Ben Doody named to Editor & Publisher’s 25 Under 35

4 Apr

Ben Doody, managing editor of our Connecticut newsrooms for the past year and a half, has two big things to celebrate today.

Ben Doody

Ben Doody

First, he’s been named to Editor & Publisher magazine’s “25 Under 35” list of young people who are making a huge impact on the newspaper industry.

Second, he’s accepted a job as managing editor of Heavy.com, a pioneering Manhattan-based national breaking news and pop culture website.

Ben has had a huge impact on our operation in Connecticut. He has taken a lead role on recruitment and hiring, bringing in an array of talented reporters and editors and establishing a remarkable record of improving the diversity of our staff – from 3 minority journalists two years ago to 14 today.

He helped improve our breaking news coverage, and helped launch GameTimeCT.com, one of the most comprehensive and popular statewide high school sports outlets Connecticut has ever seen. And he was a steadying, conscientious force in the newsroom through two major elections, two major hurricanes, a 100-year blizzard, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing.

Keep an eye on our friend and colleague, and on his new venture with Heavy.com. We expect big things.

Connecticut police move toward transparency after Sunshine Week investigation

4 Apr

As cynical journalists often frustrated by stonewalling and secretive government officials, we were expecting the worst when we decided to send a reporter to every police department and state police troop in Connecticut  (103 of them) this spring to test compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.FOIA

And the results were pretty bad in a bunch of cases. The New Haven Police Department public information officer telling a reporter that “we keep secrets here” on that department’s way to an “F” grade sparked outrage from citizens of New Haven and open government advocates across the country.

But departments such as South Windsor showed that they are very serious about complying with the law, embracing public access to information about arrests and police activity, and that they have trained their rank-and-file staff well on these principles. East Haven, one of the most-criticized police departments in the state over the past few years, received a good grade, showing that transparency is a key part of its efforts to reform under federal Justice Department oversight.

Most encouraging has been the response since the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen published the results of our project, and other media outlets, including TV stations, the Associated Press, the New Britain Herald and the Hartford Courant, ran their own stories or editorials about it.

Here’s some of the results tracked by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo and Viktoria Sundqvist, who led this project for us:

  • Several departments who received an “A-” or “B” grade vowed to get an “A” if we do a similar test in the future.
  • The state’s Freedom of Information Commission fielded a spate of calls from local police chiefs requesting special training on compliance with the law after they received less-than-perfect grades.
  • The Norwalk Police Department immediately started posting arrest log information online to improve public access.
  • The Middletown Police Department, which received a pretty good grade of “A-,” sent a memo to all police department employees reminding them of best practices.
  • The West Haven Police Department promised to investigate why a reporter was denied access to information, and plans to train staff. State Police promised a similar investigation of why that happened at Troop G when we visited.
  • Westport police announced that it would be making arrest log information available for public access 24-7 in the lobby of its statoin.
  • New Britain police leadership reminded staff that the press and public should not be denied access to arrest log information.
  • And in New Haven, where a reporter was told, “You’ll never get blotter from us, we are just too damn busy,” and “It is not public information; these are arrests, not convictions,” the department has reversed itself, and now has an arrest log available for public access.

Keldy Ortiz joins New Haven Register breaking news team

1 Apr

Keldy Ortiz has joined the New Haven Register as a reporter on our breaking news team.

Keldy Ortiz

Keldy Ortiz

For the past year and a half, he has worked as a sports reporter at the Victoria Advocate in Texas. Previously, he was a Kaiser Health Fellow at the Oregonian, covering issues relating to health care. He has also interned on the city desk of the New York Daily News and freelanced for Newsday, the Queens Courier, Queens Chronicle, El Correo de Queens, AM New York, Jerusalem Post, Baseball Player Magazine and Ultimate Athlete Magazine.

Ortiz is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He graduated from City University of New York/Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2010, and from Columbia University with a master’s degree in journalism in 2012.

He can be reached at kortiz@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter @keldyortiz.

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.

Why we ran that photo of a New Haven man posing with stolen gun

10 Mar
(Photo by Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register) During a photography portrait session with a New Haven Register photographer on Jan. 30, 2014, in New Haven, an African-American male of New Haven, a convicted felon in his late 20s, shows off a 9mm Smith & Wesson model 659 semi-automatic firearm that he says is stolen and which he says he uses for his personal protection.

