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Opinion: Standing with Hearst in a ‘united defense of the First Amendment’

Republican State Representative candidate Frank Page, left, and other Republicans greet voters Tuesday at Marvin Elementary School. Some Norwalk Republicans urged NancyOnNorwalk to attend the Election Night “victory party” at The SoNo Ice House. Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda sent NoN away.

Nancy Chapman.

Updated, 7:19 a.m.: Copy edits

In the days before Nov. 6, the Republican Town Committee promoted an election night “victory party”.  “All are welcome,” the announcement said.

Every election night for the past eight years, I’ve visited Norwalk Democratic and Republican events to obtain news and reactions.  This year, while I was visiting the polls, some Norwalk Republicans encouraged me to attend the Election Night party. I had already planned to; Harold Cobin was shooting video of the Democrats and I thought I’d get good photos and comments from Republicans to round out the coverage.

But within two minutes of my arrival, just 10 minutes into the party, RTC Chairman Mark Suda said something I’ve never heard before.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re not welcome here,” he said.  “Really?” I asked.  “Yes,” he said.  No explanation was provided.  I left.

Within an hour, Norwalk Hour editor Thane Grauel called.  He had heard what happened.  Whatever the Hour’s reporter obtained at the RTC event, he would share with me, he said.

“A free press is a cornerstone of our democratic system,” Grauel wrote Monday in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “Political figures don’t get to pick and choose who covers them, whether it’s in Norwalk or Washington, D.C.  Media outlets must be allowed to do their job.”

Fortunately professional journalists like Thane Grauel are more driven by altruistic pursuit of the truth than by competitive self-interest.  Thank you, Thane.

Since Election Night, I’ve had two Republicans reach out and tell me that they thoroughly disagree with Mr. Suda’s action. One said this had not been discussed by the Party, that my journalism is needed and respected; another said the action was “embarrassing.”

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only reporter in Connecticut turned away from an election night event.  Hearst reporter Kaitlyn Krasselt was turned away from a Bob Stefanowski event, with prior coverage cited as the reason.  The campaign relented after objections from all other media attending the event.

People have been asking me why I was turned away from the RTC’s Election Night party, so I emailed Suda the other day and asked.  He did not reply.

The RTC was, of course, totally within its rights to admit or deny whoever they chose to what was still a private event. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

In the run-up to this election, NancyOnNorwalk wrote factual stories that upset Republicans, and others that upset Democrats.  We heard complaints from partisans on both sides that some facts we reported – which, in their opinion, didn’t reflect well on their guy – should never have been reported.

With all due respect to those who were upset, we don’t make the facts, we just report them.  Readers decide for themselves how the facts influence their votes.  If you only want news that confirms your political beliefs, NoN is not the place for you ­– try MSNBC or Fox.  Here in Norwalk we’ll continue our watchdog journalism, shining our light and bringing you accurate reports about your community, your government, and matters affecting your wallet.

Democracy — which depends for its survival on an informed electorate — needs a free press.

41 comments

Wendy Williams November 14, 2018 at 6:17 am

No doubt at all about where this behavior comes from, is there? There is a strong belief in a certain wing in the Republican Party that if you don’t like a reporter, you can punish that reporter by not allowing them access. It will be interesting to see how the CNN suit against Trump and the Trumpists plays out.

Elisabeth November 14, 2018 at 7:32 am

I think it is shameful the way the RTC treated you, however it’s not unexpected given the current climate and how our President is treating the free press.

The RTC needs a wake up call, you lost for a reason, perhaps you should treat your constituents better and you might have a better chance next time. Negativity and bullying doesn’t win elections, a clear platform with a plan of action does.

For the first time in months the usual posters that would be ranting and on the attack are suspiciously silent both on this site and others. I have to say, it’s quite nice. Hopefully it’s a sign that Norwalk can begin to move on.

Bruce Kimmel November 14, 2018 at 8:50 am

Nancy, thank you. You’ve made me mad on a few occasions — BUT THAT’S PART OF OUR JOB. Good work.

Bryan Meek November 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

Access to the press has been denied historically on a multitude of occasions by leaders in both parties. The only difference is today it is deemed newsworthy. The Hour flat out refused to run viewpoints counter to their endorsed candidates by ignoring multiple submissions {…}. That isn’t news coverage. That’s politicking. The Clintons were famous for weeding out their press pools and it amounted to a weak story here or there. The press needs to take account for it’s selective and biased coverage of current events. The fourth estate is supposed to keep the politicians honest, not take sides.

