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New reporters join New Haven Register, Register Citizen

5 Jun

We’re pleased to welcome four new reporters to the news and sports staffs at the New Haven Register and Register Citizenin Torrington.

Mary Albl

Mary Albl is a new sports reporter in New Haven who comes to us from The Post Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., where she was a volleyball and girls basketball beat writer.

Prior to Glens Falls, Albl served as sports editor of the Dodge City (Kansas) Daily Globe.

She is a graduate of Boise State University, where she was sports editor of the student newspaper.

She has also worked as an intern and desk clerk at the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Idaho Statesman.

One area of focus for Mary is Fairfield County high school sports, and her work is appearing in the Westport Minuteman and Fairfield Minuteman in addition to the Register.

Email Mary Albl at Follow her on Twitter @maryalbl.

Michelle Merlin

Michelle Merlin is a new reporter at The Register Citizen in Torrington.

She is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She served as editor in chief of the student newspaper there, and interned for The Register Citizen in 2010.

Email Michelle Merlin at Follow her on Twitter @michellejmerlin.

Shahid Abdul-Karim is a new reporter at the New Haven Register. He’ll be part of a team of reporters covering the city of New Haven, focusing on schools, housing issues and neighborhoods.

Shahid Abdul Karim

Shahid has written for the Muslim Journal International since 1998 and recently served on its board of directors. He has also worked as a national account executive at Verizon Wireless.

He is a graduate of Springfield College and has been involved in volunteer activities in Hamden, including helping establish a local food pantry with the Connecticut Food Bank.

Email Shahid Abdul-Karim at Follow him on Twitter @shahid_akarim.

Rich Scinto

Rich Scinto is a new reporter at the New Haven Register. He’ll be covering Milford schools and local government.

A Fairfield native, Scinto is a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University, where he was senior managing editor of the Quad News. He has worked for the past year as a general assignment reporter at the Record Journal in Meriden.

Email Rich Scinto at Follow him on Twitter at @rscinto_NHR.

Dedicated blog expands coverage of Komisarjevsky triple-murder trial

26 Sep

The New Haven Register has expanded its coverage of the trial this month of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is charged with murdering the wife and two daughters of Cheshire physician William Petit, by establishing a dedicated blog about it.

In addition to staff writer Randall Beach’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial, the blog also captures the feed of live tweets New Haven Register staff are using to cover the trial via Twitter as it happens.

The blog also includes links to the newspaper’s extensive coverage of the previous trial of alleged Komisarjevsky accomplice Steven Hayes, who was sentenced to the death penalty.

And New Haven Register photo chief Vern Williams and others are also using the blog to present police photos and documents submitted as evidence.



Knowing your beat pays off when a big story breaks

30 Aug

It’s a basic principle of journalism, of course. Get to know your beat, develop good sources, and when the big story breaks, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

Luther Turmelle

The New Haven Register has had a secret advantage in covering the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene over the past few days, and efforts to recover from it.

Irene’s biggest impact on Connecticut has been power outages. At the height of the storm, more than 760,000 were without electricity. And residents have been told that it could be as much as a week before all customers are restored.

Well, that’s right in the wheelhouse of Register reporter Luther Turmelle. A 14-year veteran of the paper and a past president of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, Turmelle has covered the state’s big utility companies as part of his beat over the past few years. He also writes about utility issues in a blog called “Power to the People.”

Turmelle’s individual Twitter feed and contributions to the Register’s regular news coverage over the past few days have been must-reads for a state full of people desperate and impatient for word on when their electricity will be turned back on and how the big power companies are tackling the problem.

Editors use social media to coordinate readers helping each other

29 Aug

Journal Register Company Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry used the social media curation tool Storify today to show off how our editors and reporters used Twitter and Facebook – and Storify (so meta!) – to cover last week’s earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

Of particular interest was the work that the Trentonian and others did in using social media to coordinate efforts by readers to help other readers recover from the storm’s damage.

Hurricane coverage in the new news ecology

27 Aug

“Just as CNN created the 24-hours news cycle for television, Twitter has accelerated that news cycle to the point where news breaks every minute of every hour, and a tweet is almost as good as a page-one scoop,” Mathew Ingram wrote earlier this week in “The Twitter Effect: We Are All Members of the Media Now,” a post for GigaOm.Com. “Not only that, but anyone can do it.”

Twitter and other social media, blogging, widespread access to mobile smart phone technology and other factors have created what our company has been fond of calling the “new news ecology.”

Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Roberts and Community Engagement Editor Kaitlyn Yeager work in The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe Saturday.

What our news coverage looks like in this new world is a work in progress. But thanks to an historic hurricane threat, the past few days have provided a glimpse into the kind of Digital First operation we are becoming.

For examples:

* We’re mobile first. Neighborhood evacuations, parking bans, power outages, warnings from the governor first go out to our readers via SMS text message alerts. Hurricane Irene helped triple The Register Citizen’s base of SMS breaking news subscribers as we advertised the service as vital this weekend for those who may lose electricity and not have access to TV, radio or the Internet on a desktop computer or laptop.

* We use new tools. The reporter’s notebook and pay phone has been replaced with smart phones, Flip cameras and Netbook computers with wireless access from anywhere with a cell phone tower signal. Our reporters are live tweeting and live blogging events in the field, as they happen, and filing photos and video in real time. Instead of just interviewing a fascinating subject at an opportune time and recounting it in print, they invite the audience in via live-streamed video and live chats. Or invite them to watch the hurricane itself as it approaches.

