Engaging in story comments lands interview with eyewitness to fatal crash

The chore of moderating story comments at The Register Citizenturned into an opportunity to greatly improve the newspaper’s reporting on a breaking news story on Valentine’s Day.

The Register Citizen in Torrington found eyewitness sources in the story comments of an article about a fatal crash on Valentine's Day.

Editor Rick Thomason saw a comment from someone who claimed to have been on the scene shortly after a fatal accident the paper was reporting on. He emailed the man, a phone interview followed, and it led to this eyewitness account.

Thomason also saw story comments from family members of the victims, and was able to get in touch with them, too, through the email address they’d used.

“I wasn’t sure his email was legit, but gave it a shot. Fifteen minutes later he called and, needless to say, his comments added so much more – and a heavy dose of humanity – to our follow-up story where the names of the victims are listed,” Thomason said. “Using the same tactics, I was able to contact a family member of the injured man. Couldn’t get a status update from the hospital, so tried one of the family members who left a comment on the story. Had a response in 5 minutes and  corresponded with her all night. Once I posted the story with the comments from the first guy on the scene, she wrote back again, thanking me for telling his story.”


About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
This entry was posted in Rick Thomason and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s