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New Haven Register wins Best Sports Section, Writing awards

8 Apr

The New Haven Register has won first place in the Local Media Association’s annual journalism contest for both Best Sports Section and Best Sports Writing.Untitled

Under the leadership of Sports Editor Sean Barker, the Register’s sports staff last year distinguished itself in coverage of the University of Connecticut women’s run to a national championship and the historic national college ice hockey championship game between two Connecticut teams – Yale and Quinnipiac.

The staff, led by columnist Chip Malafronte, also produced a popular series of stories on great moments in New Haven area sports history to coincide with the New Haven Register’s 200th anniversary. It was one of Chip’s 200th series stories, on Ty Cobb, that won for Best Sports Writing.

The recognition was among nine awards won by the New Haven Register in the Local Media Association’s annual contest, including New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury being named as the organization’s Editor of the Year.

The Register won first place for Best Breaking News Story for its coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and first place for Best Special Section for a special edition it produced a week after the shooting.

It won two second place honors – for Best Front Page and for Best Multimedia Coverage – for its coverage of a plane that crashed into two East Haven homes last year. That coverage was also recently honored by Digital First Media.

The Register also received Honorable Mention in two categories – Best Arts and Entertainment Writing, honoring recently retired Arts Editor Donna Doherty, and Best Breaking News Story, for the staff’s coverage of the historic blizzard that hit Connecticut last year.

The New Haven Register’s sister dailies in Connecticut were also honored, with Viktoria Sundqvist of The Middletown Press receiving a 3rd place award for Best In-Depth Reporting for a data project she did on Connecticut school superintendent pay, and The Register Citizen receiving a 2nd place award for Best Investigative Reporting for Jessica Glenza‘s work on the social media bullying of rape victims, and 3rd place for Best Editorial Writing for editorials on the same topic.

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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.

Jessica Glenza is going places

30 Oct

Like many companies, ours has a probably-wise-but-at-time-frustrating policy of not providing detailed references, good or bad, on former employees. So I’m going to say some good things about Jessica Glenza while she still works for us.

Jessica Glenza

Jessica Glenza

Jessica’s last day as a reporter for The Register Citizen in Torrington is tomorrow. Family commitments are taking her to Straus News, a group of weekly newspapers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where she has accepted an investigative reporting job.

Soon after joining us in February,  Jessica broke one of the most significant stories The Register Citizen has covered or has been written about Torrington in recent memory. She uncovered widespread social media bullying of two 13-year-old girls raped by a group of 18-year-old Torrington High School football players.

Subsequent reporting by Jessica over the course of the year has brought to light a total of seven players associated with the Torrington High School football team who have been charged with rape in a number of different cases, a culture of bullying in the school district and a pattern of inattention and inaction by school district officials.

Jessica’s initial story became national news within hours. We were proud of the work she and Register Citizen editors John Berry, Tom Cleary and Tom Caprood did on this story because of the significance of what was uncovered, but also because the reporting was rock-solid. We braced for “shoot the messenger” criticism from local school officials, but there was little to none about the facts of the story, because the reporting was accurate, thorough, careful, measured.

That didn’t stop some local sources from shutting Jessica out due to anger that the story was reported in the first place. She kept digging, kept beating other local and national media, and kept moving the story forward as the details and revelations got worse and worse.

Meanwhile in her relatively brief career at The Register Citizen, she’s broken stories about questionable spending decisions in the Torrington School District (here, here and here, for examples) and produced some gems in her coverage of local courts, including this piece on a man who has received a $129,000-a-year state taxpayer-funded salary while a murder case against him has dragged out for more than 13 years.

Straus News is lucky to have Jessica Glenza, recruiters out there should keep an eye on her career, and those of us who at times worry about whether good journalism will carry on with the next generation of reporters can take heart in the example she sets.

Public officials with bad stuff to hide are going to be happy about Jessica’s departure from The Register Citizen. That’s a pretty powerful testament to the kind of journalist she has become.

UPDATE (Dec. 11, 2013): I’m psyched to update this post with news that Jessica is back working for our company, as a producer in our “Thunderdome” national news office in Manhattan.

UPDATE (April 17, 2014): Digital First Media names Jessica “Journalist of the Year” due to her work in Torrington.

