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Letter to our members: Chapter conducts independent review into Paresh Jha’s contest entries

June 29, 2012

Dear Connecticut SPJ members:

As current officers representing the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, we are writing to inform you of recent actions taken concerning possible fabrications in entries to the 2011 Excellence in Journalism contest.

As you may know, former New Canaan News reporter Paresh Jha was dismissed from his job. The action followed the discovery that he had fabricated sources and quotes in published reports.

Upon learning of these developments, the Connecticut SPJ Board of Directors realized that Jha was recently selected for two awards in the 2011 Excellence in Journalism contest sponsored by the chapter. Jha won a third place award for feature writing and a first place award for in-depth reporting.

We immediately contacted Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, owner of the New Canaan News, asking if any portion of these award-winning entries were fabricated. David McCumber, editorial director for Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, who responded within half an hour, said that their investigation verified facts and sources in the feature story. Their investigation, however, found fabrications in one of the three stories in the series. Meanwhile, the Connecticut SPJ board began deliberations on whether to rescind the award(s) and/or to conduct our own independent investigation of the entries.

On Thursday, June 28, the board voted 10-1, with one member not voting, to conduct an independent investigation of these entries.

Today, the board further voted 10-1, with one member not voting, to authorize Roy S. Gutterman, a media lawyer and Syracuse professor, to conduct the independent investigation. Gutterman, a member of SPJ, is authorized to contact any individuals or organizations necessary to complete the investigation and make recommendations to the board on possible actions on the awards.

We expect the investigation to be completed and a report completed by July 31. After that, we will consider whether to act on the awards.

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.

Over the past year, we have been increasingly dismayed to see the on-going lapse in good journalistic practices. This is the third journalist to lose their job in the state over plagiarism or fabrication. (See Middletown Press and Fairfield Minuteman.)

We are so concerned about these matters that we are considering professional programs on this topic. Your input on this matter, changes to our contest and any other SPJ- or journalism-related matter is valued by the Connecticut SPJ board.

Please take time to give your feedback on these issues. You may email us at contest@ctspj.org.

We will inform you of any future action taken on this matter. We hope see you at a future program.

Please check the chapter website at ctspj.org for updates on all future programming and news.

Regards,
Cindy Simoneau, president
Don Stacom, vice president
Jamie DeLoma, vice president/communications
Jodie Mozdzer, treasurer (and president-elect)
Cara Baruzzi, secretary
Jerry Dunklee, past president

Edward Cotter

Edward Cotter Jr., was photographer for the Evening Sentinel and the New Haven Register for more than 55 years, before his death in January 2012. He was 91.

Eddie Cotter set the standard for journalists in the lower Naugatuck Valley. And, he paved the way to make sure the public always got to see what was happening in their communities – including with emergency services.

Several newspaper reporters and editors recalled their time working with Cotter in news articles about his death. Former New Haven Register editor Michael Foley said when Cotter walked into the newsroom late in the day with a photo, it meant one thing ― tear up whatever the editors had planned for the front page.

Cotter’s photos were up close and dramatic. On more than one occasion the editors at the Register had to meet to discuss whether to publish Cotter’s photos.

“It could be raw stuff,” said Foley.

John Ferraro, the state editor at The Hartford Courant, worked with Cotter in the early 1990s at the Register’s Valley bureau. Ferraro said he and Cotter would often run out to cover crashes and fires. At times Cotter would take photos, hand Ferraro the camera to take back to the office, then either step in to fight a fire or drive an ambulance.

“He thought that people had the right to see what was going on in their communities,” Ferraro said. “Part of that was showing what rescue people did.”

The Naugatuck Valley press corps and the community have benefited from the access to emergency services. First responders in the Valley have an expectation that what they do is public, and should be shared with the community. That is a result of Cotter’s influence.

Edward Cotter contributed immensely to journalism and to the public in Connecticut.  We are honored to induct him into the Connecticut Journalism Hall of Fame.

John Mongillo Jr.

John Mongillo Jr. was an extraordinary newsman.  Following his father, John Sr. who was also a news photographer, he shot photos of most major news events in Connecticut during a 40-year career.  Hurricane Gloria, the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge, the Stratford Toll Plaza fire are a few examples.  He seemed to be everywhere at once.

His contacts were legendary.  He knew everyone from beat cops, to major public officials, to regular citizens.  And they all called John with stories. He often was at crime scenes before any other reporter or photographer, and in 1980 was credited with negotiating a hostage situation at the East Street branch of the former First Bank in New Haven when a would-be robber wanted to relay his demands through the media. As a result, Mongillo received the police chief’s Citizen Meritorious Service Award.

Former New Haven Register Editor Jack Kramer, who worked with Mongillo for about 30 years, said, “Nobody was more plugged in, nobody knew more cops or firefighters, nobody was faster with information than John Mongillo. He made sure we had the most up-to-date and best information and photographs.”

He also shot thousands of images of less well-known stories and portraits of everyday people in the news.

Mongillo worked at the New Haven Register for 30 years and then became a free lancer.  He provided still pictures and video to news outlets around the state and beyond for the rest of his life.  He was only 64 when he died.

John Mongillo Jr. was the complete news photographer.  We are proud to induct him into the Connecticut Journalism Hall of Fame.

Meet Cindy Simoneau

Cindy Simoneau is the immediate past president of our chapter. She is an associate professor of Journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.

She is the former assistant managing editor of the Connecticut Post where she is currently a consulting editor and internship coordinator. She is in her 15th year as adviser to CTTeens, the only high school newspaper journalism project in Connecticut.

She was editor of the daily “Woman Wise” section and a bureau chief reporter at the Post before that. After receiving a B.A. degree at the University of Rhode Island, Simoneau began her career as a reporter for the Newtown Bee. She is a freelance writer and editor. For news writing she has received the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional award. She has been an active member of the Connecticut SPJ chapter, she is currently serving as immediate past president and was a longtime treasurer and member of the Board of Directors since 1983.

You may reach her at csimoneau@ctspj.org.

Citizen Journalism Event — Live Chat

CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Pat Child

Pat Child was a news photographer for New Haven’s WTNH-TV, CH. 8 for almost 40 years.

He covered most major news stories in the state during his remarkable career.

Child worked with dozens of reporters over his many years, often knowing as much or more about the personalities and the politics as they did.

Child knew the state of Connecticut extraordinarily well. He guided many young reporters and videographers toward more complete coverage of events. Pat_Child_Pre-Air_Force

His brother, Bob, also a news photographer, worked for the Associated Press.  When an important news event occurred members of the press referred to it as a “two Child” story because both would be at the scene.

Pat covered everything.  Hurricanes, blizzards, political conventions and day-to-day news stories.  He retired, moved to Florida and died in 2004 at the age of 69.

 

 

 

 

 

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