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Journal Register staff win 65 Connecticut SPJ awards

25 May

Journal Register Company staff were honored at the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists 2012 awards ceremony Thursday night for their digital first coverage of Hurricane Irene, the trial of triple murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky and a spike in New Haven’s murder rate.

In all, JRC staff took home 65 awards, including 27 first place honors, up from 56 awards, with 20 in first place, last year.

The New Haven Register’s first place award for Online Spot News Reporting happened from a makeshift newsroom in reporter Alexandra Sanders’ apartment in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The New Haven Register swept SPJ’s Online Spot News Reporting category, winning first place for team coverage of Hurricane Irene. Because the Register building was without power in the hurricane’s aftermath, the best reporting came from a makeshift newsroom set up in reporter Alexandra Sanders‘ apartment.

The Register won second place in the same category for its coverage of the trial of triple murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky, which featured daily live tweeting from the courtroom, instant SMS alerts of the verdict and live video of reaction from defense attorneys, prosecutors and the victims’ family.

The Register won first place in the Online In-Depth Reporting category for the “New Haven Homicides Report,” a blog created by William Kaempffer and Chris March that maps every murder that happens in the city, profiles the victims and tracks updates on when arrests are made and court appearances are scheduled.

The Register’s year-long coverage of racial profiling allegations against the East Haven Police Department, led by Mark Zaretsky and Susan Misur, also took home a first place award, for Best General Reporting Series, newspapers over 50,000 circulation.

Mara Lavitt won first place for Best News Photo in the over 50,000 circulation category.

Mara Lavitt

Ed Stannard won first place for best single General Reporting story for “Sins to confess? Catholics, there’s an app for that.”

Donna Doherty won first place for Best Arts & Entertainment writing in the over 50,000 circulation category for “Breaking down Bergman.”

Sports Editor Sean Barker won first place for Best Sports Column for newspapers with over 50,000 circulation for a tribute to late Register sports columnist Dave Solomon, who was killed in a car accident last year. Solomon himself posthumously won second place in the Best Sports Column category for a piece about New Haven coach Jim Wolf.

The Register led JRC papers in Connecticut with 20 awards in all, including 9 first place honors.

The Register Citizen and Middletown Press received 7 and 6 awards, respectively.

Register Citizen sports writer Kevin Roberts won first place for Online Sports Feature, while Editor Rick Thomason was  honored with a first place business writing award for a piece on manufacturing in Torrington and several second and third place awards for editorials and column writing.

Jonetta Badillo

Middletown Press reporter Jonetta Badillo won first place in the under 18,000 circulation daily newspaper category for Best General Reporting Series for her coverage of the fate of the Powder Ridge ski area.

JRC weekly newspapers won 18 awards, including 5 – all by Jimmy Zanor for sports writing – at the Shoreline Times.

At Housatonic Publications in New Milford, the Litchfield County Times took home 6 awards, the Housatonic Times, 4, and Passport magazine, 3.

They included first place awards by Jack Coraggiofor Best Sports Feature and Best Business Reporting. Kathryn Boughton and Alice Tessier won first place honors for column writing.

Charles Monagan

JRC’s Connecticut Magazine dominated awards in the magazine division, with 14 total, 7 first place.

Editor Charles Monagan, who won his first SPJ award in 1972, picked up a first place honor 40 years later for Best Magazine Editorial.

Joan Barrow won first place honors for Photo Layout and Non-Page 1 Layout.

Patricia Grandjean won first place for Magazine Feature Writing and second place for General Reporting for a magazine.

The entire list of JRC’s winners follows. The complete Connecticut SPJ list can be found here.

New Haven Register reporters fix up readers looking for love

14 Feb

Three reporters at the New Haven Register can look back on this Valentine’s Day and say they’ve done  more than their part over the past year in playing cupid.

Annette Kirk, a supervisor at the Knights of Columbus, and Dan LaTorraca, a retired banker from Hamden, were fixed up on a date at Bar Bouchee in Madison thanks to the New Haven Register Matchmaker program.

Amanda Pinto, Alexandra Sanders and Susan Misur launched the Register’s “Matchmaker” program last year after Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury asked staff to think up community engagement ideas.

They set up readers on dates at local restaurants, who donate a $100 gift certificate for the occasion and get some free publicity in the process.

Pinto got the idea after being glued to a similar feature, “Dining with Cupid,” a few years ago in the Boston Globe.

“I was convinced the model would work here – as a vehicle to bring in younger readers and foster community engagement,” Pinto said. “It is intriguing copy, and it has that ‘reality TV’ voyeurism aspect that is so popular today.”

Pinto had to think through liability issues, seeking and getting permission from the Globe to mirror its legal release form for participants. And how to best solicit participants.

“There have been hiccups,” she said. “The first match we sent out was a disaster, and the man, who maligned an ethnic group during his date (according to the woman he dined with), threatened to sue us if we published the column. Even though he had signed off on all the paperwork, the decision was made that it was best not to start off on that foot.”

“Once we started publishing matches, there were other challenges – daters who bailed at the last minute or never returned our calls,” Pinto said. “We very nearly sent one woman to a restaurant owned by her former boss (the work relationship had ended badly).”

But there have been many success stories.

Since launching in late summer, 140 readers have signed up to participate, ranging in age from 21 to 83.

Melissa Tardif, a custodian at Quinnipiac University and dental hygienist, and Vincent Cerbone, an ultrasound technologist from Fairfield, hit it off from the start at their Matchmaker date at Leon's in New Haven. "I noticed how gentleman-like he was. ... He seemed genuine and real, like a great father, attentive."

Pinto, Sanders and Misur have paired readers up for dates once a week since August, with the help of 17 participating restaurants. They’re on their 20th match.

Readership has been strong.

“One dater told me she got recognized on the street for her participation in Matchmaker, and that a convenience store clerk spotted her and regaled other customers with a retelling of the column,” Pinto said. “Another reporter here was told a small office ‘didn’t get any work done’ the morning one of the columns came out, because they couldn’t stop discussing the date, which featured a ‘great kisser.'”

Matchmaker participants are asked to describe the night in an article that appears each week in the Register and to give a letter grade to the date.

And the possibility of a love connection? Many of the readers who have been set up on Matchmaker dates say they’ll see each other again.