Torrington shows that media needs better language for statutory rape

31 Mar

How will Steubenville and Torrington affect a future victim’s decision to come forward?

That question, above everything else, weighs heavily on us as The Register Citizen continues to write about the rape victim bullying case that has sparked national outrage. Because without big changes in how police, school districts, parents and the media talk about rape, consent, relationships and sex, we’ve only made it worse.

Would you tell your parents or school guidance counselor or police that you’d been raped after reading on the front page of The Register Citizen that the last Torrington girl who did was called “whore” and “snitch” and blamed for ruining the lives of two popular football players?a1032113

Would you come forward if you flipped on CNN and heard about the tragedy of two young Steubenville men’s promising careers devastated by rape allegations against them and all about how much the victim had been drinking that night and what she’d been wearing?

Let’s hope that Steubenville was a wake-up call for media about buying into a “blame the victim” culture. That includes giving “equal time” or otherwise legitimizing “blame the victim” arguments. If a bystander, or a friend of the accused, or a friend of the victim, or a defense attorney, or God help us, a police chief, or school official, questions or minimizes rape based on what the victim was wearing, who she was hanging out with, what she’d had to drink or how many people she’d previously had sex with, the media has a duty to put it in proper perspective. Which is right up there with the Torrington High School students’ “whore” and “snitch” Tweets we published.

The only question before us in establishing guilt or innocence in a rape case is, “Did the accuser consent?” And consent has nothing to do with past behavior, wardrobe, the company you keep, or how much you had to drink. The media continues to legitimize the latter by treating the discussion as though it relates to mitigating factors in the crime instead of a glaring cultural attitude that helped contribute to and minimize it.

The Torrington case presents additional issues for the media.

A big part of the “blame the victim” dynamic in Torrington relates to statutory rape, and we need better language to refer to it.

A large number of Torrington High School students believe that statutory rape (in this case, two 13-year-old girls having sex with two 18-year-old high school seniors) is not “real rape.”

Local police have referred to the case as “consensual,” and “just a matter of age difference,” and “not forcible.”

Many Torrington young people have minimized the seriousness of statutory rape.

Many Torrington young people have minimized the seriousness of statutory rape.

We see this language as inappropriate, and harmful, and are struggling with a better way to refer to the details of the case.

The statutory rape law exists because a 13-year-old is a child, and an 18-year-old is a man. A 13-year-old can’t “consent,” period. There is an inherent power imbalance that kids fail to recognize.

In fact, if the allegations against Torrington football players are true (and only two questions really need to be answered – was there sexual contact, and how old are you?), it, in fact, was not “consensual.” It was not “just a matter of age difference.” It was “forcible.” Not consensual because they are children and don’t know what they are doing. Not “just a matter of age difference” because “just” and “rape” should not appear in the same sentence – it is so much more damaging than those words would imply. And “forcible” because of the power, status and manipulation that an adult holds over a child.

So much is at stake in how our communities respond to Steubenville and Torrington. And the very language the media uses to talk about it is crucial to that response.

Why The Register Citizen exposed the identity of student bullies

21 Mar

Due to some excellent journalism by Register Citizen reporter Jessica Glenza, Torrington, Connecticut, has become notorious across the country over the past 24 hours for a scandal involving its high school football team and widespread bullying of 13-year-old girls two 18-year-old players are accused of raping.front

While most of the outrage has been focused on the players, their bullying friends and a school district that has been slow to react to bad behavior by athletes and harassment of victims, the newspaper has been criticized by some for identifying underage students who bullied and subjecting them to national ridicule.

On its website and on the front page of its print edition, The Register Citizen printed screen shots from Twitter on Wednesday morning of Torrington athletes and other students calling a 13-year-old rape victim a “whore” and “snitch” and blaming her for “ruining the lives” of the two players.

We did not blur out the Twitter handles or profile photos of the students doing the bullying, which effectively identified them.

The result, undoubtedly, was intense embarrassment to the teens involved and their families. They said some really disgusting things, and thousands of people from all over the country and world expressed outrage as the story was published prominently in news outlets including the New York Times, New York Daily News, Washington Post, Daily Mail of London and on national blogs such as Jezebel, The Daily Dot and Think Progress, among many others.

