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Shahid Abdul-Karim named community engagement editor at New Haven Register

21 Feb

I’m pleased to announce that Shahid Abdul-Karim has been promoted to the position of community engagement editor at the New Haven Register. In that role, he will focus on involving the community at every step of the process of local journalism, including outreach and partnerships with community organizations and readers.

Shahid Abdul-Karim

Shahid Abdul-Karim

Shahid joined the Register in June 2012 and has distinguished himself as a member the city reporting staff.

He is a 2006 graduate of Springfield (Mass.) College with a bachelor’s degree in human services. Since 1999, he has been a staff reporter for the Muslim Journal and in 2009 was selected to its board of directors.

Shahid succeeds Ed Stannard, who helped inaugurate the community engagement editor role at the New Haven Register in 2011. Ed, a former metro editor and Sunday editor in his 22 years with the Register, wanted to move back to a more direct role in news coverage at the paper and has taken on a senior reporting role that has already been integral to our coverage of mental health issues and other matters in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.

Email Shahid at Follow him on Twitter @shahid_akarim.

JRC Connecticut newspapers win big in Local Media Association contest

28 Mar

Journal Register Company newspapers in Connecticut have won 33 awards in the 2011 editorial contest of the Local Media Association, formerly known as the Suburban Newspapers of America.

The New Haven Register was among the top daily newspaper winners with 15 awards, including 2nd place in the country for Best Sports Section and first place in the country for best reporting on local education.

The Litchfield County Times was among the top weekly newspaper winners in the country with 8 awards.

Journal Register Company beat out all other newspaper companies with 102 awards total.

Click here for the full list of awards.

Click here for a slide show of award-winning photos from our Connecticut staff.

The full list of winners from JRC Connecticut:

– 1st place, Best Coverage of Local Education, New Haven Register. Reporting by Abbe Smith.

– 1st place, Best Column Writing, New Haven Register. “Inspirations” column by Ann DeMatteo.

– 1st place, Best Headline, New Haven Register. “Pain in the Gas” by Mheegan Rollins.

– 1st place, Best Sports Photo, New Haven Register. “Yale football” by Arnold Gold.

– 1st place, Best Feature Photo, New Haven Register. “Essex Steam Train” by Peter Casolino.

– 2nd place, Best Sports Section, New Haven Register. Sports Editor Sean Barker and team.

– 2nd place, Best News Photo, New Haven Register. “Hurricane Irene” by William Kaempffer.

– 2nd place, Best Continuing Coverage, New Haven Register. “Interstate 95 project” by Ed Stannard.

– 2nd place, Best Feature Series, New Haven Register. “The Good Fight” by Jim Shelton.

– 3rd place, Best Headline, New Haven Register. “Hello, Good Buys” by Mheegan Rollins.

– 3rd place, Best Photojournalism, New Haven Register.  “Hurricane Irene, the Day After,” by Peter Casolino.

– 3rd place, Best Environmental Coverage, New Haven Register. “Zombie Dump” by Ann DeMatteo.

– Honorable Mention, Best News Photo, New Haven Register. “Bike Man in Snow” by Peter Hvizdak.

– Honorable Mention, Best Feature Photo, New Haven Register. “Snow Graphic” by Melanie Stengel.

– Honorable Mention, Best Feature, New  Haven Register. “When Politics Seeps into Breast Milk” by Sandi Shelton.

– 1st place, Best Special Section, The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT: Forging Tomorrow’s New England Experience)

– Honorable Mention, Best In-Depth Reporting, The Register Citizen

– 2nd place, Community Service Award, Middletown Press (Shovel Brigade)

– 2nd place, Best Wildcard Product, The Register Citizen (Every Town Has a Green)

– 2nd place, Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage, Middletown Press

– 1st place, Best Entertainment-Lifestyle Section, Litchfield County Times (Passport Magazine)

– 2nd place, Best Entertainment-Lifestyle Section, Litchfield County Times (LCT Magazine)

– 2nd place, Best Special Section, Litchfield County Times

– 2nd place, Best Opinion Column, Litchfield County Times

– 2nd place, Best Local Business Coverage, Litchfield County Times

– 2nd place, Best Sports Photo, Litchfield County Times

– 3rd place, Best Environmental Coverage, Litchfield County Times

– 3rd place, Best Editorial Writing, Litchfield County Times

– 2nd place, Best Sports Section, Housatonic Times

– 2nd place, Best Column Writing, Housatonic Times

– 3rd place, Best News Photo, Housatonic Times

– Honorable Mention, Best Entertainment-Lifestyle Section, Housatonic Times

– 2nd place, Best Editorial Writing, Westport Minuteman

JRC newspapers launch effort to help Connecticut nonprofits

28 Mar

Journal Register Company newspapers including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen of Torrington are launching a charitable arm dedicated to assisting nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups in Connecticut.

