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Sweet 16: More SPJ awards for Today Magazine

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

• 40 Awards in 5 Years for Today Publishing


Special to Today Magazine

See below for a full list of Today award-winners and awards by category


Today Magazine has received 16 more awards this year from the Society of Professional Journalists — bringing the total number of Today Publishing awards to 40 overall in five years.


The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is widely considered the nation's preeminent journalism organization. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter presents awards annually via its Excellence in Journalism contest and announced its newest award-winners in early June. The 2023 contest honors journalism excellence during the 2022 calendar year.


Among its 16 awards, Today Magazine won seven first-place, five second-place and four third-place prizes — equaling its first-place output in last year's contest.


Connecticut Magazine, with 23 awards, is the only state publication in the SPJ's Magazine Division to take home more awards than Today Magazine in 2023. Founded in 1971, Connecticut Magazine received one third-place, nine second-place and 13 first-place awards this year. Last year, Today Magazine and Connecticut Magazine tied for the most first-place awards with seven apiece.


Compared with 50-something-year-old Connecticut Magazine, the Today Publishing media outlet is a mere preschooler, far apart in chronological age — yet a close cousin in terms of contemporary journalism recognition.


Today Publishing debuted in October 2018, launching Canton Today Magazine as a print-and-digital monthly that covered Canton exclusively. Currently, this young media outlet covers and features the entire Farmington Valley via Today Magazine (our monthly publication) and Today Online (our digital news site).


In July 2019, Today Publishing introduced the tri-town Today Magazine after expanding to cover Avon and Simsbury as well as Canton via three town magazines in April 2019.


Also in July 2019 — Today Publishing launched Today Magazine Online, our dedicated digital news site that reaches the global Internet realm across the Farmington Valley, throughout Connecticut and around the world. In 2021, Today Magazine Online rebranded and streamlined as Today Online, continuing our reach across the far-flung Internet worldwide.


In July 2020, Today Publishing extended its coverage area to include Farmington and Granby. Since then, we have covered the heart of the Farmington Valley — the five core Valley towns of Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury — via community news that matters nationwide.


As one of the youngest publications in Connecticut, Today Magazine aims to report the region's underreported upside.


FIRST-PLACE AWARDS GALORE

In this year's Connecticut SPJ contest, Today Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert won seven awards overall: two first-place, two second-place and three third-place awards. All told, he has won 25 SPJ prizes, including eight first-place honors.


In addition to Deckert, 11 Today Magazine contributors won first-place awards this year — and if you're questioning the math, that's absolutely understandable. Indeed, Today’s award haul encompasses a riddle: Today Magazine has received seven first-place awards in 2023, but Today writers have collected 12 first-place awards overall.


How can this be true?


The answer is that one of Today's first-place awards is in the Reporting Series category. Today Magazine's award-winning series — highlighting the 90th anniversary of the McLean Game Refuge — is counted as a single SPJ award, yet it is a compilation of stories by eight different writers, and each writer is considered a first-place award-winner.


Contributing writer James Q. Rice​ has won two first-place prizes, including one as the lead writer for the McLean cover-story series. More on that team honor momentarily, but first let's contemplate the other individual first-place award-winners — contributing writers Chloe Kieper and Christopher DeFrancesco and contributing photographer Tom Cameron.


Kieper is a 2023 graduate of Avon High School and a former Today Magazine intern. DeFrancesco is a communications professional at Farmington-based UConn Health who served previously as an award-winning reporter and anchor with WTIC Radio NewsTalk 1080. Cameron's photography has been showcased at Valley-based galleries and shows in Avon, Canton, Collinsville, Farmington, Granby and Unionville. By the way, DeFrancesco and Deckert were colleagues in 1996 with Imprint Newspapers.


Tom Cameron, a Today Magazine contributing photographer, won a first-place SPJ award for this photo of a sunrise over the Farmington River near the Tunxis Mead Athletic Fields in Farmington

Meanwhile, Kieper is the third Avon High student in as many years to win a first-place award as a Today contributing writer in the professional SPJ contest.


In 2022, Nishant Gopalachar was so honored. In 2021, Noelle Blake claimed two prizes, a second-place and Today's sole first-place that year. They are both 2022 Avon High graduates and former Today interns.


"I’m thrilled that our student contributors continue to collect first-place awards,” says Deckert, who also serves as Today’s publisher. “This is a high honor for a professional journalist, and even more for a young writer — and I'm glad these students will be able to list their first-place SPJ honors on their resumés for the rest of their careers."


So Avon High School students have won first-place awards with Today Magazine for three straight years.


