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An unsung hero of Journal Register Company’s turnaround

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Emily M. Olson

This morning we welcomed a new editor at The Register Citizen in Torrington. Yesterday, our company announced its first-ever profit sharing program and handed out an extra week’s pay to every employee.

Both made me stop and think about the contribution of Emily M. Olson and hundreds of employees like her across Journal Register Company.

For years, Emily worked hard for “the old JRC” as a reporter and editor at our weeklies in western Connecticut including the Litchfield County Times and New Milford Times.

She was editor of the Litchfield Enquirer, the oldest newspaper in Connecticut, in January 2009 when JRC filed for bankruptcy, closed the paper and laid her off. Three months later, our neighboring JRC division in Torrington had an opening for a copy editor, and we brought her back into the company.

Emily was promoted and became the founding editor of four new weekly papers that we launched in early 2010 as “the new JRC” emerged under the leadership of John Paton. One of the papers we launched was The Litchfield News, filling the void left by the Enquirer’s demise and utilizing Emily’s knowledge and relationships to re-establish our commitment to that community under a new business model.

Fresh off this success, Emily was promoted to managing editor, the #2 position in our newsroom. Then our top editor joined the staff of our sister paper, the New Haven Register, and Emily filled in as we launched a thorough search for his replacement.

By thorough, I mean that this was five and a half months ago, and our new editor started this morning.

In the meantime, we underwent one of the most radical transformations of a physical newsroom in the country.

When the New York Times came to interview staff about the launch of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe and an “open newsroom,” the reporter wanted to speak to the person on our staff with the longest history in print newspapers. Someone who might have the most natural resistance to suddenly conducting story meetings that are open to the public and live-streamed on the web. Someone who might think engaging the audience at every step of the process of local journalism is too much a departure from traditional media.

That would be Emily. Except her message was incredibly positive, despite the huge leap we were making into uncharted waters. And despite the fact that she was holding down two jobs at the time (and three jobs for a while as we unexpectedly had a vacancy in our weekly editor slot as well). And despite the fact that she hadn’t quite signed up for such a position of leadership in our own newsroom, not to mention the newspaper industry itself.

She was designing print edition pages at midnight and appearing on NPR with Jeff Jarvis at 9 a.m. the next morning articulating an incredible message of change for traditional newspapers. And then back at the Newsroom Cafe, talking to members of the public about story ideas and corrections and bringing the community into the planning process for the day’s local news cycle.

Who is behind what has been called a remarkable – and remarkably rapid – turnaround at Journal Register Company? People like Emily Olson and many, many others like her across the 992 communities the company serves with local journalism and advertising. As John Paton asked them to do just over a year ago, they are “changing the tires of a car while it is driving down the highway.”


Written by mattderienzo

March 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm

>City Views to discuss Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe project

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>I will be a guest on Tim Driscoll’s and Sam Slaiby’s “City Views” cable TV call-in program at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 7) on local Cablevision Channel 5 to discuss The Register Citizen’s Newsroom Cafe project.

We’ll see about possibly getting it live-streamed on RegisterCitizen.Com as well, for those of you who do not have cable or live outside Channel 5’s coverage area.

Please call in with your questions.

Written by mattderienzo

December 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm

>Register Citizen’s Newsroom Cafe concept turns heads

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>Our announcement on Thursday about The Register Citizen moving its offices to 59 Field Street, with an “Open Newsroom” concept that welcomes the community to be part of the process of local journalism at any step in the process, got lots of attention within the newspaper industry.

Here’s a roundup of some of the coverage, in case you missed it:
– From our newspaper, “Register Citizen to move office, open Newsroom Cafe”
– My column, “Come by for a cup of coffee, and a lot more”
– From the tech blog, GigaOm, “For newspapers, the future is now: Digital must be first”
– From Bud Wilkinson’s blog, “Two kinds of tips at Newsroom Cafe?”
– From the Republican-American (most of the article is behind a pay wall), “Register Citizen to move headquarters”
– Journal Register Company CEO John Paton’s presentation at the Transformation of News Summit, “Channeling Change”
– Our company’s press release on the announcement, “Journal Register Company unveils open community newsroom concept at Connecticut site; Register Citizen welcomes audience inside”
– From Hartford Business Journal, “Torrington paper to offer newsroom cafe”
– From Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green, “Cup of Joe with that news story?”
Finally, there’s lots more on our Newsroom Cafe and related new office plans at RegisterCitizen.Com/newsroomcafe, and we’ll be updating with more details as the date of our move approaches and in the weeks following our opening.
Any questions or ideas, please feel free to call me at 860-489-1877, email me at or find me on Twitter at Twitter.Com/mattderienzo.

Written by mattderienzo

December 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Newsroom Cafe

>LATEST COLUMN: Come by for coffee, and a lot more

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Come by for coffee, and a lot more

Well, in case you missed our announcement yesterday, The Register Citizen will be moving its offices in a few weeks. We’re not going far, to 59 Field Street, just down the street and around the corner from our longtime headquarters on Water Street. But we’ve come a long way. The Register Citizen has published from its building on Water Street for 110 years. And for 108 years or so, the business model was pretty much the same.

Written by mattderienzo

December 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Newsroom Cafe