Monday, March 26, 2012

'Hoodies Up New Haven' march for Trayvon Martin takes place Saturday

The Black Student Alliance at Yale on Saturday is sponsoring a "Hoodies Up New Haven" march and rally in support of Trayvon Martin's family, the arrest of his shooter, George Zimmerman, and amending the Connecticut's Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Act to strengthen its enforcement.

The event begins at 3 p.m. at the Dixwell Community "Q" House, 197 Dixwell Ave. Participants will march to the New Haven Green for a rally and are encouraged to wear hoodies.

Martin, 17, was shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman who claims he killed Martin in self-defense.

Martin's family is calling for Zimmerman's arrest and protests have erupted nationwide against self-defense laws, such as the so-called 'stand your ground law' in Florida.

Organizations co-sponsoring "Hoodies Up" with the Black Student Alliance include My Brother's Keeper, MEChA de Yale, NAACP branches at Yale, Southern Connecticut State University and University of New Haven, Connecticut African American Emancipation Committee, Unidad Latina En Accion, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Yale College Democrats and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.

The public may follow updates on these activities using the Twitter hashtag #hoodiesupnhv.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Disqus makes online comments easier, better

On Tuesday, we introduced a new story-commenting system, which we think is much better than the old one. It allows for "threading" of comments in the same conversation, so that if you reply to someone, your comment will appear under theirs, rather than down the list. You can also register by Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google -- or you can stay anonymous.

It also gives us the ability to whitelist commenters who show themselves to be responsible commenters (whether they agree with us or not) and to blacklist abusers who violate our commenting policy. No, we don't want to ban people who disagree with us, but we don't want hateful, abusive comments to lower the tone of the dialogue. (Read our commenting guidelines here.)

For more, read editor Matt DeRienzo's post in his Connecticut Newsroom blog. And see our story today asking for your feedback. Leave a comment there, here or email us at We want to hear from you!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest post: How to fit blogging into your work life

A Digital First approach to news requires learning about a variety of new tools. One that our reporters have been urged to consider is a “beat blog”—a blog that complements and augments their regular news coverage. One challenge is time. So I asked Luther Turmelle to give us some guidance on how he manages to handle it all. Luther has kept up two beat blogs for a while—one on the towns he covers, Cheshire and Wallingford—and one on his third beat, utilities and energy. While he wrote this for our reporters, there’s great advice here if you’re thinking of starting a blog or looking how to improve yours. Thanks, Luther, for finding the time to write this.

If YOU are interested in writing a blog for our Community Media Lab, please contact me,, 203-789-5743, or Angi Carter, at, 203-789-5743.

--Ed Stannard

By Luther Turmelle, North Bureau Chief / Twitter: @lutherturmelle 

Ed Stannard asked me to write a blog post about .... blogging.

Ed said he thought it would be a good idea for me to share my thoughts with all of you because I write two blogs for the Register, “Life In Two Northern Towns,” which is about the two towns that I cover (Cheshire and Wallingford) and “Power to The People” which is an energy blog. Advice coming from somebody, who doesn’t have an overabundance of spare time, either within the work day or outside of it.

I don’t claim to be an expert or anything, but I have some definite opinions about blogging, some of which I’ve developed on my own and others which I’ve read about that claim to be best practices.

So, as Casey Kasem likes to say, on with the countdown:

1) Pick a time that works in your schedule to blog and stick with it: I prefer to blog at the end of the day, after I’ve filed my daily stories. But that may not work for you, so go with what makes you comfortable because you’re going to want to post as frequently as possible.

2) Set a reasonable goal for the number of times you plan to post each week: In a perfect world, we’d all be able to make blog posts every day. But breaking news and our personal lives have a way of getting in the way of meeting a goal that is so ambitious. So start slow. Two or three times a week is better than once a week and there may be brief periods in which you can handle a one-a-day regimen.

3) Vary your content: The space that we have to blog in lends itself to a variety of uses.  One of the best are meeting and event announcements that come in a few days before they are scheduled that you know are unlikely to make it into the print edition. It’s better to get something online and then promote it with Facebook or Twitter than to not give it any mention at all.

