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    Local Columns
    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Welcome aboard, John Penney

    John Penney has joined The Day as the reporter for New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    We are delighted to introduce John Penney as the new reporter covering The Day’s home city of New London.

    Penney, 52, of Norwich, joined us as a staff writer on June 19 following a 17-year stint at the Norwich Bulletin during which many of us ran into him on assignments, laughed at his jokes and went head-to-head on news stories.

    Penney impressed us during his interview when he told us he had been watching New London City Council meetings virtually to prepare for the job. He went on to list several city issues we've been covering.

    (Note to applicants for our vacant town reporter position for the Waterford/Montville beat: Be like John and study up before your interview.)

    On his first day of work, Penney attended a City Council meeting and collaborated with Norwich reporter Claire Bessette for a front-page story about people upset that officials in both cities had scheduled meetings on Juneteenth, a state and federal holiday.

    In the past two weeks, he’s produced excellent stories about the closing of Harbor School, a New London beautification project, and an upgrade to the police record system. He covered swab summer at the Coast Guard Academy, churned out a number of police briefs and wrote a feature on the Mystic wooden boat show. He’s been introducing himself to key players and driving around town to get to know the community better. This weekend, we’ll publish an update he wrote on New London’s community center project.

    Penney replaces reporter Johana Vazquez, who covered New London and in 2022 was assigned for several months to our Housing Solutions Lab investigation. We were sad when Vazquez told us she was returning to her home state of Arkansas, in part because housing had become unaffordable in New London on her reporter's salary. Vazquez is bilingual, and we were thrilled with her coverage of the city's growing Latino community. We promised during her goodbye celebration in the newsroom that we would continue our efforts to reach the Latino community. In turn, Vazquez, a young, smart and compassionate journalist with great potential, promised us she would stay in the field.

    Penney, who is settling in nicely, confessed that he, like us, had studied French, not Spanish, in high school, then held up a “Spanish for Dummies” handbook he had acquired. He cares about the community, has a great sense of humor and a nose for news.

    Penney is not only a veteran reporter, but he's a veteran, having served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army's 3/505 Parachute Infantry from 1989 to 1994 with deployments to Honduras and Operation Desert Storm.

    After he accepted the job with us, Penney wrote on his Facebook page, in part, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to start work at what I consider to be the best newspaper in Connecticut.

    “It’s a paper I delivered as a kid while living in Navy housing and continued to read for decades.”

    If you see him around town, say hello.

    This is the opinion of Karen Florin, managing editor. Reach her at k.florin@theday.com or (860) 701-4217.

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