News

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

Ensslin

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.

New Canaan News fires reporter for fabricating quotations, sources

A New Canaan News reporter has been dismissed after some of his stories were found to contain fabricated quotations and sources, the Hearst-owned New Canaan News reports.

“We have found 25 stories written by Paresh Jha over the last year and a half that contain quotes from nonexistent sources,” David McCumber, editorial director of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, said Friday.

Please click here to read the full story in the New Canaan News.

Connecticut SPJ released the following statement:

The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists has become aware Paresh Jha of the New Canaan News has been dismissed by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers “after some of his stories were found to contain fabricated quotations and sources.”

As an organization, CT SPJ condemns all acts of fabrication, plagiarism and other unethical practices. And, applauds all media organizations that take swift action to no longer employ individuals engaging in such methods.

Jha was a recent recipient of two, 2011 Journalism Excellence Awards. CT SPJ has sought information from Hearst about verification of sources and reporting included in these two, specific award-winning packages. The CT SPJ Board of Directors and officers are considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken.

Proposed 2012-13 board slate announced

The Nominations Committee of CTSPJ has proposed the following slate of officers and members of the Board of Directors for 2012-13. The current CTSPJ board has accepted the slate and will present it to the membership for approval at the chapter’s annual meeting and awards dinner on Thursday, May 24 at Fantasia, North Haven.

2012-13 Officers and Board of Directors

Officers (One-year terms for all officers)
President — Jodie Mozdzer, Valley Independent Sentinel
Vice President– Don Stacom, Hartford Courant
Vice President/Communications– Jamie DeLoma, Quinnipiac University/ Hearst Connecticut Newspapers
Treasurer– Cara Baruzzi, United Way of New Haven
Secretary– Ricky Campbell, Torrington Register

Immediate Past President– Cindy Simoneau, Southern CT State University/ Hearst Connecticut Newspapers (serves until another past president rotates to the position)

Board of Directors (varying terms)
To be elected:
Liz Glagowski — 1to1Media (Two-year term ends 2014)
Daniela Forte — Litchfield County Times (Two-year term ends 2014)
Zach Janowski — Yankee Institute for Public Policy (Two-year term ends 2014)
Paul Gough — retired CT. Agricultural Experiment Station (One-year term ends 2013)

No election required:
Lila Carney — Quinnipiac University (Serving second of two-year term, ends 2013)
Khrystyne Keane — American Radio Relay League (One-year term ends 2013)

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

WORKSHOP TOPICS INCLUDE:

• 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.

WHO’S ELIGIBLE AND HOW TO APPLY:

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 delucia@c-hit.org.

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 delucia@c-hit.org, 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.

College Contest Opens April 1

The Connecticut SPJ college journalism contest will open for entries on April 1. The deadline to enter will be May 1.

You can access the website to enter by clicking this link.

The college contest is open for stories and photos published in college media in Connecticut between April 22, 2011 and April 1, 2012.

This year, the contest will accept all media types — television, radio, online and print. A full list of categories is posted below.

Entries are limited to three per person per category. Each story, editorial, photo, etc. is a separate entry.

Entry Fees:

  • $5 for active SPJ members
  • $10 for non-members and colleges or universities paying for entries

NOTE: You must choose “College Contest” as the main category for entry in the contest system, or your entries will be disqualified.

If you have questions or problems, contact contest coordinator Jodie Mozdzer at jmozdzer@ctspj.org.

CATEGORIES:

Audio > Feature
Audio > General Reporting
Audio > Commentary
Audio > General Column
Audio > Sports Feature Story
Audio > Sports News Story
Audio > Spot News

Video > General Reporting
Video > Commentary
Video > General Column
Video > Sports Feature Story
Video > Sports News Story
Video > Spot News
Video > Feature

Print/Online > General Reporting
Print/Online > Editorial/Op-ed
Print/Online > General Column
Print/Online > Page 1 Layout
Print/Online > Non-Page 1 Layout
Print/Online > News Photo
Print/Online > Feature Photo
Print/Online > Sports Photo
Print/Online > Sports Feature Story
Print/Online > Sports News Story
Print/Online > Spot News
Print/Online > Feature

 

CTSPJ Board Seeking New Members

The Nominations Committee of CTSPJ is currently seeking nominations for the 2012-13 Officers and Board of Directors. All officer positions are one-year terms and there are three Board of Director positions open for two-year terms.

