014, in New Haven, an African-American male of New Haven, a convicted felon in his late 20s, shows off a 9mm Smith & Wesson model 659 semi-automatic firearm that he says is stolen and which he says he uses for his personal protection.

(Photo by Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register) During a photography portrait session with a New Haven Register photographer on Jan. 30, 2014, in New Haven, an African-American male of New Haven, a convicted felon in his late 20s, shows off a 9mm Smith & Wesson model 659 semi-automatic firearm that he says is stolen and which he says he uses for his personal protection.

A striking and sure-to-be-controversial photo leads the New Haven Register’s website and print edition front page this morning. “Joe,” an anonymous New Haven man, poses in a menacing, face-covering disguise with a handgun that he says is both stolen and against the law for him to possess since he is a convicted felon.

BiVl1a_CYAAVaRUThere were two major points of discussion among New Haven Register editors prior to publishing Shahid Abdul-Karim‘s story, which features an interview in which “Joe” (not his real name) talks about why illegal guns proliferate on the streets of New Haven from the perspective of someone who feels he needs to have one to defend himself.

1. We are generally uncomfortable with using anonymous sources, for a lot of reasons. What ulterior motives might be at play that anonymity would cover up? How do we confirm what they are saying is true?

2. Is the photo constructive in telling the story and conveying information and meaning to readers, or is it gratuitous “click bait” at best, and glorifying of some kind of tough guy violence mentality at worst?

We were comfortable with the first point because Shahid did the work to be confident that “Joe” is who he says he was. There was little to nothing to be gained by talking to us. Point by point, we checked out what he said to us (for example, that guns are sometimes stolen from National Guard armories) and ran counter-point from law enforcement and others. Most of all, we felt that anonymity was justified in this case because of how important, and rare, it is to hear from the kind of person no one ever hears from when urban violence and illegal guns are written about.

We were comfortable (for the most part) about the photo because it vividly conveyed the subject matter, and provided a telling contrast between the projection of strength young men make in arming themselves vs. the fear and desperation expressed in our interview with “Joe.”

Most of all, we hope the story will spark a dialogue about the issue. For context, see Rich Scinto‘s story on the toll that gun violence took in New Haven last year, and Brian Charles‘ story on the growing rate of income disparity and poverty in New Haven.

If you have questions or insight into the story or how we handled it, New Haven Register editors will be discussing it today at AskTheRegister.com. Please come join in the conversation.

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