* We use the power of the cloud. Our hurricane coverage included use of Google Docs to compile lists of flood-prone areas, emergency shelters and evacuation routes from multiple reporters and editors from multiple offices around the state. We used Google Maps to visualize those locations for readers, in a format that could be embedded on our site or anywhere on the web. And we used Google Docs for numerous other functions of our news operation, from sharing and updating statewide story budgets to maintaining emergency contact lists.

* We use the power of our audience. As stores ran out of batteries and bottled water and long lines of cars formed at local gas stations, we crowdsourced the remaining availability of supplies in our coverage area. Readers submitted photos of storm preparation and damage. And we partnered with “new news ecology entrepreneurs” such as See Click Fix to help readers report and learn about storm-related problems.

* We aggregate and curate. The Register Citizen tweeted more than 100 times over the course of 12 hours on Saturday as Connecticut prepared for Hurricane Irene. Its Twitter feed included storm-related news, pictures, observations and links from its own staff, but it also was a diverse mix of retweeting of reports from local residents, answers to questions posed by readers, and retweets of state and national media reports, as well as information being tweeted directly from public officials and local businesspeople. Similarly, our websites included far more than just our original reporting. They included a robust mix of links to and embeds of reporting, graphics and videos from other news organizations, including blogs. And we use tools such as Storify to compile and present news and information from the Twitter accounts of our readers.

* We invite the audience in. In Torrington, our daily newspaper operates out of an open-to-the-public newsroom, The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe. All day Saturday, residents were there utilizing the newsroom cafe’s free public wifi to go online and check on relatives in the path of the hurricane further south of us, to watch the Weather Channel on our big-screen TVs, and to see if they can find out the latest from reporters and editors who are following the storm up-to-the-minute. For our staff, this kind of interaction offers an endless supply of news tips about how the community is preparing for and reacting to the storm, and helps us zero in on the biggest issues they want to see addressed.

Curating an earthquake

24 Aug

You couldn’t draw up a better example of a breaking news story that called for audience engagement to be at the center of news reporting.

Gateway students text friends and family after being evacuated from the building because of earthquake tremors Tuesday. Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register

That’s in part because Tuesday’s earthquake – centered in Virginia but felt as far away as New Hampshire and Vermont – was experienced by close to 100 percent of our audience in Connecticut.

So after the desks stopped shaking at the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, The Register Citizen in Torrington and Litchfield County Times in New Milford, editors and reporters turned first to TwitterFacebook and YouTube, to gauge the extent of how the quake was felt locally and across the region, how it was disrupting workplaces, public safety operations and airline and rail travel, and the extent of damage, if any.

Editors’ first step was to send out SMS text message alerts to readers’ mobile phones, confirming that what they just felt was, indeed, an earthquake – 5.8 on the Richter scale. A breaking news email alert followed.

Simultaneously, Twitter was used to report the news, both with original information and a retweeting of reports from throughout the coverage area of readers’ reactions the quakes and institutions’ reports of evacuating buildings or halting events. Readers started chiming in via Facebook and story comments on our websites, and the most interesting and relevant information provided by the audience was incorporated into our main story.

Editors set up a real-time feed of Twitter reactions with the hashtag “#earthquake.” It was an interesting thing to watch, as more than 40,000 Tweets were sent out about the earthquake within a minute of the first tremor. Then they used the curation tool Storify to collect local Twitter reactions and present them in story format. An editor at a sister publication in Pennsylvania even created an “earthquake humor” Storify of the best jokes to hit Twitter about the situation.

Flip camera-wielding beat reporters on assignment in downtown New Haven and reporters and photographers covering the New Haven Open pro women’s tennis tournament were submitting video within minutes of the quake. Sports writer Dan Nowak’s Flip camera video of the evacuation of the tennis stadium at Yale was picked up and used on the national NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Tuesday evening.

Early in the process, our sites linked to an “explainer” on why earthquakes happen in New England and how they’re different from West Coast quakes.

And of course, reporters made all of the old-style beat calls to local fire departments, city hall, the public utilities and other “official sources.”

But for Journal Register Company newsrooms in Connecticut on Tuesday, crowdsourcing and a digital first toolbox of equipment, technology and mindset spread news of the earthquake as fast and as effectively as any breaking news story, ever, in the history of our newspapers.

That speed paid immediate dividends in audience growth. Because the weekly Litchfield County Times posted within seconds of confirmation of the earthquake, monthly unique visitors went from an average of about 100 an hour to nearly 1,000 after the news broke.  A high percentage of that traffic came from Yahoo and Google searches. Traffic on the daily sites tripled for the same reason, and the constant addition to and enrichment of earthquake content kept readers on the site throughout the afternoon.

And the testament to how far we’ve come in embracing a “digital first” mindset is that this happened almost completely on its own … It was second nature for New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury, City Editor Helen Bennett Harvey and reporters and editors throughout the newsroom in New Haven, Torrington, New Milford, Middletown, both in news and sports. I certainly didn’t have anything to do with it. And no corporate deep thinker had to pick up the phone and suggest it. Our reporters and editors know how to use these tools now and when to use them. They are eager to get the audience involved. It’s part of the culture now. And Tuesday’s earthquake experience gives us the confidence to further embrace it as the new normal. It’s an exciting proposition.