Chapman, Cobin win statewide journalism honors

Nancy Chapman speaks to more than 150 Connecticut journalists after winning the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists First Amendment Award, as presenters Carmen Chau of FOX 61 and longtime journalist Kenn Venit look on. (Viktoria Sundqvist)

BERLIN, Conn. – Hyperlocal watchdog journalist Nancy Chapman won two awards for excellence in journalism Thursday from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, and videographer Harold Cobin won an award for video storytelling.

A panel of judges awarded Chapman the First Amendment Award for her story “D’Amelio attorney says arrest expunged; threatens lawsuit.”

The First Amendment Award is given to a single story, column or series of stories that increase the understanding among the public of the role the press plays in a free society. It it was the first time a hyperlocal site won the First Amendment award. SPJ calls it one of their “three big awards.”

Chapman’s story reported details of unsuccessful State Senate Candidate Marc D’Amelio’s 2014 DUI, which had been expunged.  The reporter received a copy of the arrest report by mail in an envelope with no return address.  When she contacted D’Amelio for comment, his lawyer threatened a lawsuit if she wrote about the arrest.  She verified that she was on solid legal ground and published a story.  D’Amelio lost the election and sued Chapman for negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress and false light invasion of privacy.

Chapman’s attorneys responded with a special motion to dismiss under Connecticut’s new anti-SLAPP law, designed to provide for the quick dismissal of suits arising from the exercise of rights covered by the First Amendment.  Contesting the motion and losing could have obligated D’Amelio to pay court costs; his attorney withdrew the lawsuit on May 6, before a judge could rule on the motion, claiming that he could not proceed without an expert witness who had developed a conflict.

“Nancy Chapman showed tremendous determination and courage to tell these stories and to continue to tell these stories, based on public record mind you.  She faced direct threats and stood down litigation.  She should be recognized for this dedication,” SPJ judges wrote.

“I’m astounded.  I’m going to put (the award) next to my husband’s urn,” Chapman said to the more than 150 Connecticut journalists in attendance.  Chapman founded NancyOnNorwalk with her husband Mark in 2012.  He died in 2016.

During her remarks Chapman expressed gratitude for pro bono legal representation from attorneys Bill Fish, Jr. of Hinkley Allen, David Shulz of Ballard Spahr, and the Yale Law School Media Freedom Information Access Clinic.

Chapman also won a first place award for hyperlocal government coverage for her story “Norwalk wired $900K to scammers; may settle reimbursement lawsuit,” which revealed payment of a fraudulent invoice by City Hall finance personnel.

NancyOnNorwalk videographer Harold Cobin won a first place award for hyperlocal video storytelling for his video “Norwalk plants trees at Roodner Court.”

Connecticut’s SPJ President Bruno Matarazzo, Jr. said the contest received 843 entries.

NancyOnNorwalk is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.


16 responses to “Chapman, Cobin win statewide journalism honors”

  1. Sue Haynie

    @Nancy, congratulations.

  2. jo bennett

    Nice work, you both!

  3. Pamela Parkington

    Congratulations Nancy!

  4. Steve Mann

    Congratulations to Nancy and Harold for their achievements. Being first to win speaks volumes. It’s always hard work, and dedication that shines a light and raises awareness, and Nancy (and Mark!) has shined a light on hyperlocal journalism for all!

  5. 1stAmdtFighter

    Congrats to both Nancy and Harold for their tremendous achievements. After helping you win a prestigious 1st Amendment award, Damelio may finally be ready “to fade into the sunset”. I hope this story gets NATIONWIDE PRESS!!! Enemies of the 1st Amendment should be known far and wide.

  6. Barbara Meyer-Mitchell

    Congratulations, Nancy and Harold! And a bug thanks to the board for the thankless job of supporting Nancy on Norwalk. Norwalk is better off when we are better informed.

  7. EnoPride

    Congratulations, Nancy and Harold!

  8. Elsa Peterson Obuchowski

    Winning out of a field of 843 entries — wow! How many of us even stopped to think that there might be 843 journalists working throughout Connecticut to keep communities informed?

  9. Amanda

    Congratulations! Well deserved!

  10. Kathleen

    Awesome! Thanks Nancy and Harold for always doing the right thing!

  11. Diane Lauricella

    Great work recognized! Congratulations Nancy and Harold for your tenacity and patience!

  12. Myla

    Ed says Cool! Way to go! Nice job!

  13. Jeff&Maryteresa (Missy) Conrad

    Well deserved, Nancy & Harold!! Thank you for keeping us all well informed with warmth & not any nastiness. Please do persevere. Lots of love, Missy & Jeff Conrad

  14. Peter Franz

    Congratulations to Nancy and the whole NoN support team for making this invaluable news source such a wonderful resource. Sorry, instead of “wonderful” I should have said “AWARD WINNING”!!!

  15. Howard

    Congratulations to both Nancy and Harold! Well done!

  16. Mary Ann Austin

    Nancy holy mackerel!!!!!!!
    What an honor
    When where who did this come into your home
    Did it have anything to do with your Last Stand?
    I’m so happy for you and you certainly deserve this glory as you have endured the sweat and tears to gain it
    I’ve always admired you but this shows your profession does too
    Bask in your light and have a great weekend
    Mary ann

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