Thursday, September 15, 2011

'Innovators' compete for annual award

By Alison Noon

The opening session of day two at the APME Journalism Conference introduced Innovator of the Year Award finalists and, after peer vote, the 2011 winner.

Three finalists were chosen from a pool of about 15 Associated Press-affiliated applicants, according to Laura Sellers-Earl, Audience Director at the Conference.

The Register Citizen of Torrington, Connecticut, The Kansas City (Mo) Star, and accumulated Pennsylvania Newspapers presented their projects.

After a manual count of the votes by fellow APME Editors, it was announced that The Register Citizen would be taking home the $2,000 grand prize.

The Open Newsroom project presented by Editor and Publisher of the Register, Matthew DeRienzo, is a small-scale representation of the transparency that journalism constantly strives for.

When it moved to a new location in the Spring of 2010, the 21-person staff of Torrington's local newspaper found themselves in a newsroom resembling a, "blank sheet of paper," according to DeRienzo.

It was from that large, empty physical space that the team's Open Newsroom concept was born.

The 16 people devoted to daily news coverage in Torrington invite any and all citizens of the 35,000-person town to share in the journalistic process by physically being at the Register's newsroom. Coffee, pastries, and leather chairs handy, the newspaper's office is designed to put the public at ease and encourage face-to-face conversation.

Cubicle walls are short, solid walls are minimal in number, and budget meetings are held publicly all, according to DeRienzo, to literally open up the journalistic process.

Citizens take advantage of these liberties not only by sitting in the air-conditioned building and using the free-Wi-Fi, but by pitching story tips directly to the writers.

The Register began their Open Newsroom project less than a year ago, but has already received widespread acknowledgement within the industry for the achievement. The community, DeRienzo understands, is catching on more slowly.

The Kansas City Star's Midwest Democracy project and the Pennsylvania newspapers' APME-AP Broken Budgets project were contenders to the transparency concept presented by the Register Citizen. All three projects revolved majorly around interaction of readers with the reporting and coverage processes of the papers.

The Innovator of the Year award is an annual update of profound journalism pursuits with sizable impact recognized by the AP community. Outside of the recognizable journalism concepts, Award applicants emphasized a shift to reader-accessible technologies.

Contact University of Colorado at Boulder student Alison Noon at

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