With new management comes editorial changes and the early trend shows more Bridgeport news coverage from the Connecticut Post. Will it last?
Barbara Roessner, who served for several years as managing editor of the Hartford Courant, was appointed in July executive editor of Hearst Connecticut Newspapers overseeing the editorial content of its four daily newspapers in Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford and Greenwich as well as seven suburban weeklies. She has a bachelor’s from Wesleyan. Not bad!
Bob Fredericks, a Black Rock resident, returned to his hometown paper as managing editor for a baptism by storm, just in time for Sandy, and the presidential election right after that. Fredericks had previous stints as a reporter and editor at the Post, but has returned in charge of news.
When Fredericks first worked for the Post it was family-owned, eventually led by the genial, community-minded Betty Pfriem. Fredericks has made the adjustment to the world of corporate journalism where newsroom budgets are generally decided someplace else. If Roessner and Fredericks want more staff (good luck!) they must redeploy from sister papers or jawbone Post Publisher John DeAugustine who must talk up the line to the Hearst corporate pecking order such as Paul Farrell, Group Publisher of Hearst’s Connecticut Newspaper Group; Lincoln Millstein, Executive Vice President, Deputy Group Head; and then the big dog Mark Aldam, President Hearst Newspapers. Come on Mark, how about a few more shekels for news coverage?
Ultimately they must go with what they got. Fredericks, as managing editor, is short staffed as newsrooms go but with several solid scribes under his umbrella. Fredericks’ influence has already taken place. Brian Lockhart, a Bridgeport resident, has been engaged on City Hall, covering City Council meetings and producing more copy on things mayor’s office than has been seen in quite some time. He’s a strong news gatherer and writer. He can be a stick in the eye to government officials.
As it applied to covering Bridgeport, for a while it was Keila Torres Ocasio against the world. When Keila comes calling pols get nervous. She’s a smart, young, penetrating writer who also lives in the city. Before Fredericks rejoined the Post, Keila had been transitioned from city spot news scribe to columnist, a dubious decision for spot news lovers although she produced many fine columns. But have you noticed in the past week Keila is back to covering straight news in the city? A shuttered day care facility, the arrest of State Rep.-elect Christina Ayala, the opening of Christmas Village among her work contributions. Is this permanent?
And as an added attraction, MariAn Gail Brown, who also knows how to get under the skin of pols, has filed local news stories this week. The paper had converted MGB into a consumer warrior protecting the interests of little peeps.
If Fredericks can find a way to unleash Lockhart, Torres and Brown on the city, it will make for fun reading.
(Political friends are screaming don’t give them any ideas!)
If local coverage keeps up, an interesting dynamic will take place between the Post and the mayor’s office. Mayor Bill Finch is not a fan of inquisitive reporters. He’s not alone in his views of intrusive scribes. Pols like to make decisions without having to explain this, that and the other thing. It’s human nature.
The mayor’s Chief of Staff Adam Wood has been sending prehistoric noises in the direction of DeAugustine. He feels the Post coverage that exists is too negative and could curtail city development progress. Adam and Communications Director Elaine Ficarra don’t like scribes freelancing the building. If you want to talk to a city official they want the request to go through Elaine. This is not unusual. It allows City Hall to control information flow without it taking on a life of its own such as a department head saying something stupid, and then they must walk it back.
Most department heads would rather clam up than face Wood or Ficarra.
The scribes argue they cannot even get the most basic of information on how the people’s money is being spent without clearance from Ficarra. We now live in a world of instant news gratification and short attention spans. The scribes want access to information. Government officials want to control it. If seasoned scribes are allowed to work the building, in time they’ll eventually unearth some of the things they need. It takes time. Meanwhile, fire up the FOI requests.
The relationship between journalists and government officials has also changed. Elected officials can now use Facebook, Twitter and websites to control information flow. But journalists can still be relevant. Let’s see how the Post’s local coverage plays out.