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News literacy panel discussion recap

Hearst Connecticut Media and the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists recently hosted a panel discussion on news literacy at the New Haven Free Public Library. It featured panelists Mercy Quaye, Mike Savino and Richard Hanley.

Watch the panel discussion on our Facebook page here and read a recap of five tips  to help you determine if what you are reading online is legitimate here

Excellence in Journalism 2019 travel grants available

We are pleased to announce that, for the fifth year in a row, we’re offering a travel grant for one SPJ member and one student to attend the 2019 conference. This year’s Excellence in Journalism conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from Sept. 5-7. 

Last year’s winners were Jordan Fenster, who then worked for Gannett but now works for Hearst Connecticut Media, and Sarah Willson, a student at Central Connecticut State University.

Connecticut SPJ is offering a grant of up to $1,100 to cover the cost for one member to attend, as well as another $500 to help a student attend. If you’re interested in applying for the grant, please send a short essay, along with your SPJ member number, to Cindy Simoneau, a past president of the CTSPJ board, at Simoneau will prepare all entries for a blind review by the CTSPJ board.

Applications are due by July 6 at noon. The winners must be members in good standing of CTSPJ. New members are welcome to apply.

CT SPJ statement on the arrest of a Connecticut Post reporter

Bruno Matarazzo, president of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, issued the following statement in response to Bridgeport police arresting Connecticut Post reporter Tara O’Neill while she covered a protest on Thursday, May 9, 2019:

“The fact that Bridgeport police found it appropriate to arrest a reporter is disturbing. Tara O’Neill was reporting on Thursday’s protest to write a news story. She was not a participant, and identified herself as a reporter when an officer handcuffed her. The fact that someone can be arrested in Bridgeport for the lawful exercise of a First Amendment right is chilling.”

CT SPJ statement on gubernatorial candidate barring reporter from event

“It is absolutely unbecoming of a candidate for this state’s highest office to tell reporters they are ‘not welcome’ to cover a campaign event. Connecticut’s constitution reinforces the First Amendment right to a free press, and we would expect any candidate looking to oversee the executive branch to respect that. Candidates and public officials are free to disagree with any coverage, but they don’t have the right to decide who gets to cover them. The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists also wants to express its solidarity with the other reporters who came to the aid of one of their colleagues.”


— Bruno Matarazzo, Connecticut Society of Professional Journalist president.

CT SPJ grant winners share experiences from Baltimore

The Connecticut SPJ awarded a professional and a student travel grant for a working journalist and a student journalist to attend the national convention in Baltimore at the end of September. This year’s grant winners were journalist Jordan Fenster and student Sarah Willson, CCSU’s student chapter president of the SPJ.

Sarah Willson shared the following with us after the convention:  

The Excellence in Journalism Convention is something the Central Connecticut State University SPJ looks forward to every year. Not only is it a way to broaden everyone’s knowledge on some of the most important issues facing journalists, it’s also a way to make real-world connections.
I knew that, after attending last year’s convention in Anaheim as a member of the CCSU chapter, I needed to find a way to go back.

Having been more outgoing and emerged in this year’s activities than compared to 2017, I know that what I have learned from this year’s convention is something I will carry with me throughout my career as both a student and professional journalist. As someone who aims to cover politics after graduation, by far one the most interesting and beneficial lectures was regarding “Midterm Elections in the Era of Trump” and the multiple Freedom of Information sessions held by some of the industry’s best.

Despite the range of lectures and workshops, I myself and others from the CCSU Chapter had the ability to meet and converse with possible future employers from different news outlets. By far, that has been the aspect that always seems to draw us back for more.

I can also confidently say that, had it not been for the generous scholarship the Connecticut SPJ allowed for the CCSU SPJ to take part in, we may have never made it. You have allowed for our chapter to attend one of journalism’s most important events and for that, we cannot thank you enough. Though still a while away, the CCSU chapter looks forward to attending such a rewarding conference again next year.

Jordan Fenster shared the following after the convention: 

I sat in a chair in the hotel lobby on the way to the Excellence in Journalism conference opening night reception. 

One by one, journalists joined me. A contingent of students from Connecticut. A radio journalist from Africa. A Pakistani master’s degree candidate studying in Maine. A transgender journalist working for a liberal digital-only publication. We talked, chatting about the differences and similarities in our jobs and finding, I think, more commonality than disparity.
That was in the lobby. On the way to the reception. 

EIJ, more than most journalism conferences, is focused on sharing knowledge. I could write pages about the value of the sessions themselves.  It’s good to hone hard skills — podcasting, politics coverage — and great to smooth out the edges with sessions on diversity and effective communication within newsrooms.
But journalists and journalism are threatened these days, the accuracy and impartiality we hold so dear questioned and weaponized. With that in mind, the great benefit of EIJ for me was meeting journalists from across oceans, not to mention across the United States, and finding that they face the same questions I try so hard to answer. 