(Photo by Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register) During a photography portrait session with a New Haven Register photographer on Jan. 30, 2014, in New Haven, an African-American male of New Haven, a convicted felon in his late 20s, shows off a 9mm Smith & Wesson model 659 semi-automatic firearm that he says is stolen and which he says he uses for his personal protection.

A striking and sure-to-be-controversial photo leads the New Haven Register’s website and print edition front page this morning. “Joe,” an anonymous New Haven man, poses in a menacing, face-covering disguise with a handgun that he says is both stolen and against the law for him to possess since he is a convicted felon.

BiVl1a_CYAAVaRUThere were two major points of discussion among New Haven Register editors prior to publishing Shahid Abdul-Karim‘s story, which features an interview in which “Joe” (not his real name) talks about why illegal guns proliferate on the streets of New Haven from the perspective of someone who feels he needs to have one to defend himself.

1. We are generally uncomfortable with using anonymous sources, for a lot of reasons. What ulterior motives might be at play that anonymity would cover up? How do we confirm what they are saying is true?

2. Is the photo constructive in telling the story and conveying information and meaning to readers, or is it gratuitous “click bait” at best, and glorifying of some kind of tough guy violence mentality at worst?

We were comfortable with the first point because Shahid did the work to be confident that “Joe” is who he says he was. There was little to nothing to be gained by talking to us. Point by point, we checked out what he said to us (for example, that guns are sometimes stolen from National Guard armories) and ran counter-point from law enforcement and others. Most of all, we felt that anonymity was justified in this case because of how important, and rare, it is to hear from the kind of person no one ever hears from when urban violence and illegal guns are written about.

We were comfortable (for the most part) about the photo because it vividly conveyed the subject matter, and provided a telling contrast between the projection of strength young men make in arming themselves vs. the fear and desperation expressed in our interview with “Joe.”

Most of all, we hope the story will spark a dialogue about the issue. For context, see Rich Scinto‘s story on the toll that gun violence took in New Haven last year, and Brian Charles‘ story on the growing rate of income disparity and poverty in New Haven.

If you have questions or insight into the story or how we handled it, New Haven Register editors will be discussing it today at AskTheRegister.com. Please come join in the conversation.

UConn, sex assault, politics and the media’s duty to call a lie a lie

22 Feb

If politicians can with indignation and a straight face say that black is white, and white is black, what is truth, and what becomes of an informed democracy? The fail-safe, one would like to believe, is good journalism. But the lies have become more brazen, and the liars have realized they can build their own alternate reality narrative, and take it directly to the people. Reporting that is slightly to the fact checking-side of “he said, she said” isn’t enough to inform the public about the depths of that kind of manipulation.

On Friday, The Register Citizen covered a press conference by Mark Lauretano, a former state trooper who is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent 64th District state Rep. Roberta Willis (D-Salisbury). Our headline parroted Lauretano’s accusation that Willis was “responsible” for the University of Connecticut failing to properly investigate and respond to sexual assaults on campus.

Acting as though he and his party were on the forefront of confronting this issue, Lauretano held up a book about the problem of sexual assault in this country. He blasted Willis for questioning during a public hearing on the UConn sex assault issue why celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred was in attendance, and said that as chairwoman of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee she was responsible for not doing something previously about the problem.

State representative candidate Mark Lauretano, right, with gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti Feb. 21 in Torrington.

State representative candidate Mark Lauretano, right, with gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti Feb. 21 in Torrington.

Lauretano did not mention Willis’s long track record of advocacy for tougher laws and enforcement of existing laws against sexual assault, including specifically on college campuses.

He did not mention his own complete lack of public record on speaking out about the issue, or that of the group of (all) Republican men assembled with him at his press conference, including people who would repeal Roe vs. Wade and strip women of reproductive rights.

He blasted the idea of “new laws” to address the problem, saying that training of UConn police is what’s needed. Rep. Willis is the sponsor of legislation that actually would do something about sex assaults on campus, and she has proposed it in past years, too, before the UConn issue exploded into the media.

So we ran a headline allowing someone who has no public record of raising his voice to do anything  about sexual assault or rape culture in this state, and who actually opposes legislation to address it, to accuse a longtime leading voice against it of being responsible for the sex assault problem at UConn, when she’s actually been one of the few legislators calling attention to and fighting it.