Edited to remove ascribing of motives without proof. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Ian L November 14, 2018 at 9:48 am

I think it’s very interesting to hear that you are a strongly in favor of providing first amendment protections to “members of the press”, meanwhile you regularly censor and/or ban people from commenting on these articles. Hypocrisy in action?

Lisa Brinton Thomson November 14, 2018 at 9:55 am

What is shameful is the underperformance of the city over the past five years and the mindless, almost tribalistic support for local corruption and cronyism. One need look no further than POKO, the Innovation District, the Walk Bridge, the mayoral office promotions, reorg and bonuses. All ‘actions’ supported by sugar coated press releases.

The city struggles to fund it school system because of failed management, but this administration’s solution is to add another executive layer to the tune of a million dollars without performance objectives. I can’t believe residents are being duped into having their local pockets picked just because you hate the guy in the Oval Office. You certainly wouldn’t run your household budget the way the city is being run.

If you think there is any difference between this administration and Trump’s – you are sadly mistaken. Please explain the difference between our common council, that rubber stamps and allows this mayor to do as he pleases and the Republican Congress that did the same for Trump? There are no checks and balances in Norwalk and there haven’t been for some time.

This mayor and The Donald have far more in common than you think. His latest vindictive target is Milligan, to distract from the huge financial screw up, known as POKO. Why? So the project can be handed over to a preferred party donor, who wants $2 million more of your tax dollars. The P&Z mural sideshow is wiping out art and free speech – while the hundreds of illegal, blighted and unsafe apartments go unchecked. I didn’t vote for Trump – but can’t believe residents want to see our city go down the drain (literally) because folks want to demonize every individual with an R after their name. Crazy.

Patrick Cooper November 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

I attended the event at the SoNo Ice House, and it was interesting and enlightening to visit with some of Norwalk’s valuable civic leaders, contributors to so many positive outcomes. Sure, the results were disappointing – but that did not dampen the spirits nor the commitment that many of these active, tax paying residents of our city have demonstrated this year, and in some cases – for many years. Doug Hempstead comes to mind. And certainly, the highlight of the evening for me was spending a few minutes with Tony DePanfilis – a true gentleman and a public servant that every candidate – regardless of party – should emulate.

I can’t speak for what prompted this decision – I am not privy, and any attempt to guess would likely flag the comment policy of “ascribing motives”.

I have enjoyed NoN for years, as Norwalk’s “other” media coverage. Like an effective 2nd political party – it keeps the “other side” (The Hour) in check. They – The Hour – can no longer just ignore issues. This pressure to compete for eye’s and clicks is ever more important as local media consolidates into a handful of powerful corporate interests – with agenda’s.

NoN tells their stories using words, sometimes with pictures, and on occasion video’s. Case in point this election. The story teller is in command of the words, and pictures they select. Skilled writers can be very clever here, to develop a narrative. How they want the story to go.

NoN ran a story 11/8 “Photos from Election 2018”. There were 22 photo’s. 20 featured Democratic candidates & victors. 7 were of or included Harry Rilling – who wasn’t on the ballot – but seemingly was the winner. Just 2 featured “Republican’s” – one of John Flynn, and one of a broken 10×10. Nancy says she was “visiting the polls” – and she spoke to Republican’s. Is it just coincidence that there were no photos of Fred, Larry, Marc, etc. poll standing that might have made the edit? They stood with me at West Rocks – we saw Marc’s video’s – they were out there – fighting for a better Norwalk.

Much is allowed on this site – valid, fact and often opinion related criticisms of city officials, decisions, results (!), and curious planning. Both sides. Moderated by a policy. But what has become apparent is – there is only one cardinal sin – you can’t criticize the site. It’s an attack on the writer.

I for one am relieved that you stand in a united defense for the 1st amendment.