Notes from the National SPJ convention in Baltimore

The Connecticut Pro Chapter of the SPJ sent two delegates to represent our chapter (number of chapter members determines who many delegates each chapter gets) at the Excellence in Journalism 2018 national convention in Baltimore. This year’s delegates were Bruno Matarazzo, chapter president, and Viktoria Sundqvist, vice president of programming.

Here’s a brief run-down of some of the issues and resolutions discussed during the annual business meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists:

– NAME CHANGE: A resolution to have the board of directors investigation and come up with a complete proposal for a potential name change of the organization from Society of Professional Journalists to Society For Professional Journalism was proposed and debated wildly but ultimately failed. The proposal would have directed the board to look into costs associated with a potential name change and would have forced the board to present a plan at next year’s convention. Opponents said this issue has been discussed and rejected before and we should stop wasting time on it.

– SPONSORSHIPS: A task force will be created to look at entities whose actions are at odds with SPJ’s journalistic mission in terms of getting sponsors for next year’s conference (Sinclair and Koch were alluded to as they were prominent at this year’s event, which had raised some concerns). The task force was already created, and this resolution – which passed overwhelmingly in a voice vote after some discussion – is reinforcing the task force’s mission and will use the SPJ’s Code of Ethics as a guide to vet donations. The group plans to present findings to the SPJ board of directors by Dec. 1.

– CONDEMNING THREATS TO BAN ACCESS: Resolution passed to condemn Oklahoma State University football coach Mike Gundy’s threats and efforts to keep reporters from doing their jobs.

– STUDENT NEWSROOMS: Resolution passed to publicly say SPJ supports #SaveStudentNewsrooms movement, support advice, counsel and legal support where appropriate. The resolution also calls on institutions of higher education to help ensure student news organizations remain editorially independent.

– HURRICANE COVERAGE: A resolution to call on TV stations and networks to stop ordering or permitting reporters to stand unsheltered in hurricane zones was rejected in a voice vote. The resolution would have also called on network to stop dramatizing weather events. Opponents were concerned about SPJ ordering certain newsrooms how to handle their coverage and some found the language of the resolution insulting.

– REALITY WINNER: A resolution to urge President Donald Trump to commute the sentence of former NSA contractor Relity Leigh Winner passed in a voice vote. Winner is serving a five-year sentence in federal prison for releasing unauthorized government information to the media and the resolution says over-classification of documents has become a real problem.

– IMPRISONED JOURNALISTS: A resolution to denounce the imprisonment of, and calling for a full pardon of, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo passed in a voice vote.

– RETIRED JOURNALISTS: A resolution to establish a national contest specifically for retired journalists failed in a voice vote. Resolutions committee recommendation was unfavorable as any journalist who publishes work, whether full-time, part-time or retired, should be able to enter all current contests and there was concern over the extra work involved with starting another contest.

– HONORS: A resolution to recognize the contributions of Fred Rogers to human development and public TV passed; A resolution to remember the late Richard D. Hendrickson and his passion for journalism passed; A resolution to honor Rebecca “Marvel Girl” Baker as outgoing president passed; and a resolution thanking all staff of SPJ for a successful conference passed.

– BYLAWS: A change in the bylaws passed to move funds related to the Quill magazine from the SPJ side to the SDX foundation side of things since the foundation manages the magazine. A second vote to complete this change will be needed at the next convention in San Antonio, Texas.

– NEW FINANCE RULES: Due to a financial issue at Region 10 in the past year, new finance rules have been approved and are being implemented across all chapters. It will include quarterly financial reports to the regional director and stricter approval process for all expenses and reimbursements. 

– ELECTIONS: Our own Mike Savino was elected to the national board. Jane Primerano was re-elected as Region 1 coordinator (formerly regional director, title change due to last year’s bylaws vote). Connecticut alumna Rebecca Baker finished her term as president and the new national president is Alex Tarquinio. Read about all candidates here.

Election programming scheduled for Sept. 13

Clockwise from top left, Hearst Connecticut reporter Kaitlyn Krasselt, WVIT-30 NBC reporter Max Reiss, University of Connecticut journalism professor Marie Shanahan, and University of Hartford political science professor Bilal Sekou.

Claims of fake news. A never ending stream of polls. Candidates able to talk directly to an audience that doesn’t trust reporters. How have elections changed since 2016, and how do journalists effectively cover campaigns and reach their audience?

“Decisions in 2018: How to cover elections in the Trump Era” looks at how reporters can overcome all these additional obstacles and do what we’re trained to do — inform the public on who’s running for office.

The panel, sponsored by Connecticut SPJ, will include University of Connecticut journalism professor Marie Shanahan, University of Hartford political science professor Bilal Sekou, State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi, WVIT-30 NBC reporter Max Reiss, and Hearst Connecticut reporter Kaitlyn Krasselt.