But don’t turn your blog into an upcoming events bulletin board. Some posts could be what radio anchorman Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.” Given print edition space limitations, we’re sometimes not able to squeeze in the kind of detail that might interest some readers. So use the extra journalism real estate that a blog provides to go beyond “all the news that fits.”

Another possibility is commentary or news analysis, as long as you label it as such. As reporters, we have to be objective, but in my humble opinion, nobody on the face of this earth is totally objective. We are all shaped by life experiences that give us opinions on everything. In order to keep the lines of communication open with sources on your beat, it’s probably not a good idea to take one person to task, particularly if it’s someone you have to deal with all the time. But if your council or board of selectmen repeatedly keeps revisiting an issue and never resolves it, you ought to be able to come out and say so. I think a blog makes the perfect forum for that.

4) Use hyperlinks and pictures if you can. Anyone who needs help learning how to do this should come and see me, because if done properly, hyperlinks can help better inform our readers on the subjects we’re blogging about and pictures can make a blog post look better. If you use a photo or an image you track down in an online search, you should credit where it came from. If it is a photo from a politician’s web page, you should say that.

It’s probably a good idea that if you’re writing a blog post about a company that may seem a tad controversial to stay away from using their corporate logo. Companies are very protective of their logos and you want to stay away from doing something that is more trouble than it’s worth. But if a company is donating a check to your local food pantry and that business has a logo, by all means use it.

5) Use your writer’s voice: View a blog as an opportunity to put a little bit of yourself in any post that you can. People read a reporter’s work either because it is a topic they are interested in, is about a somebody they know or who lives in their town, or because they like the way a journalist reports and writes.

6) Keep it reasonably short: I know, we’ve all seen blogs that go on for pages at some web sites around the country. But when you can, stick to keeping it at a couple of paragraphs. That’s not to say you can’t write long if the situation really warrants it. Just don’t make every paragraph into “War and Peace.” Make use of links to other stories to help make the point that you’re writing about. That’s the beauty of the web.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me. Again, I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I’ve blogged for a while (and that doesn’t include my personal blogs).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Parents, learning to be advocates, take a turn at grilling the media

By Ed Stannard, Community Engagement Editor / Twitter: @edstannardnhr, @nhrvoices

One of the big reasons I applied to become community engagement editor was to give me a chance to get out and meet more people around the New Haven area. I think I'm one of the few newsroom types (along with Angi) who actually enjoys talking to groups!

Last week, Dee Brasselle of the Parent Leadership Training Institute emailed us and asked if someone could speak at their meeting the next night. As its web page says, PLTI "helps parents become leading advocates for children," and the parents who were there (who will graduate in June in ceremonies both at New Haven City Hall and the Legislative Office Building in Hartford) I'm sure are great advocates for their kids, based on how ready they were to hit me with questions.

Among the things they asked me, along with my answers:

  • How does a person in a wheelchair let the city know about obstacles, such as damaged sidewalks, that prevent him from getting around?
    • I told them about SeeClickFix, the New Haven-based company on whose website you can post issues that will be seen by city officials. You can even create a watch list for your neighborhood or block, and set it up so the proper official (such as your alderman) will get notified.
  • What's the best way to get a letter to the editor into the paper?
    •  Short and to the point is the best advice. We like letters from all points of view, but we like when they're concise, express an opinion clearly, and don't attack others. Letters can be sent to our editorial page editor, Charles Kochakian
  • How do we get publicity for community events and good news, such as fairs and awards?
    • This is one of the biggest issues for us, since our space in the paper is so tight, and we're working on solutions, such as a blog that people can post events to. In the meantime, if you have something you want to say, or want to send us a report about an event you attended, email Angi and me at Brief announcements can be sent to
  • Why does the Register cover crime in New Haven but doesn't cover the good news stories that are out there?
    •  This is another big issue, and we're really concerned about it. Fewer reporters covering New Haven than in years past means we have less ability to get to all the events that are happening, although we're always looking for stories about people doing interesting and positive things. For one thing, we don't always hear about what's happening. So email us at, or City Editor Helen Bennett at We also want to make this blog -- YOUR Open Newsroom -- a place where we can post the photos and stories that you send to us. We want you to be our eyes and ears in your neighborhoods, because no one knows a place better than the people who live there!
As I said at the beginning, I love getting out and meeting people in the New Haven area, and so does Angi. So if you want us to come out to talk to your organization, please email us (, call Angi at 203-789-5752 or me at 203-789-5743.