Bob Welsh replies: Patrick, Nancy got photos of Republicans John Flynn and Karen Lyons at Columbus, which are included in the story you mention. At Roton she did not see any Republicans. At Marvin she got one poor photo of Frank Page in a driving rain, which is at the top of this story. At that point it was dark and raining, and Nancy assumed there would be better opportunities to photograph Republicans at the RTC event, which was advertised as open to all. She was at SoNo Ice House for two minutes before being told to leave, which is why there aren’t more photos of Republicans in the story you mentioned.

john J. flynn November 14, 2018 at 10:06 am

I personally invited Robert Koch from the Hour to the Rink to the RTC party and he said he would be there for 15 minutes from 7:30 to 745. That is what he said. He had another assignment. I personally invited news channel 12 and they assigned someone to come to the RTC party. If Nancy called me, I could have gotten her in there if she asked. She knows I would. So it is all who you know. It has nothing to do with how qualified you are. Go figure. Knock, and the door is open to you. Seek and you shall find. Lie behind my back, please don’t lie to my face.

Niz November 14, 2018 at 11:52 am

Excuse misspells please?

“…. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should…”

that goes both ways
Reporting on canidates during an election cycle is customary, yet reporting on a police report received by usps mail anonymously’ is TRASHY to put it nicely.

NoN played right into the hurtful & dangerous retaliation tactics of this city. .
I will continue to support & appreciate NoN as I recognize journalism is a tough balance, yet I expect my commentary to be a learning moment for us all!!!

Marie November 14, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Well, the complainers made their own FB bubble, I mean page, ironically called “Norwalk Connecticut Politics”. In there they claim Nancy isn’t a “real” journalist. Oh, and they banned Nancy there too.

When will Republicans realize fighting the media is a losing battle? The media is there to keep politicians honest, that’s why it’s in the FIRST Amendment. You can just look at history to understand that. Hating on people who speak the truth says more about the hater than the person telling the truth.

Teacher November 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm

The republicans in this town do not reflect ALL republicans in this town. The actions of many of them impede the party and the city. Its a shame you were treated like this Nancy. As a younger republican I appreciate your work and would glad have advocated for you had I known that some members of my party behaved like this. Its clear based on their comments here and there they prefer to act foolishly and allow ego to get in their way.

Rick November 14, 2018 at 3:06 pm

whats wrong with everyone? Whats wrong with Norwalk?

Hearst backed Duff and the whole party, Thane just helped Hearst buy out and let most of the old timers go from The Hour. But it was nice to reach out just the same.

Norwalk is no longer the city we moved into , Ct is no longer the State we moved into not even the politics are the same.

Its comical to see the changes, pile driving started on water st whats the new residents going to think when a few years of pile driving is going to start soon ? For sale condos on water showing after the pile driving stops for the day.

This thing on wall st has given the city an image of chaos, now its all the murals.

This isn’t about Nancy its about the city, and it shows how a city has grown but never grew up.

Where both the Republican and Democratic parties are not our parents parties they have taken on a new face littered with incompetence and reporting it has become a sport. Hearts and Channel 12 realize its all changing they no longer can protect the people in charge, its time to report the news crime has now become a staple for hearst and 12. Nancy paid her dues standing in rain sleet and snow for a good shot or a story on a fire or a shooting.

Our fire dept showed up to working fire with one truck and no knowledge why they were called, yet the police dept was there for almost an hour . Rilling made e sure the fire dept doesn’t even answer the phone. Our professional firefighters are run by rookie chief that just got a raise. Seniority doesn’t make a great chief nor does it make a great Mayor.

Our news coverage here has been the best showing legal cost money is tax money , shows how the city ignores boards like Harbor Shellfish and Water quality boards in a city where fishing is still a money maker.

Developers make money for our public servants and most of them are from out of town those who still live here wont speak up pension is near.

Poko the mall Manressa Norwalk hospital Wall st Firetree flooding Ryan park Washinton Village East Ave expansion Bridge no hockey rink loss of August klaffs Tyvek Temple and much more are all open wounds what was anyone thinking when they voted ?

Not much left but the articles written by Nancy with facts no one seem to think about this last election it was about change , enough to go back and fix or protect those hurt by the city .

Nancy did her job it was clearly the voters who screwed up we lost Wilms and Cafero and got Duff Perone and Simms. Himes and Murphy its not the political parties who did anything wrong it was the voters who decided what new problems the city needed by maintaining the level of incompetence based on what? past mistakes?

Its time to reflect and not point fingers losers won winners lost. Its how some won an how some lost. How much more damage can city hall do before they are done?