The event will be on Sept. 13 beginning at 7 p.m., and will be hosted by our friends at the Central Connecticut State University SPJ chapter at CCSU’s Student Center in New Britain.

Connecticut SPJ makes donation in honor of slain Maryland journalists

The Connecticut Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists today voted to make a $500 donation to the The Capital Gazette Families Fund to help support fellow journalists in Maryland after a targeted attack on their newsroom.

The fund, which is managed by through the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, was set up by tronc, parent company of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.

The funds will go to the families, victims and survivors of last week’s shooting, which killed 5 staff members at the newspaper and injured two others.

A scholarship memorial fund has also been set up to honor the victims.  

The Michael and Jacky Ferro Family Foundation will match up to $1 million in donations made to the fund, according to the Baltimore Sun, also owned by tronc.

The same company, tronc, also owns the Hartford Courant in Connecticut.

A GoFundMe fundraiser to help the victims  and survivors set up by another journalist last week had raised $185,000 as of Sunday and the organizer said all the money raised will be given directly to the The Capital Gazette Families Fund.

Excellence in Journalism Winners Announced

Winners of the 2017 Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Awards were announced May 24 during the organization’s annual meeting and awards dinner at Grassy Hill Country Club in Orange. 

The awards recognized outstanding reporting by news professionals throughout Connecticut. 

“It’s always good to recognize great work, but it’s even more important during a time when many public figures seek to discredit the journalists tasked with holding them accountable,” said Mike Savino, president of CTSPJ. “One way to combat all of the negativity toward and distrust of the news media is to highlight all of the ways the great work journalists continue to do. Thursday’s ceremony is just another example of how journalists at outlets throughout Connecticut, big or small, serve the communities around them.” 

Notable awards:

Stephen A. Collins Public Service Award
Hartford schools: More separate, still unequal 

Hartford Courant; Vanessa de la Torre, Matthew Kauffman, Kathleen Megan

Judges’ comments: This reporting incorporates a broad range of interviews and data to tell an important story about seemingly failed efforts to desegregate schools. The reporters employ graphics and multimedia to tell the story. This package emerged from a very tight and competitive field. This was an extremely deep category with a number of entries delving into a range of important public service stories. All the entrants should be proud of producing strong public service journalism.

Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award: 
Capital Prep lottery investigation
Hartford Courant; Vanessa de la Torre, Matthew Kauffman

Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant accepting its awards.

Judges comments: The reporters went to extraordinary lengths to interview sources and gave the accused an opportunity to respond to their reporting, and did a great job explaining the issues to an outsider who may be unfamiliar with Connecticut schools and the role of sports in those schools and beyond. The reporting captured multiple perspectives on the controversy surrounding recruitment.

First Amendment Award:
Surveillance video, records offer new perspective on UConn student’s 2016 death
Hartford Courant; Vinny Vella, Matthew Kauffman

Judges comments: Now more than ever, enhancing the public view of the press is an act worth recognizing. The Courant piece demonstrates the power of the press to shed light in ways that citizens alone rarely can. For Jeffny Pally, for her family and friends, for the UConn community, and for the citizens of Hartford, the Courant used its power to hold public officials accountable for actions that might have otherwise, and easily, been under-examined. I can hardly put it better than John Ferraro did in his submission: “We had an obligation to provide the public with a full understanding of how our government employees conduct themselves.”

But this piece also shows the responsibility of the press, not just its power. The Courant had raw footage of a young woman’s death. It would have been easy to publish the video in its entirety and draw web traffic in droves to view something so grotesque. The Courant quite purposefully did not. They showed only the footage that was necessary for understanding.

Connecticut governor issues statement on Trump’s ‘fake news’ awards

HARTFORD – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday released the following statement regarding journalism in the United States in reaction to President Trump issuing “fake news” awards:

“The modern-day Republican party seems to have taken a page out of the 20th century fascist regime propaganda playbook. The primary purpose of today’s theater regarding ‘fake news’ awards is to bully and intimidate members of an independent press who seek to report the facts.

“Democracy does not exist without a free and independent press. When our nation’s founders drafted the United States Constitution, they intentionally and with unequivocal purpose had the foresight to include as its first amendment one of the preeminent attributes that make ours the greatest country in the world – freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It’s written clear as day and with good reason, largely because history has not been kind to nations that do not value the importance a free press in regards to upholding the true principles of democracy and the freedom of its people.

“At a time when the relevance of a free press is being challenged by some, I want to thank those who have dedicated their careers to the profession of journalism. Journalists, in large part, receive little recognition for the contributions they bring to our communities. But it is because of them that our democracy continues to thrive, and the voice of the people continues to be heard. The work of journalists is a public service that is fundamental to our free and democratic society.”

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