ConnecticutNewspapers.Org seeks to leverage what we’re good at and share our resources to support charity, similar to how Google formed Google.Org to provide nonprofits access to its products and assistance with technology.

Ed Stannard and Angela Carter

Leading this effort will be Angela Carter and Ed Stannard, who work as full-time community engagement editors at the New Haven Register.

The program aims to provide nonprofits better access to and understanding of how editors decide to cover their issues, causes and events. But more importantly, Ed and Angi will be working with organizations to help them bring their message directly to our audience through participation in our Community Media Lab and assistance with establishing a blogging and/or social media presence.

ConnecticutNewspapers.Org also offers discounted advertising to nonprofits in our publications throughout the state, and free meeting space at our open-to-the-public Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe in Torrington.

The program’s website will share tips and resources for Connecticut nonprofits, and includes an interactive map of the communities covered by Journal Register Company newspapers and participating in the program.

Citizens Agenda: Peacetime conversion, corporate influence on politics emphasized in first 2012 election forum

27 Jan

Peacetime conversion. Corporate influence on politics. The unfair burden of student loans. The media’s obsession with New Hampshire and Iowa. The complete absence of coverage of the candidates and ideas of the Green Party and Libertarians.

New Haven Register Community Engagement Editors Ed Stannard and Angi Carter

These are not issues you’re likely to see emphasized on CNN or at a Republican presidential debate this winter.

But this is what citizens wanted to talk about at the New Haven Public Library Wednesday night when two dozen people joined New Haven Register Community Engagement Editors Ed Stannard and Angi Carter for the first in a series of forums on how we should approach 2012 political coverage.

The New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen are partnering with The Guardian and NYU’s Studio 20 journalism graduate school program on the “Citizens Agenda,” an approach to political coverage that aims to depart from “horse race journalism” and put readers in charge of determining the issues they want candidates to address.

While the Guardian focuses on the 2012 presidential race, our journalists in Connecticut will be applying the Citizens Agenda concept to two open and highly competitive races – the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman and the 5th District U.S. Congress seat being vacated by Chris Murphy (who is running for Lieberman’s Senate seat).

Over the next month, we’ll be holding a series of open forums, reaching out to readers via social media, surveys and other methods and meeting with specific groups and constituencies seeking to identify, separately, the issues that voters most want addressed by candidates in those two races.

Then, instead of assigning reporters to get the inside scoop on “process stories” from Linda McMahon‘s campaign manager, or a Democratic Party establishment operative, we’ll assign a reporter to each of the issues that’s identified.

So, instead of chasing the story about who is up and down in polling or fundraising, or the daily barrage of press release pot-shots exchanged between the campaigns, one of our reporters, for example, would be writing about how the U.S. Senate candidates would shape policy on the issue of taxation.

Another reporter might be writing in-depth about the issue of job creation, engaging with readers and trying to compel the candidates to respond with specifics on that topic.

Other reporters might be focusing on health care, or redevelopment of Brownfields properties … whatever issues are identified through the Citizens Agenda process.

The crowd at our first Citizens Agenda forum in New Haven Wednesday included Democrats, Republicans, a Green Party activist, a Ron Paul supporter, a leader of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and a long-shot U.S. Senate candidate who showed up with his 2-year-old son.

The most-talked about issue of the night was “peacetime conversion” – whether the country will continue its policy of funding a military that can fight two wars at the same time, how we’ll invest the billions that have been spent on the war in Iraq, whether our foreign policy will improve or worsen instability in the Middle East, and energy independence.

Corporate influence in politics was also a theme, with multiple people expressing alarm about the “Citizens United” decision and the role so-called Super PACs are playing in this year’s campaigns.

Because the Citizens United decision does not require donors (some who are pouring millions into the support of or opposition to particular candidates) be identified until after the election, one participant Wednesday urged the media to focus its reporting on “unmasking” those donors and documenting the role of Super PACs.