P.S. – Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us how brazen Mark Lauretano could be in saying outrageous things considering the company he keeps. Front and center at his press conference, and mugging for the camera with him, was Joe Visconti, an also-ran candidate for the Republican nomination for governor this year who says things like this:

Update: Roberta Willis receives the 2014 Visionary Voice Award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Cassandra Day named Middletown Press managing editor

21 Feb

Cassandra Day will return to The Middletown Press on Monday as its new managing editor.

Cassandra Day

Cassandra Day

Day was features editor of the Press for 13 years prior to serving as editor of Middletown Patch for the past three years. She is a resident of Middletown and an active school and community volunteer in the city, including serving as a member and chairman of the Middletown Arts Commission.

Her work has been recognized by the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists numerous times over the course of her career, which has included freelance reporting for the West Hartford News and New Britain Herald, her previous stint at the Press, her work at Patch and a tenure as listings editor for the Hartford Advocate.

She holds a degree in English and journalism from Central Connecticut State University.

Day can be reached at cday@middletownpress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cassandrasdis.

Joe Amarante named Arts and Entertainment editor at New Haven Register

21 Feb

Joe Amarante, a 30-year veteran editor, reporter and columnist, has been named Arts and Entertainment Editor at the New Haven Register.

Joe Amarante

Joe Amarante

He succeeds Donna Doherty, who retired late last year after eight years in the position.

After graduating from the University of New Haven, Amarante started his career at the New Haven Journal-Courier in the 1970s. He has more than 28 years experience covering television, radio and other media, and is a former member of the Television Critics Association.

He was TV Editor at the New Haven Register for years, and most recently has served the paper as a general assignment reporter, columnist and editor. His column writing has been recognized with awards by SPJ, the New Haven Committee on Italian Migration and the Hamden Unitas Club. He is married to Sue and has four children.

Amarante can be reached at jamarante@21st-centurymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeammo.

Digital First Media expands breaking news team in Connecticut

21 Feb

Digital First Media is expanding its breaking news and digital news staff in Connecticut, hiring web producers and dedicated breaking news reporters to serve the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen of Torrington.

Tom Cleary has been promoted to the statewide position of Breaking News Editor, and Christine Tansey has been promoted to the position of Digital Editor.

Tom Cleary

Tom Cleary

Cleary will oversee an expanded team of breaking news reporters, and Tansey will oversee an expanded team of web and mobile producers in addition to photography staff at the New Haven Register.

Cleary most recently served as co-managing editor of The Register Citizen in Torrington. Previously, he was a breaking news reporter for the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport and Hearst’s other Connecticut newspapers. He is a graduate of Fairfield University.

Christine Tansey

Christine Tansey

Tansey previously led a smaller team of web producers based in New Haven. She started her career at the New Haven Register as a newsroom graphic artist. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

As part of the expansion, Mercy Quaye has been promoted from a reporting position at The Register Citizen to a breaking news reporter based in New Haven. She is a New Haven native who interned for the New Haven Register before graduating from Quinnipiac University with a journalism degree.

Mercy Quaye

Mercy Quaye

The breaking news reporting team also includes Charlotte Adinolfi in New Haven, Jenny Golfin in Torrington, Kaitlyn Schroyer in Middletown and two additional reporters to be hired in New Haven.

More information about our open breaking news reporter positions can be found here.

More information about our open web producers positions can be found here.

First Ann DeMatteo intern named at New Haven Register

5 Dec

Adam Stuhlman has been named as the first participant in an annual paid internship program at the New Haven Register established in the memory of longtime editor and reporter Ann DeMatteo.

Adam Stuhlman

Adam Stuhlman

“Adam is looking to gain more experience to break into the field full-time,” said New Haven Register Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury. “He is just the kind of person Ann would have taken under her wing, so I think she would be pleased that he is joining us for the next couple of months.”

The program was announced earlier this year, after DeMatteo passed away at the age of 56 after a battle with cancer. DeMatteo worked for 34 years as a reporter, bureau chief and editor at the New Haven Register. She was named managing editor of its sister daily, The Middletown Press, in the fall of 2012.

For many years, DeMatteo ran the internship program at the New Haven Register, training dozens of future journalists.

Ann DeMatteo

Ann DeMatteo

Stuhlman is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He has worked as a freelance reporter for the New Haven Register, CTNewsJunkie.com, the Middletown Press, the New Britain Herald and the Hartford Guardian.

He is also active with the Veterans Art Foundation, which uses art therapy to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.