Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Torrington: A Place of Innovation?

Artist's rendering of the new cafe and media lab.
Update: The NYT piece is up.

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A little birdie tells me the Register-Citizen newspaper in Torrington will be featured in a New York Times piece tomorrow. My guess is the subject will be the paper's recently announced experiment in getting its audience involved in community journalism.

The paper has moved to new and larger headquarters a few blocks away from its Water Street building, which the old Torrington Register had called home for 110 years. That in itself isn't news. But, as part of its new "digital-first" business model, the R-C is also opening a newsroom cafe, community media lab, community journalism school and a local news library, free and open to the general public:
"When you first walk into our new space at 59 Field St., it will look like a cross between a coffee shop, library and newsroom," said Publisher Matt DeRienzo. "We are issuing a permanent invitation for the community to be engaged and involved in how we report local news and information, at every step in the process."
There will be a coffee shop with Green Mountain Coffee, local baked goods. Sounds great? But here's the kicker:
The community will be encouraged to sit in on and participate, if they wish, in the newsroom’s daily story meetings, which will also be livestreamed at RegisterCitizen.Com, offering editors advice on how to cover stories, or pitching new story ideas.
I give Matt a lot of credit for thinking outside the box and trying to engage his readership. He really is trying mightily to improve the paper and to make his audience to feel like they have a sense of ownership in the R-C. And, in addition to the NYT, Matt is already getting a a fair amount of regional publicity for his visionary leadership on this subject (click here, here and here for examples).

But I'm not sure I would want members of the public, especially those who might have an axe to grind, sitting in on story meetings or looking over my shoulder as I'm pecking away at my keyboard on the subject of municipal wrongdoing or a three-car crash on Migeon Avenue.

But all eyes will be on this project and whether it succeeds in challenging the public to become involved in the editorial side of the news business. Good luck, Matt.

Disclosure: This blog is linked on the R-C's homepage through an agreement with the publisher, Matt DeRienzo. In an act of voluntary reciprocation, I link to the R-C here and use it as a source whenever possible. However, the paper exercises no editorial control over this blog. According to my stat counter, is by far the largest single source of page views for Devil's Advocate.


  1. In my opinion the Journal Register company gutted the Register Citizen publication when they assimilated it, perhaps 10 or more years ago. So, I applaud their effort to leap forward with this experiment or new trend, in the spirit of advancing the state of the art. With the award-winning Litchfield County Times still intact, they could really be onto something with the combination of high-class traditional publishing (LCT)and innovative new reporting (RC).

  2. I read this with much interest. I try to steer clear of cable news and The Incredibly Bad and Unbelievably Scary Weather Channel ( TIBAUSWC ) But when I do slip, I notice that there are a lot of " E " and "I reporters " out there. Just folks. Who wouldn't know the difference between sn inverted pyramid and a triangle.

    New ideas aren't always good ideas. And sometimes pushing the envelope is like writing the wrong address on the envelope. You make the effort, but the message bounces back and goes nowhere.

  3. Terry ...

    As for your concern about having the folks with 'axes to grind' in the room ... I am sorry to inform you that this is common practice in the area already.

    What is grand for the R-C is the fact that they are putting it in the public view!!! Bravo ... now we will see who is trying to manipulate the media.

    Many are fooled in this corner of the State by those who profess to be 'neutral' in their delivery of the NEWS.

    BRAVO to the R-C for putting this in 'your face'.

    I am busting my tail to free up some time and get down to this Newsroom ...

    Now if they would only get some reporters up here ...???

  4. John, not sure I know what you mean by "assimilated." Do you mean when the R-C closed its Winsted and Canaan offices? Or when the company consolidated the Torrington Register and the Winsted Evening Citizen? I do agree that there could be some synergy, but also concur with Bryan Sundie, who suggested on my Facebook page that there should also be a focus on improving the quality of the journalism.
    Mike, I get your point. But would you want members of the public literally looking over your shoulder while you're working? I don't think you would. But as I said, I applaud the innovation of this project and will be watching it closely.
    Terrence, you are a piece of work!

  5. Terry, thanks for writing about this.

    Here's the Times piece:

    Reading the comments here, I want to be clear about one thing. If at the end of the day, this wasn't going to improve our journalism, there would be no point in doing it. We believe we'll get better by listening to, understanding and partnering with our audience, and being more transparent about everything we do (great points, Michael). To John's point, we'll also get better by adding staff, paying them more, and reinvesting in journalism after a long period of neglect. We're doing that, too.

    If you are curious about how the "open" story meetings are working, you can visit and participate yourself, or watch live video of them every weekday at 4 p.m. on RegisterCitizen.Com.

    Matt DeRienzo, 860-489-1877,

  6. Matt, thanks for that clarification. I do think it's fair to say that anything that brings journalists closer to the community they cover will help both the cause and quality of journalism. I plan to drop by the new digs one of these afternoons and poke around. Best of luck.

  7. Terry ...

    I DO have members of the public looking over my shoulder when I work ... when I am filming meetings ... looking into my studio when I am doing my live broadcast ... I WELCOME public scrutiny ... It is what keeps us HONEST!

    Thank you Matt ... I applaud OPEN journalism!!!

    We often forget that our local politics and journalism can go so far astray because we hide behind our personal knowledge of the players and somehow can't divorce ourselves from the idea that they are acting as public officials ... not personal aquaintances ...

    Again ... Applause to the R-C for acting in the spirit of democracy and letting the public in on the ACT!!!

  8. Ok, Mike. I suggest you invite the public into your office as you plan what to talk about and peruse documents for next week's Straight Talk. And televise that, too!