Every Connecticut TV station and even a camera crew from CNN was in Torrington Wednesday to cover the story as parallels were drawn to the horrible case in Steubenville, Ohio, where a girl was raped by multiple football players at a party, followed by social media taunting of the victim and a significant number of students and townspeople engaging in a “blame the victim” reaction to their arrest.

Faced with a barrage of criticism (and hopefully, embarrassment and regret over what they’d said, although messages calling Register Citizen staff “snitches” and many unprintable names yesterday would indicate otherwise),  most of the students responsible for the bullying Tweets disabled their accounts quickly after the story broke Wednesday or had shifted them to “private” status.

Some accused us of subjecting these students to bullying themselves, while even those outraged at their actions sympathized over the issue of young people not understanding the ramifications of publicly posting stupid things online and the permanence of those mistakes.

a1032113We could have easily told the story, they suggested, by just “summarizing” the extent of the bullying, and quoting some of the awful things that what were said without identifying who said it.

Yes, we could have done it that way, and I’ll tell you right now, we wouldn’t be having this big local (and national) conversation about the problem.

By publishing the actual messages, we made this real in a way that writing a story about unnamed kids would not.

We gave the city, the state and the country a taste of how horrifying and uncomfortable it has been for two 13-year-old girls over the past month who can’t escape the bullying and the nasty comments whether they’re at school or online.

Vaguely summarizing this kind of bullying, identities protected, would have allowed the school district to continue to ignore the problem and the community to assume that it was “someone else’s kid.”

But the fact is that “good kids,” from “good homes,” honor roll students, athletes, male, female, participated in this stuff, and showed a fundamental and staggeringly dangerous misunderstanding about rape, consent and how to treat other people.

If we hadn’t identified the bullies, this would have been dismissed by the school district and the community as “just a few bad apples.” In fact, that’s exactly how Torrington High School Athletic Director Mike McKenna and School Superintendent Cheryl Kloczko tried to dismiss it right up until the night before Jessica’s story showed everyone that it was more than that.

And in an outrageous failure to understand the need for an urgent community conversation around this problem, Kloczko and Torrington Board of Education Chairman Ken Traub used “student confidentiality” as an excuse to remain silent on the topic yesterday.

We don’t have to be another Steubenville, in part because there are local journalists like Jessica Glenza and her editors at The Register Citizen who are drawing attention to the problem and refusing to be complicit in the school district’s attempts to withhold information as a shield for their own failure to act.

JRC Connecticut welcomes new reporters

26 Feb

Four new reporters have joined the staff of Journal Register Co. newspapers in Connecticut.

Ryan Flynn and Jessica Glenza have joined our newsroom at The Register Citizen in Torrington.

Alex Gecan has started work at The Middletown Press.

And Neal McNamara has joined the staff of the New Haven Register.

Ryan Flynn

Ryan Flynn

Flynn is a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, where he served as sports editor of the Southern News. He also worked as an intern in the sports department of the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport.

He’ll be covering the Litchfield area for The Register Citizen and Litchfield County Times. Follow him on Twitter @RyFly12.

Glenza has worked for the past year and a half as a reporter for the Cortlandt Daily Voice in New York.

She is a summa cum laude graduate of the State University of New York in Purchase, where she received the Mike McKnickle Exellence in Journalism Award.

Jessica Glenza

Jessica Glenza

She’ll be covering Torrington schools and courts for The Register Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaGlenza.

Gecan worked most recently as web editor for Renaissance Publishing in Metairie, La. He is a former intern for The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J.

Alex Gecan

Alex Gecan

Gecan holds a bachelor’s degree in history and art from Tulane University in New Orleans and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, where he trained at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

He’ll be covering the city of Middletown for The Middletown Press. Follow him on Twitter @Stunati0201.

Neal McNamara

Neal McNamara

McNamara is a former New Haven Register reporter and editor who is returning after working as a reporter and editor in various parts of the country, including as a reporter for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana, and Federal Way Mirror in Federal Way, Wash., as a news editor for City Pulse in Lansing, Mich., and as a content editor and marketing manager for ChefTools.Com in Seattle, Wash.

He is also a graduate of the State University of New York in Purchase. He is covering the city of Milford for the Register. Follow him on Twitter @Neal_McNamara.