Freelancers wanted:

The Associated Press is seeking reliable people to call in presidential election results Nov. 6 in Ansonia, Bethel, Columbia, Naugatuck, Southbury and possibly other Connecticut towns.

For more information, contact Stringer Coordinator Kate Farrish at

Republican-American Receives National Sunshine Award

Society of Professional Journalists press release

The Waterbury Republican-American has received the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The SPJ board of directors and Freedom of Information Committee honor people or organizations each year for their notable contributions to open government.

Read more →

Connecticut journalist dies in house fire

Connecticut journalist Joel P. Kleinman died in a house fire in Meriden on Aug. 18. He was 64.

Kleinman was the managing editor of QST, the monthly magazine of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio in the United States. The organization is headquartered in Newington, Conn.

Click here to read more about Kleinman’s work at QST in a press release on the ARRL website.

More details about the fire can be found at the Hartford Courant and the Meriden Record Journal websites as well.

FOI panel seeks to appeal limit on arrest information

The following article originally appeared in the Journal Inquirer. 

By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer
Saturday-Sunday, August 11, 12, 2012

The state Freedom of Information Commission voted this week to ask the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a recent Appellate Court decision that would sharply reduce the amount of information about criminal arrests that can be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Colleen M. Murphy, the FOI Commission’s executive director and general counsel, said the commission voted 7-0 to ask the Supreme Court for certification to appeal the decision. The state’s top court isn’t required to allow the appeal.

The Appellate Court decision arose from a request by a New Haven Register reporter for a state police report on a serious assault that occurred in a vehicle on Route 8 in Derby in March 2008. After the defendant pleaded guilty in March 2010, the state police gave the Register the documents at issue.

But the two sides and the Superior Court judge who originally heard the appeal, Henry S. Cohn, agreed that the case, although moot, could be decided because a similar issue might arise in the future.

The FOI Act contains detailed provisions as to which records police are, and are not, required to release in response to requests from members of the public or the press.

In 1983, in response to concerns by the media that some police departments were restricting release of traditional police “blotter” information, the legislature adopted an additional provision requiring release of that information. The provision required release of the name and address of the person arrested; the date, time, and place of the arrest; and the charge.

In a 1993 case, in which the Journal Inquirer had sought a Windsor Locks arrest report, the state Supreme Court interpreted the 1983 amendment as limiting the information that had to be disclosed about an arrest. It held that the 1983 amendment overrode more general provisions of the law calling for disclosure of additional information.

The next year, the legislature changed the arrest-information provision to require that, in addition to the basic “blotter” information, police departments must disclose a report or news release on each arrest. The 1994 amendment also specified that any information beyond the basic “blotter” information was to be governed by the list of exemptions from disclosure that had always been part of the law.

The Freedom of Information Commission and some judges have interpreted the 1994 amendment as essentially overruling the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in the Windsor Locks case.

But the recent Appellate Court decision held that the 1993 decision is still a binding legal precedent — and that the provision on disclosure of arrest information still limits what has to be released.

The wording in that provision referring to the general list of exemptions merely allows certain information to be removed from the report or news release that now has to be released along with the blotter information, the court ruled.


Click here for the article online.



CTSPJ Concludes Independent Review

Dear Connecticut SPJ members,

On June 29, we informed you the Connecticut SPJ board had launched an independent investigation into two entries in the 2011 Connecticut SPJ Excellence in Journalism Awards contest, after it came to light the entrant, Paresh Jha, had fabricated sources in 25 articles for the New Canaan News.

Jha won a third place award for feature writing and a first place award for in-depth reporting.

Our independent review, conducted by media lawyer and Syracuse professor Roy Gutterman, confirmed what Hearst officials originally told us about the entries: Sources in the in-depth reporting entry had been fabricated. And, all sources included in the feature writing entry were legitimate.

Those confirmations came through Gutterman’s review of all sources, as well as an interview with Paresh Jha, himself, about the entries.

