The Connecticut Post website is loaded with stories today. Truck crashes into Troop G State Police barracks. Heroin dealer busted. Mayor Finch’s press secretary resigns. House Speaker James Amann establishes a task force to study absent fathers. (Think Jammin’ James is running for governor?)
Nothing, however, about what was behind the quick getaway of the paper’s editor James H. Smith. Citizen Smith took an abrupt walk out of the newsroom at 410 State Street on Thursday. This is the guy that urged his reporters to snag the names of jurors deciding criminal cases, pushed scribes to scour the cell phone records of former Mayor John Fabrizi, probed police departments for information on screwy pistol permits and issued freedom of information requests to an assortment of governmental agencies.
Why Smith was let go is unclear, but there’s speculation in the Post newsroom he fell victim to the downsizing plaguing newsrooms across America. The Post has a bunch of sister newspapers in the area, including the Danbury News-Times. Maybe a consolidation effort to create a global editor among sister publications during budget-making time?
Whatever the reason, this was a major newsroom surprise. And one of the paper’s award-winning journalists, MariAn Gail Brown, will miss him.
“It was a surprise to all of us in the newsroom,” she told OIB. “He’s a great, great editor. He’s a lot of fun. A good sense of humor. He respects good journalism. He demands the best from people. His job is one I’d never want because there’s so many facets to it. The editor’s position is the meat in the sandwich between reporters and corporate honchos.”
Squeezing editors out of a job has become commonplace. The Hartford Courant just announced the elimination of 60 newsroom positions.
Smith has his place overseeing enterprising journalism. In February 2006 Brown filed a freedom of information request seeking Fabrizi’s city-issued credit card and cell phone bills. Brown and her peers Bill Cummings and Mike Mayko discovered a pattern of the mayor’s phone calls connected to a suspected drug supplier. “He encouraged us to nail everything down and get Fabrizi’s position,” Brown said of her former boss. “Where there were gaps in the story he would hammer me with questions.”
The demeanor in the newsroom Thursday was dramatically different from the day Smith’s predecessor, the volatile Frank Keegan, was fired about three years ago. The newsroom erupted in cheers upon learning he was canned.
Makes me glad I’m doing this!
The Board of Education finally passed a budget Thursday night. It’s not pretty. The $215 million spending plan apparently did not include the BOE’s anticipated share for a comprehensive forensic audit of its books, but State Sen. Rob Russo says the $250k he secured is enough to cover the audit stage of a comprehensive look at BOE finances.
Sly Salcedo, Democratic candidate for state representative, has provided an update in his quest to secure funds from Connecticut’s unique public financing formula. It shows how difficult it is for some challenge candidates to collect 150 small donations. The fightin’ Filipino is resilient, however, as he courts friends and strangers for $5 contributions. Anyone see Chico Rivera or Eze Santiago, Sly’s competitors?