There was plenty of criticism of and suggestions about the media’s role in political coverage.

We were urged to include Green Party candidates and Libertarian candidates, and the ideas put forth in their platforms, as part of our coverage. Most media fail to even include them in listings of who is running, one man said.

Another person criticized the media for allowing candidates to make points based on isolated statistics or trends that don’t see the “long view” or bigger context.

The “shallow” nature of Associated Press reporting, and the lack of international perspective in American newspaper and TV reporting, were decried.

Another participant asked why the national media and candidates were allowed to focus obsessively on “early state” primaries and caucuses such as Iowa and New Hampshire when they represent a tiny number of electoral votes.

One man said he is left at a loss sometimes in reading long New York Times pieces that chronicle a viewpoint from one perspective, and then a viewpoint from the opposite perspective, but that don’t help bring much final clarity or conclusion on the topic for readers. (“View from Nowhere,” anyone?)

And finally, participants in our first forum on Wednesday, wanted to know “what good it’s going to do” to identify Citizens Agenda issues considering politicians are politicians and probably won’t change.

Jay Rosen of NYU and Amanda Michel of The Guardian said it best in explaining the Citizens Agenda launch:

“The ultimate goal of a citizens agenda is to bring the candidates to it, so that what people want the candidates to be discussing is actually addressed. Campaign coverage gains a clear purpose: information and access that is useful to people in getting their priorities addressed.”


Training for the U.S. Senate by wrangling a 2-year-old

26 Jan

What’s life like for a U.S. Senate candidate without a multimillion-dollar campaign war chest or connections to the party establishment?

Sylvester Salcedo

A little-known completely unknown candidate for the U.S. Senate showed up last night for the New Haven Register‘s first “Citizens’ Agenda” forum on what issues will be at the heart of our political coverage in 2012.

Instead of an entourage or handlers, Sylvester Salcedo showed up with a stroller, sippy cups and 2-year-old son Leonardo.

Salcedo was there just to listen to the two dozen residents who assembled at the New Haven Public Library for the open forum organized by New Haven Register Community Engagement Editors Ed Stannard and Angi Carter.

But the yellow legal pad be brought for taking notes was taken over by Leonardo’s coloring. And then there was the wiggling. And running away. And screaming. And throwing things.

I loved it because it reminded me exactly of any time I’ve tried to work with my 2-year-old son Cash in the room. That “I’m not alone!” feeling. This guy knows what it’s like!

And you’ve got to have some respect for an against-all-odds candidate who would spend two hours just listening to voters instead of spouting their own platform, while wrangling the most boisterous 2-year-old boy ever produced (after my own, that is – Cash would have destroyed that library).

Let’s see Chris Murphy bring his kids to the next campaign event, without aides or spouse to help.

And by the way, Salcedo seems like a pretty interesting guy. We’re looking forward to sharing his ideas with readers soon.

Investigative and in-depth reporting bolstered by ‘Digital First’

28 Nov

“What about the journalism?”

That’s the question media analyst Ken Doctor asked a few months ago about both the philosophy of a “digital first” approach to running newspapers and the newly formed company “Digital First” Media that now oversees both Journal Register Company (including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen, among other publications, in Connecticut) and Media News Group (ranging from the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News to the Berkshire Eagle and Lowell Sun in Massachusetts).

Michelle Tuccitto Sullo

CEO John Paton has a plan that many see as the best hope for rescuing the newspaper industry (in case you missed it, see the recent New York Times story here, and a more extensive Times interview with Paton here).

Will Paton’s formula of cutting print edition-related costs and emphasizing Flip cameras, mobile phones and Twitter improve local journalism or leave a multi-platformed but shallow and empty reproduction in its place?

At the end of the day, Doctor asked, “Are the readers, the citizens of its communities, better served?”

Without question, Journal Register Company news organizations are serving their communities better in breaking news situations thanks to the philosophy of “Digital First.” Hurricane Irene was a great example. When it comes to speed and use of platforms beyond print – from SMS alerts, to social media, blogging, video – we are light years ahead of where we used to be, and our audience has benefited.

But what about depth, context, investigative reporting?

It has taken longer to bear fruit, but as Digital First shifts emphasis away from the print production process, it is freeing up resources to invest in better journalism. And “slow news” – journalism that delves deeply into a story, that invests staff time in investigative work – has a prominent place alongside the breakneck pace of breaking news alerts.