Another study and more news from Nancy will answer that. There is also some who will never get it and vote the same way next time even by mail from Florida.

steve November 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Nancy, there seems to be a host of people who’ve commented who don’t address the issue in your article . One, discusses op-ed pieces–sorry that’s not news but opinion, another goes on a tirade about the Norwalk govt but nothing about the situation you raise. Probably the most tiresome comments are those that continue to advance rumor as fact. Who was weeded out of the Clinton press pool leading to weak stories? Was it the NY Times after they published the first accounts of Whitewater in the early 1990s or the NYTimes again which was the first to publish stories about Hillary’s private servers during her Presidential run? I commend Thane Gruel, a competitor for serving the public interest and John Flynn for being one of the few Republicans at the event that does admire and respect an open press. Sad that the extremists who dominate the Trump party seem to have lost their moral compass.

DrewT November 14, 2018 at 5:16 pm

@marie Nancy was not banned from Norwalk CT Politics until today. She violated the rules of the group and until she abides by them they won’t approved her as a member.

Victor Cavallo November 14, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Nancy, please forgive. Giving you the bum’s rush was inappropriate and, indeed, an indefensible suppression of your first amendment privileges and an affront to your integrity as a journalist. The entire Republican Town Committee shouldn’t be judged by these sorts of freshman miscues.

DrewT November 15, 2018 at 12:08 am

@nancy. Get your facts straight. If I wasn’t in constant moderation you would see that you were only banned today when it was discover you violated the rules of the page. But I find it extremely hard to believe you haven’t looked at the page in weeks.

Nancy Chapman November 15, 2018 at 3:32 am

Upon further review, I see through my browsing history that I have been on that page more recently than I thought. Interesting to hear I’ve been banned from a page I hardly visit.

Teacher November 15, 2018 at 8:40 am

Again angry republicans in this town do not represent all of us. I am ashamed at their actions toward the press. Their anger cost good hard working people their seats in the CT House (Fred for one, Larry as Judge of Probate).
My fellow republicans should wake up and find true leadership and ignore the dog whistle calls of many in our local party.
Simply put some republican supporters need to learn how to communicate, listen and discuss topics rather than shout down their opponents.

Mitch Adis November 15, 2018 at 1:23 pm

@DrewT. Can you share what rules Nancy violated? I think it would be good to know if she has violated rules she has for her own site.

Another Opinion November 15, 2018 at 2:16 pm

It is somewhat mysterious how Hearst now has a monopoly on all local and state news yet the single party rule in the state is perfectly ok with this because of their political bias. I hope this receives as much attention as this story. (For the record, there is no excuse for Nancy not being invited and media outlets can learn a lot from her brand of reporting).

Peter Franz November 15, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Some very unfortunate responses to a reprehensible decision to ban Nancy from an election night event. As Steve already pointed out, those excuse makers seem to think vague (unspecific) comparisons or ridiculous “resemblances” to the White House debacle are credible “and so do you” equivalencies.

It increasingly seems that those who don’t defend a free press, are not particular fans of a free democracy.

Kudos to Victor Cavallo for being a mature voice in all of this.

Marie November 15, 2018 at 9:26 pm

@DrewT. I TOTALLY get that you get banned if you don’t follow the rules. I just find it hypocritical that y’all back Donna S up after Nancy banned her for….wait for it…not following the rules (repeatedly).

Claire Schoen November 16, 2018 at 3:17 pm

For all of you who value Nancy’s contribution to our community — and our right to a free and independent press — please consider supporting our current campaign with NewsMatch. Every donation will be matched, thanks to a number of national foundations supporting this effort.

You can donate here: https://www.newsmatch.org/organizations/nancy-on-norwalk

Not to sound like a broken record, but every dollar counts — and we really need your support to keep NoN running…

Thank you to all who support NoN!!!

Pamela Parkington November 17, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Deb, Nancy blocked one the Admins of the Norwalk CT Politics page, per their rules of engagement that’s a no, no. So, she was banned from the page. When you block someone they can’t see your posts and you can’t see theirs

I don’t blame Nancy, half of Norwalk has blocked this person for harrassment.

Nancy Chapman November 18, 2018 at 2:04 am

I blocked that person on Jan. 1. Not sure when she became an admin for that page but I was unaware as I am not visiting it very often; it’s not like I blocked her after she became administrator.

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