And here's the to parents who make their kids Priority No. 1!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Read testimony on the bill to repeal Connecticut's death penalty

During the first five hours of testimony before the Connecticut legislature's Judiciary Committee, no one spoke against repealing the death penalty.

Jordan Fenster is covering the story for the Register and we invite you to visit for updates.

As Senate Bill 280 is written, the death penalty would still apply retroactively to the 11 inmates on the state's death row. Some members of the Judiciary Committee expressed concern that death sentences already handed down could possibly be reduced to lighter sentences.

Although no one had spoken against repeal at the time this post was uploaded, written testimony opposing SB 280 had been submitted to the committee.

We have the text of the bill and some of the testimonies - for and against repeal - available below for you to  view.

Last year, a similar bill drew heated debate before finally failing when two senators withdrew their support.

You may also watch the live stream at 11 a.m. on CT-N.

Please feel free to express your views here on the blog or by emailing us at

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Out of Reach: Rental costs on the rise, income not keeping pace (w/databases)

By Angi Carter, Community Engagement Editor
Facebook: Angi Carter, Community Media Lab

A Connecticut worker needs to earn $23.58 an hour to afford rent for a modest 2-bedroom apartment in the state, according to a national report issued jointly today by the Connecticut Housing Coalition and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The housing affordability report, "Out of Reach 2012: America's Forgotten Housing Crisis" is disseminated annually with updated calculations for the "housing wage" in every county, metropolitan area and non-metro area in the United States.

Housing wage is a term coined by the creators of this report and means the amount a person must earn to afford a typical 2-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of total household income on housing costs.

Connecticut's housing wage for 2012 is the seventh-highest in the nation and above the national housing wage for this year at $18.25 per hour. The average renter in the U.S. earns $14.15 an hour, compared to the average wage of $15.81 for a renter in Connecticut.

Last year, the statewide wage was slightly lower at $23.37 per hour.

Fair market rents rose as well. In 2011, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,215 per month. This year, Out of Reach reports $1,226 per month.

Use this database to view the housing wage and fair market rent for Connecticut's metro areas, as well as Litchfield and Windham counties:

Online Database by Caspio

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.
The Stamford-Norwalk metro area has the second-highest housing wage among metro areas in the country. See the top five in the database below:

Online Database by Caspio

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.
"The 'Out of Reach' report finds that 66% of all renters in Connecticut, or 276,700 households, cannot reasonably afford a 2-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent," said Betsy Crum, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition. "While average hourly wages increased somewhat last year, it has not been enough to keep pace with increases in rents. More of our families are at risk than ever before."

Crum said Malloy's proposal to add more than $330 million to renovate and create "affordable, supportive and congregate housing" is "precisely the right response at this time."

Megan Bolton, senior research analyst for NLIHC, said in 86% of U.S. cities, the housing wage exceeds the average hourly wage earned by renters. "More and more people are choosing to rent rather than own," she said, adding that as rental housing demand drives down the number of vacant units, rent prices rise.

In response to a Register inquiry, Raphael Bostic, assistant secretary for policy development and research for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the annual 'Out of Reach' report helps to provide a foundation for budget decisions and policy initiatives by HUD, such as then National Housing Trust Fund.

NLIHC is making a policy recommendation related to the tax code. Once the next Congress and president address tax reform, the coalition will advocate for changes to the mortgage interest deduction, according to Sheila Crowley, president and CEO of NLIHC.