This morning, we announced a newsroom reorganization in Connecticut that will establish a full-time investigations editor position at the New Haven Register for the first time in more than 20 years. A second full-time position will be devoted to the “explainer” format of in-depth reporting on local and state issues and “fact checking” statements made by politicians, public officials, activists and business leaders.

Mary O'Leary

Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, who joined the Register in 1992 and has covered courts and served as Naugatuck Valley bureau chief, will be charged not only with pursuing investigative stories on her own, but in creating a culture of investigative reporting in the newsrooms of the New Haven Register and its sister JRC papers in Connecticut. She’ll team up with staff reporters to pursue stories that the daily grind of a beat don’t allow them to pursue. Michelle draws upon strong knowledge of court and Freedom of Information Act process and award-winning investigative experience in writing about cold case murder and missing persons cases.

New Haven Register Topics Editor Mary O’Leary, who has 31 years of experience covering state government and a variety of other beats at the paper, will be freed from chasing the press conference of the day to focus on in-depth reporting. She will split her time between “explainers” and “fact checking” – both aimed at cutting through the “he said, she said” blizzard of political spin and process to help our readers get to the truth.

We are creating these positions and replacing Michelle and Mary in their old beats, for a big net increase in our “feet on the street” reporting. And we’re doing that by consolidating positions that were focused either entirely or primarily on the process of putting out the print edition of the newspaper.

Public forum invites input on changing New Haven Register story comment policy

3 Nov

A public forum on changing the New Haven Register’s online story comment policy will be held at 6 p.m. tonight (Nov. 3) at the New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm St.

For a few months, a group of staff at the newspaper led by Metro Editor Ed Stannard have been working on the draft of new guidelines for what kind of comments should not be allowed on NHRegister.Com. Last week, Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury announced that the newspaper would be switching to a system in which staff will review comments before they’re posted rather than after the fact.

Mark’s column generated a huge response – 274 comments were made at last check, including a great deal of back-and-forth discussion between readers, Mark and me.

Recurring themes in those comments included:

* Screening comments beforehand (or at all?) is censorship, and the Register already is too heavy-handed in removing comments that have been posted.

* The Register’s editors do or will allow their personal political beliefs to influence what comments they allow or delete.

* The Register is kowtowing to public officials who don’t like to be criticized.

* This is all about how liberal staff at the Register are and it’s all designed to silent conservative voices. There were about 100 variations of this comment: “EVERYONE knows this is being done to justify screening out all messages except those from bleeding-heart anarchist liberals.”

* The site should require “registration” instead, and use that to better screen or improve commenting, while continuing to allow comments to go up without prior screening.

* Anonymity is the problem, and the Register should require registration with verified name, address, phone number – real identity.

* Some have stopped commenting because of the toxic environment and would welcome the new system because they’ll feel safe again to participate in the discussion.

* People need a thicker skin … if you think a comment is offensive, just ignore it.

* The new system is necessary because the site has been taken hostage by a small group of “trolls” that post racist, hateful and offensive comments, dragging the discussion into a back-and-forth about it instead of a real discussion of the issue.

* Race is at the heart of most of the offensive comments on the site, and a great deal of the cries of “censorship” from some readers. Stories about crime in New Haven continually have racist and offensive comments made.

There’s lots to be said and discussed about all of these points. I’m expecting tonight’s discussion to raise additional points. When we made a similar switch in Torrington, we held a public forum and the people who showed up in person to comment took a completely opposite view of those who were commenting about the new policy anonymously on the web.


Why Somalia leads our front pages today

17 Oct

They’re not talking about it on CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. The presidential candidates and politicians aren’t talking about it. We don’t typically run international stories on the front pages of our locally-focused daily newspapers here in Connecticut.

But Ed Stannard’s article this morning on the crisis in Somalia – where so many children are starving to death that the affected population exceeds the number of every boy and girl in the state of Connecticut under the age of 18 – stood out as something that we needed to put out there with a “this is really important” kind of placement.

It topped the front pages of the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and The Register Citizen this morning. And we took another unusual step, offering the story for free use by the rest of Connecticut’s daily newspapers, including those that are our direct competitors.

Ed’s story, in part, asks the question that leaps to mind when one hears how extensive and immediate the crisis is: Can the average person in Connecticut do anything that will really make an impact on it, especially considering how silent the national media and our own government has been about it?