Jessica Glenza won the DFMie as Journalist of the Year in small-daily newsrooms for her work as a reporter for the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn.
As one of four Journalist of the Year winners, Glenza went into a second round of judging with new judges to select the Digital First Media Journalist of the Year. The winner of that award will be announced April 23 at the DFMies program in St. Paul, Minn.
Glenza is now a web producer at Thunderdome. Her Connecticut editors’ nomination detailed her work:
Jessica Glenza’s tenure in Torrington was brief, but her impact was immense. Joining the staff near the beginning of 2013, her intensity was immediately felt as the quality of reporting rose in a beat that had been crucial to Torrington coverage for years. She covered a hybrid beat of crime and education because our staff is too small to have a separate reporter for each of those difficult beats.
Jessica immediately jumped in and broke stories that challenged officials and caused school board members to squirm under the scrutiny of true watchdog coverage.
The Torrington school district is more dysfunctional than most and was used to coverage from our competition, a daily paper from a nearby town with 10 times the circulation and a much larger staff, that rarely challenged what they said never asked probing questions.
Jessica is a natural reporter, always inquisitive, always pushing for more answers, always striving to tell the more complete story.
This was her first job working for a daily newspaper and she took to the constant deadlines like a seasoned veteran, producing breaking news for online, tweeting, doing write-thru versions, shooting photos, balancing multiple stories each day, all with an intense enjoyment of the job that came from her innate need to tell the stories that were not being told.
Soon after starting in Torrington, Jessica, with the help of co-managing editor Tom Cleary, uncovered the scandal surrounding the bullying of rape victims at Torrington High School. Her intrepid reporting broke a story that made national headlines and kept her a step or two ahead of coverage from CNN to the New York Times to the UK Daily Mail and countless other outlets that overran Torrington in the wake of that scandal.
That was the most high-profile example, but her reporting was just as solid on every story she produced in 2013. She broke stories about homeless youth, problems with bullying reporting in area schools, excessive amounts of money spent by the Board of Education on legal fees, an extensive profile of a state employee collecting a 6-figure salary for more than 13 years while awaiting trial for killing his girlfriend, and many more.
All of this in a city that is notoriously tight-lipped about everything and mostly refuses to talk to media about any topic. Her persistence and investigative skills got around obstacles to produce stories that were compelling, informative, and great examples of both investigative and watchdog journalism.
Her intelligence, talent and intense work ethic earned her a position with DFM’s Thunderdome less than a year after starting at one of the company’s smaller daily papers.
Her coverage of the bullying and rape in Torrington has now been nominated for many national awards, including being submitted for consideration for a Pulitzer.
Remarkable sourcing and persistence in gathering evidence in reporting some very sensitive stories. Incredible combination of methods using old and new media. Very nuanced portrayal of some potentially thorny topics. Dogged reporting to overcome administrative roadblocks in the school districts on the school districts she covered.
The Register Citizen’s coverage of the rape/bullying story and related commentary also won the DFMie for public service. Those were two of four DFMies for the Connecticut newsrooms.
About Jessica Glenza
Glenza graduated summa cum laude from Purchase College in New York, in 2011. She has a passion for community news, and believes that local news organizations guard and improve our democracy. One day, she hopes to pay off her library fines.
Other finalists for Journalist of the Year in small-daily newsrooms were:
- Noel Lyn Smith of the Farmington Daily Times for reporting on bribery and conspiracy charges against members of the Navajo Nation Council.
- Keith Whitcomb Jr. of the Bennington Banner, who covers court and town news, but also features, such as the return of a cat that had been lost for three years.
Last year’s Journalist of the Year for small newsrooms, Toni Momberger of the Redlands Daily Facts, also was named DFM Journalist of the Year.