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CT Post Sweetens City News Coverage

December 5th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Analysis and Comment, News and Events

Aldam

Hearst honcho Mark Aldam. Can you spare a few more scribes?

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.

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Up On Bridgeport

    It’s good to have Fredericks back where he belongs. Bridgeport!!!
    He is a relationship builder from his days as a reporter and can and will assist his reporters in looking at different angles. Keila, Brian and Brown create a formidable triumvirate of reporters on the city side.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Thirty days ago, election day, November 6 2012, Adam Wood and I had our longest personal conversation. He was confidently placing multiple YES signs into the curbside sod and I had finished placing two or three strategically in sight of voters to come.

    I approached Adam to ask him why he never wants to engage in dialogue or answer questions that would add to the community’s understanding of the City. He felt either my questions were to be avoided or I was too close to him physically. After warning me to move away from him or else … he felt comfortable relating his belief I am a “little person.” (Now I immediately realized he was not addressing my husky frame. But when I responded we are all “little people” when it comes to the community, he emphasized: “No, not all the people, but you, you are a “little person.”)

    I have a different point of view from many, and certainly different from Adam Wood. I will meet him any day to have a discussion about City direction and action. At worst, I may learn more than before such a dialogue. It’s not likely to occur but it is a mark of this administration that OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, and TRANSPARENT governance has such a narrow and faulty meaning that everything must be processed through Elaine Ficarra.

    As far as public information, many areas are seriously behind current, accurate and complete information. So the truths there are not dependable and that is strange for an administration that boasts about its responsiveness after burying CitiStat. Mentions of Facebook and Twitter as tools of communication for serious issues indicate how far Finch and Company are from reality.

    It is possible the CT Post may be able to re-establish some credibility in the eyes of readers. It will take patience and extra effort. Since that means money, it may take the ‘gut instinct’ of the news industry to follow up inquiries and sink their teeth into one or more anomalies in City finances and failures to abide by the Charter. Time will tell.

    • John Marshall Lee

      I was placing NO signs in the ground on election day! What a delightful result at the end of the day. A lesson about communicating with enough “little people” to make a difference in this City! Stay tuned. Time will tell.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Come on JML, I thought you were smarter than that!
      In the time you wasted talking to the guy, you could have convinced five or more voters to vote no.

      One critical point Lennie left out is reporters should make time for the community activists who need to address important issues affecting the little people of Bridgeport. The people have not only lost faith in our political system, but also in the media.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Having to clear access with Elaine Ficarra is not really an obstacle. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were able to uncover the sleazy dealings of Richard Nixon’s ’72 re-election campaign without ever getting any information from the White House. If anything the attempts to limit media coverage will only inspire the reporters to dig deeper and talk to City Hall employees when they are not at work. Adam “Pecker” Wood would do well to reacquaint himself with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • Jimfox

    Hey, maybe now we’ll get a few dateline Fairfield, Trumbull and Stratford.
    Someone gets robbed in Fairfield or Trumbull it’s always dateline Bridgeport.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    There have been rumors all over the net Speedy Gonzales is no longer available and it was possible I would never come back.
    Let the record show I never left and I’m always available to fight a good fight.
    www .amazon.com/Wobbler-Looney-Series-Speedy-Gonzales/dp/B000HGVWR2

  • Mojo

    *** Maybe the Post will start covering city goverment debacles along with the DTC machine and all the monsters they’ve created and support. WICC seems lately to enjoy making more of the Ayala debacle yet never ask the Mayor the important questions when he visits on Monday morning’s. I guess they like being the special guest every year @ the city tree lighting ceremony where they practise there korny jokes! *** PAY TO PLAY! ***

  • Local Eyes

    This is America. If the Ct Post wants to sweeten city news coverage, they’re going to need a little competition. That’s why I got one of these: http://www.BlackRockCTUSA.com

  • John Marshall Lee

    Dear LE,
    I visited the site today. I guess you are indicating it is yours? Frankly I don’t find anything worthy of being called competition. But I know Rome was not built in a day. Why not come clean, use your real name (instead of hiding out) like Post writers do, and put up something worthy of readership besides ads for employment? I like competition, and I like the idea of the CT Post using professional journalists along with the rest of us who keep our eyes alert, our ears open and our noses primed for a good story. Than means digging, reviewing, and trying to connect the dots to understand what is ongoing and playing out in almost full sight.

    Curiosity, investigative expertise and skilled writing is alive at the CT Post. Let them know if you have some worthy facts and an interesting connection of dots! They likely will treat you seriously if you take yourself seriously, too. Time will tell.

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