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A newspaper company comes together to cover Newtown

23 Dec

There will be a lot more to say – at some point – about what has been both the worst and best week of our careers in journalism. Our main concern right now is to make sure that the rest of the story of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and its aftermath is told. That’s going to take quite some time, and quite a bit more effort and resources. And to make sure that the people on our team, after nine days of interviewing witnesses to unspeakable horror and covering 6-year-olds’ funerals, are dealing with their own grief and trauma.

But I wanted to pause and take note of how remarkable it was for us to see our entire company come together to help us cover this story. More than 100 journalists have been involved in the New Haven Register’s Newtown coverage over the past week, including 55 reporters, 17 photographers and 10 main editors on the ground in Connecticut contributing to our coverage.702194314 A number of Register reporters and editors worked straight through from first word of the shooting Friday morning to the editing of the story about the final funeral eight days later.

Digital First Media sent 29 reporters and eight photographers from 17 different daily newspapers in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Connecticut, including a team of six from the Denver Post, six from the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania and five from the Lowell Sun in Massachusetts.

The company’s national news office, “Thunderdome,” sent five reporters, five editors, two web producers and a video specialist, and devoted more than a dozen others to help from afar on editing, web production, data and interactives.

And throughout, we had access, advice and assistance from company leaders who’d unfortunately done this before.

Jim McClure, editor of the York Daily Record and East Region editor for Digital First, organized the influx of support from out-of-town journalists for us and was on the ground in Connecticut drawing on his experience covering a 2001 machete attack on a Pennsylvania elementary school. Photographer Tom Kelly IV of the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., came with experience covering the Nickel Mines Amish elementary school shooting in 2006.

Helping at our makeshift newsroom just outside of Newtown this past week was Mike Topel, national editor at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome office in New York. He helped lead the AP’s coverage of Columbine in 1999.

706117785Frank Scandale, Digital First’s vice president of print production, helped lead the Denver Post’s Columbine coverage as metro editor. He offered advice from afar and then arrived in New Haven mid-week to help plan a special print edition encapsulating more than a week’s worth of coverage for the Sunday newspaper.

And we were also able to turn to Denver Post Editor Greg Moore, who led intense coverage of the Aurora movie theater shooting earlier this year, and Digital First Editor-in-Chief Jim Brady, who was leading WashingtonPost.Com during the Virginia Tech massacre.


‘Digital First’ puts some focus on improving print

23 Sep

The company that operates the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen in Torrington is called “Digital First Media,” but on Wednesday, it will unveil a significant investment in improving its newspapers’ print editions.

Our dailies in Middletown and Torrington have been redesigned to incorporate modern typography, better organization and pages that allow photography and advertising to stand out.

Bucking the trend, it will mean a net increase in page count in Middletown, and the addition of a number of new features at both papers.

This includes investment in a new seven-day lineup of featured Page 3 news columnists, including popular former Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell and controversial and thought-provoking Connecticut defense attorney Norm Pattis.

Digital First used in-house talent – Tiffany Grandstaff and Alex Fong of the San Jose Mercury News – to develop the redesign.

Former Bergen Record editor Frank Scandale, in a newly created position of vice president of print production, is spearheading the rollout of the new design across Digital First’s 74 daily newspapers. Torrington and Middletown were chosen to go first.

The company’s newly launched “Thunderdome” operation in New York is providing some national news and feature elements of our redesigned page lineup, freeing staff in Connecticut to expand local news content.

The new design will come to the New Haven Register early next year, as the process is expanded to accommodate larger dailies. Around the same time, we expect to unveil the company’s long-awaited new website design. It is also being developed in-house by staff at the Denver Post, which recently wowed the newspaper industry with a new iPad app design that will also soon be coming to our dailies in Connecticut.

While there is no denying the declining trend in print newspaper readership and advertising, we can do a better job serving the users of print who remain. If that slows the decline and provides us with a longer runway to a digital future, even better.

It’s also interesting to note that the last significant change in the design and content of the print edition of The Register Citizen or New Haven Register, for examples, took place before personal use of the Internet was commonplace.

We are long overdue for print editions that reflect their curative role and position in the 24-hour news cycle.