Click here to download a PDF version of the final report.

After careful deliberation and additional questions to Gutterman about his review, the CTSPJ Board of Directors on July 29 voted to revoke Jha’s first place award for the in-depth reporting entry.

The third-place award for the feature writing entry will stand, as our investigation found no evidence of deception.

Connecticut SPJ is dedicated to preserving the integrity of our long-time contest, and to ensuring the continued confidence of journalists in our future contests.

We condemn all unethical practices and continue to applaud all media organizations for their swift action on ridding the industry of any violators.


Jodie Mozdzer, CTSPJ President

Cindy Simoneau, CTSPJ Immediate Past President

CCFOI Honors Tom Appleby, Others For Dedication To Open Government

by James Smith, CCFOI president

CCFOI Legislative Chair G. Claude Albert presents the Stephen A. Collins Award to Tom Appleby, general manager and news director of News Connecticut 12.

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information has bestowed its annual Stephen A. Collins Award on Tom Appleby, general manager and news director of News 12 Connecticut in Norwalk.

CCFOI also awarded its Champion of Open Government Award to Sherman London, a member of the state Freedom of Information Commission and retired editorial page editor of the Waterbury Republican-American.

CCFOI’s Bice Clemow Award, given to public officials for outstanding leadership in “promoting open and accountable government,” went to six public officials, including four who helped lead a broad coalition which successfully kept municipal records, including grand lists and voting lists, from having home addresses redacted for so-called “protected classes” of residents.

Under state law certain “protected” state officials and workers — judges, prosecutors, prison guards and others – can remove their home addresses from the public portions of their sate personnel files. A state Supreme Court decision expanded that protection to municipal records. The town clerk’s coalition, of which CCFOI was a member, helped get new legislation passed keeping the most critical local records intact and open, as they have been for three hundred years.

CCFOI President James H. Smith (center) presents the Bice Clemow Award to, L-R: Essie Labrot, West Hartford Town Clerk; Joyce P. Mascena, Glastonbury Town Clerk; Antoniette “Chick” Spinelli, Waterbury Town Clerk; and Patrick Alair, Deputy Corporation Counsel of West Hartford.

The municipal award winners were: Joyce Mascena, Glastonbury town clerk and president of the Connecticut Town Clerk’s Association; Antoinette “Chick” Spinelli, Waterbury town clerk and chair of the association’s Legislative Committee; Essie Labrot, West Hartford town clerk; and Patrick Alair, West Hartford deputy corporation counsel.

Also receiving Clemow awards were Lisa Rein Siegel, the state Freedom of Information Commission lawyer who argued the redacted addresses case before the state Supreme Court; and Mary E. Schwind, the managing director and associate general counsel of the commission. The Clemow award is named for the late, longtime editor and publisher of the West Hartford News.

The Collins award is given in the name of the longtime editorial director of the News-Times in Danbury, who, along with Clemow and others, worked closely with the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso to pass the state Freedom of Information Act in 1975.

Appleby, a member of SPJ since 1985, was co-chair (along with then-chief state criminal court Judge Patrick Clifford), of a committee that developed guidelines that now allow still and video cameras in state courtrooms. Appleby received the award “for his many contributions to the cause of open and accountable government and a free and vigorous press.”

Retired FOIC general counsel Mitch Pearlman presents the Champion of Open Government Award to FOI Commissioner Sherman London.

London, who is 90 and, after 16 years, the longest serving commissioner on the state Freedom of Information Commission, received the Champion award “In recognition of his extraordinary service to the people of the state of Connecticut in preserving, defending and enhancing access to government information essential to a healthy and vibrant democracy.”

The awards were presented at CCFOI’s annual lunch at the Hartford Club June 20.

CCFOI is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1955 to advocate for open and accountable government.

All photos are courtesy of CCFOI.