Depending on any changes made, adjusting tax policies for the deduction could save the federal government up to approximately $100 billion a year, she said. "It's very expensive and regressive," Crowley said. "That (savings) should remain in housing and not go to deficit reduction...That's not easy to do."

What policy recommendations would you make to state and federal officials for making housing more affordable? Please leave your comments below or email us at or send a tweet to @nhrvoices.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

We're sharing testimony on racial profiling, video recording of police

There has been a lot of anticipation ahead of today's Judiciary Committee public hearing at the Legislative Office Building, Room 2C.

Grassroots groups and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, ACLU, have been organizing around bills related to civil rights. Of particular interest today are Senate Bill 245, "An Act Concerning the Recording of Police Activity by the Public"; and Senate Bill 364, "An Act Concerning Traffic Stop Information."

Senate Bill 245 would codify the right of citizens to videotape police activity without the threat of an interference charge. Click headlines below to read the proposed bill and submitted testimonies from many points of view.

Senate Bill 364 would address data collection during traffic stops and require police departments to adopt a written policy that "prohibits the stopping, detention or search of any person when such action is solely motivated by considerations of race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation." Again, click the headlines to read the bill language and people's testimony.

Ed and I will be sharing updates on the discussion during the Judiciary Committee hearing via our "Your Open Newsroom" page on Facebook and our @nhrvoices Twitter handle. If you follow hashtags, look for: #ctleg, #sunshineweek and #ctfoia.

If you are testifying and we do not yet have a copy of the comments you will share, please email a copy to us at

Our sharing of the testimony submitted to the Judiciary Committee is one way we are celebrating Sunshine Week, a time that journalists and organizations dedicated to transparency annually highlight your rights to access public records and promote dialogue on open government.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

People Empowering People: Sign up to learn how to improve your community

By Angi Carter, Community Engagement Editor, acarter@nhregister.comTwitter: @ReachAngi, @nhrvoicesFacebook: Angi Carter, Community Media Lab

Christian Community Action Inc., Advocacy & Education, based in New Haven, is offering a 10-week training course on ways to make your community better. At the end of the training sessions, participants will present their community projects during an award ceremony.

Training dates are from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on May 2, 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and June 7, 14, 21 and 28. The location will be announced at a later time.

For more information, contact Sylvia Cooper at 203-777-6072 or send an email to People Empowering People Training

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Citizens in Action: Grassroots groups teach advocacy skills

Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are offering a Legislative Advocacy Training Tuesday, March 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the New Haven People's Center, 37 Howe St.
The organizations will give participants background on five bills being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly that affect civil rights, and teach people how to prepare and give testimony before a legislative committee.

Here the bills that will be addressed Tuesday:
¡La legislatura de Connecticut está considerando cambios de ley que afecten nuestros derechos humanos! Aprenda sobre propuestas de ley sobre:

Racial Profiling by The Police - Discriminación racial por la policía
Right to Record The Police - Nuestro derecho de grabar video de la policía
Abolishing the Death Penalty - Aboliendo la pena de muerte
Red Light Cameras & Surveillance - Uso de cámaras de vigilancia por la policía
Medical Use of Marijuana - Uso medicinal de marijuana

Pizza will be served.

For more information, contact (para mas informacion, puedes llamar) Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) at (203) 479-2959.

For those who may be reading this from the Hartford area, the University of Connecticut's Urban Community Studies Program will be sponsoring two events this week.

On Wednesday, March 7 there will be a discussion at 7 p.m. on economic individuality and social activism.

On Thursday, March 8 local community activists and organizers will share experiences and tools that can be used to create change.

Both events will be held at the UConn Greater Hartford campus, Room 104 in the Information Technology Building, 1796 Asylum St., West Hartford.

Special thanks to the the sponsors of the New Haven and West Hartford gatherings.

Feel free to send community news to Angi Carter or Ed Stannard via email at
We're also on Facebook at Open Newsroom
and on Twitter @nhrvoices.

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