Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) Stories Behind the Stories

An all-star panel of Connecticut journalists provided an in-depth look at how they reported on some of the most compelling news stories in the state in 2023 and explained the persistence, creativity and empathy that was required to report those topics.

The five panelists, which included print and broadcast reporters, discussed their work in front of an overflow crowd at the Elmwood Community Center in West Hartford on Feb. 8. as part of the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government’s 8th annual Stories Behind the Stories event.

The event was moderated by veteran Connecticut television journalist Leslie Mayes, who is a CFOG board member.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, an investigative reporter with Hearst Connecticut Media Group, explained how her team uncovered Bridgeport’s failure to properly respond to Freedom of Information Act requests from citizens and journalists, and how her “spidey sense” went off when they realized how long it was taking the city to fulfill requests compared to other municipalities. 

“They were the worst, by far,” Rabe Thomas said. 

Caitlin Burchill, a reporter with NBC Connecticut, described how her team undertook an undercover reporting operation to test the security systems in the parking garage at Bradley International Airport and how the undercover footage allowed her to challenge what the Connecticut Airport Authority previously told her about airport security.

Ginny Monk, a reporter with the Connecticut Mirror, discussed her unique approach to covering Tabitha Frank, a Hartford woman who was criminally charged after her toddler fell from an apartment window and died. Monk said it was important for her to interview Frank about her own childhood to understand the generational problems that affected her life.

Allison Cross, a reporter with the Hartford Courant, told the audience about the pushback she received while covering the resignation of the library director in the small town of Suffield and the subsequent allegations that the library board was pushing anti-LBGTQ policies. 

Cross said the town’s first selectman questioned why she was so focused on what he viewed as a minor dispute in the small town, and she explained how she responded to those questions by emphasizing her role as a journalist, someone who is supposed to disseminate information about government officials to the general public. 

 

Camila Vallejo, a former reporter with Connecticut Public, provided attendees with insight into how she spent months building up trust with a woman who was the victim of a retaliatory eviction in New Haven. Vallejo also explained why it was so important that she was able to communicate with the woman in Spanish for the radio piece she produced.  

“It was important for her to hear herself represented,” Vallejo said.