SPJ President Hosts Town Hall Meeting


SPJ President John Ensslin hosted a virtual town hall meeting with members in Region 1 on Saturday, June 30.

It was one of several meetings Ensslin has hosted across the country. Click here for more details.

Ensslin on Saturday updated the participants on the conference call about SPJ initiatives and issues. The following topics came up during the hour-long conversation:

  • SPJ is proposing a measure to allow members to pay their annual dues with a credit card on a monthly payment plan, to help members be able to continue to afford the dues.
  • SPJ’s national board is considering allowing institutional memberships and international members to join the organization.
  • The national board is reviewing oversight policies of local chapter finances, after a situation in Oklahoma this year where a local SPJ treasurer and Region 8 director resigned amid allegations he stole money from the Oklahoma Pro chapter’s bank account. Click here to read a statement from national on the situation:
  • The location of the Region 1 convention for 2013 is still being decided. Region 1 members have suggested Boston as a possible location, but now Region 1 members are leaning toward wanting to host the convention in New Jersey this year.
  • All SPJ members will have a chance to vote in national elections for the first time in September. Members don’t need to be at the national convention in Florida in order to vote. Click here to view the online voting central, where you can get information on all the candidates and how to vote.
  • Rebecca Baker, the so-far lone candidate for Region 1 director, spoke about her background and plans for the position, if elected at the national convention in September. Baker has been an SPJ member since 2000, and has worked in three Region 1 states: Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. She is the current past-president for New York’s Deadline Club. “I would definitely be available to help various chapters in the region with whatever they would need,” Baker said.

Veteran state reporters share their secrets

Veteran state reporters stressed the importance of asking for assistance and focusing on specific aspects of stories at a June 9 program sponsored by Connecticut SPJ.

About a dozen journalists and educators converged at the Wethersfield Public Library for a discussion on how to best cover the governor and legislature. The panelists included: Ken Dixon, of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group; Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant; Mark Pazniokas, of; Keith Phaneuf, of; and Christine Stuart, of CTNewsJunkie.

Among the points made:

  • Stuart: Get to know your local lawmaker.
  • Dixon: If you’re affiliated with a newspaper with a reporter at the Capitol, ask that person questions. We can point you in the right direction.
  • Keating: Take human bites. Until you have been there for a while, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Keating: If you get an assignment, stick on that one subject and get it right. Burrow deep into the subject.
  • Dixon: Utilize the Legislative Library: 860-240-8888. The staff is available to assist with finding information on bills and other background information.
  • Pazniokas: Our job is to provide context – and that could include local and historic context.
  • Pazniokas: You are reporters so you can ask questions like: what difference will a particular bill make — both long-term and short-term.
  • Pazniokas: Most of the time, everyone you will need for a story will be in the state Capitol. You just need to know where to find them.
  • Pazniokas: Librarians, by their nature, are wonderful people. They want to hekp, and want people to come to them with questions.
  • Pazniokas: There’s a bill analysis and fiscal analysis done for every piece of legislation.
  • Phaneuf: The best advice I could offer is to slow down. Try to find a balance between the deadline and accuracy.
  • Phaneuf: It’s not the complexity of issues that is difficult, it’s the diversity.
  • Phaneuf: The spin is more intense at this level – and is getting worse.
  • Phaneuf: Once you report something, it’s really tough to undo it. So be careful!
  • Phaneuf: You just have to pick your story and do it well.
  • Pazniokas: Every where state government is, you have the opportunity to report something.
  • Pazniokas: Sometimes the most complicated subjects are best explored by getting down to the simplest levels.
  • Pazniokas: Get on the email lists. There is always a chance to grab something that’s important to you that you could otherwise miss.

Is there any advice you would add? Please utilize the comments section below to share your insights.

High School Journalism Workshop Offered By C-HIT

The Connecticut Health Investigative Team, in collaboration with the journalism departments of UConn and Quinnipiac University, will host a summer investigative reporting workshop for high school students.

