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    Local Columns
    Sunday, September 24, 2023

    Celebrating The Day's latest awards

    The Day has won a Publick Occurrences award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association for our reporting on those we lost to COVID-19.

    We've upped our multimedia game at The Day over the past decade, adding podcasts and video content to the printed news stories and photos we've produced for 140 years.

    Though we don't do any of it to win awards, it's gratifying when our peers recognize the quality of our work.

    During this week's annual New England Newspaper & Press Association conference, we received two prestigious Publick Occurrences awards. Presented annually to up to eight daily newspapers like us, and up to eight community weekly and specialty newspapers, the Publick Occurrences recognize the best work that New England newspapers produce each year. We also received Distinguished Newspaper awards for our weekday and Sunday editions.

    One of the Publick Occurrences is for the true crime podcast, Looking for the Todt Family, which explores the case of physical therapist Anthony Todt, formerly of Colchester, who is accused of murdering his wife Megan, and their children Alek, Tyler and Zoe in Celebration, Fla., in December 2019.

    "The Day's newsroom should be extremely proud of winning two Publick Occurrences awards, which is rare," said Executive Editor Timothy J. Cotter. "For the first, Taylor Hartz and Sten Spinella went way beyond the call to report on the tragic death of a local family, and Peter Huoppi and Carlos Virgen's production is first rate. If you haven't listened to this podcast please do. As the judges said "Looking for the Todts" is "captivating."

    The podcast has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, and the judges said they could tell a lot of work went into it to make it incredibly powerful, detailed and compelling. The 10 episodes we produced included interviews in Florida, interviews of family and friends, and a dramatic call from prison. Hartz and Spinella are following Todt's case as it heads for trial, and we expect to produce more episodes.

    The second Publick Occurrence is for a poignant story we produced for the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "The Day has produced dozens and dozens of articles, photos and videos related to the pandemic," Cotter said. "But on the one-year anniversary of COVID arriving in the state, we wanted to concentrate solely on the victims. After receiving the names from the state, we memorialized the victims with what we called a 'mini-obituary,' one sentence that we hoped captured the essence of the person. The list took up the entire front page, and more, and was designed by (Production Manager) Scott Ritter."

    Cotter only has a couple of front page printouts on his office wall, and the one titled, "A year later, pandemic deaths leave an unfillable void" is among them, with its stark, bold headline and almost dizzying list of the dead.

    We also memorialized the anniversary with an episode of The Storyline podcast, which the judges noted in their remarks:

    "An all-out effort to record how COVID affected the residents in New London County. The paper should be credited with tracking down the list from the state through a FOIA request. Brave display of names on the front page, involvement by all news depts. — sports, business, editorial — and a podcast as well."

    Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to boast a little, and if you see any of our staff around town, congratulate them on a job well done.

    Karen Florin is The Day's engagement editor. She can be reached at (860) 701-4217.

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