For some time now, there's been buzz that going "digital first" and producing quality journalism were mutually exclusive goals. I assume part of that is because companies that have gone "digital first" -- and few have done it as all-out as the Journal Register Company -- have been forced to reduce staff as part of making that move toward the future. Then again, so has just about every other newspaper in the United States, regardless of whether they've gone "digital first" or not. Reducing staff is not part of going digital; it's part of a natural re-sizing of newsrooms that's been made necessary by the new economics of media.
That's why I'm so excited about the re-organization of our newsroom at The New Haven Register: because it shows that you can address the needs of traditional journalism while still reorienting your newsroom toward the future.
Among the key elements of this re-organization are the creation of an investigative and in-depth reporting team, led by accomplished Register staffers Michelle Tuccitto Sullo and Mary O'Leary. This is the first time in 20 years that the Register will have a dedicated investigative reporting team. Additionally, we'll create new beats to better cover Yale University and issues relating to the Long Island Sound.
At the same time, we're still pushing to fundamentally change the way the Register newsroom operates. To achieve that, we've created an audience engagement team, led by Ed Stannard and Angela Carter, which will partner with readers, community groups and other key constituents in New Haven. Anyone who's spent five minutes with me knows how important I think audience and community engagement are. The balance of power in the publisher-consumer relationship has completely flipped in the past 15 years. It used to be local residents couldn't get by without reading their local paper. Now, thanks to an explosion of new sources and ubiquitous access to content, publishers need each individual consumer a hell of a lot more than they need us. So it's up to us to prove to our readers that we're relevant, and the first step in that process is to actually talk to them. We've already been doing that all across Journal Register -- most notably with the Open Newsroom Project at the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn. -- but this formalizes it at one of our larger papers.
Breaking news is also tremendously important in a media world that is now permanently 24/7. So we've created a breaking news team that will be run by Cara Baruzzi. That team will focus on producing breaking news on all platforms, but also on providing the essential service of curating the best local information about New Haven. That means not just linking to the Register's own reporting, but linking to the work of its Community Media Lab members and other local news sources like the New Haven Independent.
These moves, driven by Connecticut Group Editor Matt DeRienzo, set the Register up nicely to head into the digital future. And, yes, that digital future still does include traditional reporting and investigative journalism.
ALSO: Matt DeRienzo wrote an excellent post on this topic this morning.
Here's the press release:
New Haven Register Newsroom Reorganization Focuses on In-Depth, Investigative and Digital
Engagement Team Named to Lead Audience-Focused Initiatives
Monday, November 28, 2011
NEW HAVEN, CT – Journal Register Company, a leading local news and information company managed by Digital First Media, announced today that The New Haven Register has formed an investigative team and engagement team as part of the Digital First newsroom reorganization.
“Quality journalism and digital journalism are not mutually exclusive,” said Jim Brady, Editor-in-Chief of Digital First Media. “Our audiences demand quality stories and they expect to be able to consume those stories on the device and platform of their choosing. The structure we are putting in place in New Haven is one that will allow us to react to breaking news, dedicate journalists to in-depth reporting and to deepen the relationship with our audience.”
The changes to the Register’s newsroom included the creation of:
Investigative and In-Depth Reporting Team: Led by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, a 14-year newsroom veteran who led coverage of FBI investigations into corruption in community government, and Mary O’Leary, who has 32 years as a reporter and editor at The Register, this team marks the first time in 20 years that The Register will have a formalized beat dedicated to investigative reporting. O’Leary will also devote time to in-depth “explainer” format reporting to address topics facing the community and “fact check” style reporting to determine the truth in statements made by public officials and newsmakers.
Audience Engagement Team: Angela Carter and Ed Stannard have been named Community Engagement Editors and will lead outreach efforts to listen to and partner with readers, including local organizations and neighborhood groups – as well as growing The Register’s Community Media Lab. Carter, a Register staffer for 16 years, has spent much of her career as a city-side and business reporter and is also a member of Journal Register Company’s ideaLab. Stannard, who has worked at the Register for 21 years, has most recently served as Metro Editor and has covered religion and transportation issues. Angel Diggs, the Register’s librarian, will also join the Engagement Team as her role shifts from archiving the newspaper’s content to opening up those archives – for the community to access and enrich and for the newsroom to bring to life on the web. Diggs has worked at the Register for 31 years.
Breaking News Team: Led by Cara Baruzzi, The Register’s former business editor, the Breaking News Team will serve all platforms including SMS, mobile and social media to meet audience demands that breaking news be delivered across all platforms. The Breaking News Team will also deliver a Connecticut-wide curated breaking news report by linking out to other information sources – including The New Haven Independent, members of The Register’s Community Media Lab and sources traditionally viewed as competitors.
In addition to the creation of these teams, The Register is creating beats dedicated to coverage of Yale University and land use, business climate and environmental health of the Long Island Sound.
“With our digital audience being larger than our print audience we have to increase the number of audience touch points. Digital is real time and the audience expects us to respond in real time but being fast does not excuse you from the basic tenets of journalism,” said Matt DeRienzo, Connecticut Group Editor. “The focus of this reorganization is to craft an agile, digital newsroom that focuses on journalism and creating content that is relevant to the lives of our readers.”
The staff reorganization follows other changes implemented by DeRienzo since being named as Connecticut Group Editor. The Register recently launched an expanded Fact Check Initiative where every article published on NHRegister.com includes a submission box where readers can report inaccurate or missing information. Corrections are published to The Register’s Fact Check Blog — as well as noted in the original story.
“Digital is our primary publishing platform and we have to make sure we’re holding ourselves to the journalism’s standards,” said Mr. DeRienzo. “We don’t want to make mistakes but when we do we will be transparent about them. Our audience deserve as much and demands as much.”