This intensive summer investigative reporting workshop will provide up to 25 high school students with the opportunity to develop investigative reporting skills in a unique workshop environment led by distinguished local and national journalists.

Selected students will spend a week on a university campus, learning the tools of investigative journalism by participating in workshops led by award-winning journalists; working on stories for publication; and spending a day visiting local newsrooms.

Click here for more details on C-HIT’s website.

When: July 9-13, 2012, at Quinnipiac University campus, Hamden, CT
July 16-20, 2012, at University of Connecticut campus, Storrs, CT


• Initiating investigative stories: where to look

• Conducting effective interviews

• Perfecting your writing style

• Using public data in investigative reporting

• Using Twitter, Facebook as reporting tools and web-based journalism.

• Journalistic ethics

Instructors include: Lisa Chedekel, award-winning investigative reporter, formerly for The Hartford Courant, now senior writer for C-HIT; Lynne DeLucia, Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of The Hartford Courant, now editor and co-founder of C-HIT; Colleen Shaddox, award-winning writer whose work has been featured by The New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio and Kate Farrish, an award-winning veteran reporter, formerly of The Hartford Courant and now an adjunct professor at UConn.


Eligibility: High school students, ages 16 and older, with a strong interest in journalism; prior experience writing for school publications an asset.

Cost: $800 for the five-day (9-5 p.m.) program. (Some scholarships available) Students with a need for overnight accommodations should contact Lynne DeLucia at

Program structure: Students will spend mornings learning reporting, writing and investigative skills. Afternoon workshops will be led by working journalists, in which students will use data to produce in-depth stories for their school newspapers or local publications.
Applications due: June 1, 2012.

For application form or queries, contact Lynne at, or 203-215-6373.

This program is supported by the Dow Jones News Fund

FOI Day: Can Free Information and Economic Development Co-Exist?

Guest speaker Attorney General George Jepsen. Photo by Mitchell Pearlman

By Don Stacom

One of the biggest crowds in recent memory for an annual Connecticut FOI Conference turned out April 3 to hear spirited debates about how — or if — free information and economic development can co-exist.

Panels and workshops also provided news about recent FOI precedents and interpretations, along with insights into the latest issues surrounding public access to information.

The key debate featured Andrew. J. McDonald, the governor’s chief legal counsel, and Preston First Selectman Robert Congon arguing for why government wants — and corporations demand — temporary secrecy during sensitive bargaining about economic development.

Taxpayers aren’t well served if detailed news reports in mid-negotiation scare off companies that might have brought jobs and tax dollars to the state, they said.

On the other side, Connecticut Mirror reporter Keith M. Phaneuf joined Agility Resources Group President Vincent M. Valvo, a former Hartford Courant reporter, in giving the case for faster and more extensive transparency.

“Ever since the first bill was passed, we’ve done nothing to expand it. What comes out every year at the Legislature are attempts to restrain it and pull it back,” Valvo said. “We ought to be embracing a culture of openness.”

Phaneuf offered a series of examples of state bureaucrats illegally withholding information for reasons as petty as personal convenience. For years, one state agency refused to give out financial documents until two days after distributing them to legislators, defending the policy as merely “being sure that everyone is comfortable” with the numbers, he said.

“There is no comfort clause in the FOI law,” Phaneuf pointed out.

But he also acknowledged that years of cost-cutting are responsible for many of the media’s failings as a watchdog. Too few young reporters understand FOI law or how to use it effectively, he said.

“The media today is shrinking, inexperienced and borderline irresponsible — I’m tempted to take the ‘borderline’ out,” Phaneuf said. “We’re lucky if the (Capitol) press corps is one-quarter the size of what it was in 1988, and probably has one-quarter of the experience level.”

The conference was sponsored by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government and the Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information.

Copyright 2010-2017. Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, P.O. Box 5071, Woodbridge CT 06525