Officers:
President
Vice President
Vice President/Communications
Treasurer
Secretary

Three board positions (terms July 1, 2012-June 30, 2014).

All officers and board members must be paid members of CTSPJ and SPJ national.

If you are interested in running, please send President Cindy Simoneau a note at csimoneau@ctspj.org, and attach a recent resume. The committee may ask to meet with you for a follow-up interview.

Nominations close: Tuesday, March 27. Please consider serving your chapter.

Nominations Committee:
Cindy Simoneau, Chairwoman
Liz Glagowski
Cara Baruzzi

Shine The Light On Local Government

by Ricky Campbell

There is no more opportune time than now to educate newsrooms and the public on the Freedom of Information Act and public records in Connecticut.

The past year has been a roller coaster of public record proposed legislation and department mergers, from “a disaster for FOI in Connecticut” to “attempts to strike a balance” between the public’s right to know. As a journalist, watching lawmakers attempt what they believe are correct measures, it’s important to watch, analyze – and scrutinize – their every move.

The impact and importance public records are to us, as journalists, is no mystery. However, our communities need continuous education on the significance of the FOI law, reminding them of its initial mission: government oversight.

Sunshine Week commences Monday, and I encourage every newsroom, blogger, veteran, student, or interested community member to educate their contacts with the importance of our right-to-know. While some projects might take time and preparation from weeks ago, there is still time to do your part.

Simple experiments, rigorous investigations, edgy editorials -– whatever. Sunshine Week is a great time to remind news consumers of what is truly important, and any assault on a lack of free information should be on the forefront.

As a beat reporter in a town with questionable transparency, it encourages my competitiveness to kick in, looking for even more opportunities to exercise public information. This week, residents of the northwest corner can expect a school district comparison and Litchfield community members can prepare for some otherwise-hidden emails on a growing political topic in town. Also, with every twist in the current Torrington Police debacle, I can encourage our readership that, well, “We’ve only just begun.

So, as a journalist, what are you doing this week? Are you going to just shrug it off and go about everyday news life? Or will you take some more steps to educate your readership, going that extra mile to remind them why they buy newspapers or click on your links?

I suggest the latter. It’s your duty. In a state with a unique outlet and a country with laws like FOI at our fingertips, we better take advantage of it all.

Happy Sunshinin’!

Don’t be shy and share your stories with us. Here are some great starting points:

Sunshine Week Idea Bank
SPJ FOI activities
IRE’s Extra Extra
Connecticut FOI resources from NFOIC
Tips and Tales – New Haven Register’s Alexandra Sanders’ blog
Cool Justice – journalist Andy Thibault’s blog
The Scoop – Hartford Courant blog

Connecticut Sunshine Week projects — CTSPJ blog

Ricky Campbell is a CT SPJ board member and reporter for the Torrington Register Citizen. You can reach him by email at rcampbell@ctspj.org, on Facebook, or Twitter

Sunshine Week Is Here

Public information belongs to the public.

It’s a simple premise that can be overlooked by the gatekeepers of that information.

That’s why each spring, the American Society of News Editors joins up with other open government groups to host Sunshine Week.

It’s a national project to get people talking about government transparency, and inform everyone about their right to public information.

This week Sunshine Week runs from March 11 – 17.

We’d like to highlight the efforts around Connecticut this week as newspapers and other organizations take part in Sunshine Week.

Please e-mail Ricky Campbell at rcampbell@ctspj.org if you’d like us to highlight your project here. (List of projects will be posted below graphic.)

For more information, and for resources to participate in Sunshine Week (like the graphic posted here) visit www.SunshineWeek.org.

Connecticut Sunshine Week

Let sun shine on government, elections — The Day editorial

Shine The Light On Local Government — CTSPJ blog

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