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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.

Chris March is disrupting our newsroom

9 Dec

I just wanted to write a job description that included the words “blowing stuff up.”

That’s what Chris March’s new role will be at the New Haven Register and Journal Register Company’s other newsrooms in Connecticut.

Chris March

He’s been promoted to Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption and is an integral part of a bigger newsroom reorganization announced last week.

Go ahead, poke fun at the future-of-journalism pretentiousness of that title. But we wanted to send a strong message to our staff and our audience. We must, and we intend to, disrupt how we’ve operated for decades.

“We can’t afford to think and act like a newspaper anymore,” Chris said. “We can’t keep doing things a certain way because ‘that’s how we’ve always done that.’ That’s the reality. When you look at the Journal Register Connecticut newsrooms like that, you start to see things that don’t make as much sense as when we started doing them or when we had a bigger staff. That’s what we have to disrupt, or rethink.”

That includes many aspects of our internal, print edition-focused newsroom operation. That includes how we gather news and how we present it. That includes our definition of “news” and “content” and “journalism.” And that most certainly includes how we interact with and treat our audience.

We’re shifting significant resources away from print and toward Breaking News, Community Engagement and Investigative and In-Depth Reporting. To start, Chris will be leading us through the changes in technology and process that are needed to pull this off.

“I think some of the things we’ve started to dismantle and rethink already as part of our newsroom reorganization, such as how we approach election coverage, moderate online comments and engage with the community, is going to start making some big noise in a really meaningful way for us.”

Chris is quite literally a newspaper kid. His mother, Nancy, is editor of The Mercury, a JRC daily in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and his father, Bill, is managing editor of The Daily Local, a JRC daily in nearby West Chester. “Growing up, they told me to get into anything but writing and newspapers, because of the hours and low pay. And I didn’t argue with that, because why would I?” he said. “But when I was captain of my high school cross country team … I started writing and publishing a weekly newspaper. And that was it. By accident, I stumbled across that joy of capturing a little community in words and watching everyone pass it around and talk about it. I haven’t wanted to do anything other than that since. Plus, it’s cool to rebel against your parents, right?”

Chris graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He wrote about the punk and indie music scene for in college, which led to some freelance work in music and entertainment.

In 2007, he joined The Mercury as Promotions and Marketing Coordinator, and in May 2010, he moved to Connecticut to work at the New Haven Register as an online producer. In August of that year, Chris was named to Journal Register Company’s Idea Lab, which equips members with tech tools and frees them up to spend 25 percent of their work week experimenting on new ideas.

He lives in New Haven.

“My modus operandi is discovery and exploration. That extends from music and travel to beer and community journalism. I like being one of those people who sniffs around for the little places where truth and all-out-radness are waiting to be discovered. That’s why I like what we’re doin here at JRC and the New Haven Register right now. We’re exploring. And we’re discovering. And I’m very proud to be a part of that,” he said. “I grew up at a dinner table where the talk was often about how the newspaper business is broken, and a dead end. Now I sit down at the dinner table and talk about how we’re fixing it, and making it a road with possibility and promise.”