Are these three Today writers the youngest award-winners ever in the SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism contest? The answer is unknown because the Connecticut SPJ doesn’t track the ages of contestants or award recipients, according to an SPJ representative.


Besides Rice, the seven other first-place winners for Today's Reporting Series award are: Put Brown, Christine Graesser, Laura Hart, Francie Brown Holmes, Rick Orluk, Stephen “Phil” Philbrick and Margery Winters.


An avid hiker, Rice is the founder and owner of registered investment advisory firm JQR Capital — and he serves on the board of directors of the Granby-Simsbury Chamber of Commerce. He was a longtime Granby resident until 2022.


When the team-effort McLean series was published in November 2022, this esteemed group of award-garnering writers held the following roles:


• Brown — Granby Land Trust board member and

former chairman of McLean Fund

• Graesser — Avon Land Trust president

• Hart — conservation director of Simsbury-based Farmington River

Watershed Association aka FRWA

• Brown Holmes — Farmington Land Trust president

• Orluk — Granby Land Trust president

• Philbrick — Canton Land Conservation Trust president

• Winters — Simsbury Land Trust president and assistant director

at Canton-based Roaring Brook Nature Center •


“It's satisfying to offer a media platform where young writers can grow and succeed — and I definitely appreciate the ongoing cogent contributions from a variety of talented adult writers and photographers,” says Deckert.


FURTHER AWARDS

Among Today Magazine's five second-place honors in 2023, Deckert received two. Wendy Rosenberg also won two second-place awards, while Elijah Livingston earned one.


A Canton resident, Rosenberg is a multiple-award-winning photographer who has displayed her work at numerous exhibits across the Farmington Valley, from local libraries to various businesses — and she has been Today's featured wildlife photographer, as a regular contributor in every edition, since January 2019. Livingston is a 2021 graduate of Simsbury High School and the owner of Simsbury-based Pet Stop of Connecticut aka CT Pet Fence.


Among Today Magazine's four third-place awards this year, Deckert won three. So the math is simple: Today Magazine received only one other third-place.


However, three more Today contributing writers received third-place honors — yes, another riddle, and the answer is found in the journalism phenomenon known as a double byline. When two people work together and contribute substantially to the reporting and/or writing of a single story, they are both credited with a byline as the story's dual authors.


Wendy Rosenberg, Today Magazine's featured contributing photographer, won an SPJ award for this photo of a male ruby-throated hummingbird at a feeder in her Canton backyard

While Deckert garnered two third-place awards for stories he wrote solo, he and Vincenzo Frosolone, a 2017 graduate of Fairfield University, won a third-place prize together. Terri Wilson and Nora Howard shared the other third-place honor. Howard has been Avon’s town historian since 2005, and Wilson is a Simsbury High graduate and the president of the Avon Historical Society (since 2008).


Wilson won a first-place SPJ award last year with Today Magazine for a powerful and timely story about Leverett Holden, an Avon resident who sacrificed and fought for the United States during the Civil War.


Her careful historical research revealed that Holden was one of over 900 African-American men in Connecticut who answered the call of President Abraham Lincoln and joined the Connecticut 29th Regiment Volunteer Infantry: Colored.



"Awards can cut both ways," Deckert observes. "They can be a tremendous encouragement, like getting an A-plus on a school paper — but they can also potentially result in hubris and complacency. I hope all of Today Magazine's award-winners can appreciate and build on the upside, and avoid the downside like the plague."


Founded in 1909, the Society of Professional Journalists "is the nation's most broad-based journalism organization," per the SPJ website — the Connecticut SPJ Chapter was established in 1966.


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LIST OF TODAY MAGAZINE’S AWARDS


Society of Professional Journalists

Connecticut SPJ Chapter • Magazine Division


Here’s the rundown of Today Magazine’s 16 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2023 — seven first-place, five second-place and four third-place prizes. Awards are listed in order from first-to-third place, by category, starting with the team series award, and in alphabetical order by the award-winner’s last name.


FIRST PLACE — seven awards

• 7 first-place awards for Today Magazine

• 12 first-place writing awards overall — thanks to the team-effort

Reporting Series award


Reporting Series — First Place

• Put Brown, Christine Graesser, Laura Hart, Francie Brown Holmes, Rick Orluk,

Stephen “Phil” Philbrick, James Q. Rice and Margery Winters


Feature Photo — First Place

• Tom Cameron • Today Magazine


Headlines — First Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

Toxic Haste: The Phoenix Tailings Story

Tech Startup Senses Urgency of Finding Value in Mining Waste

Homegrown Hope: Habitat for Humanity Makes Dreams Reality

One Route To Rule Them All?

A Tale of 2 Roads, 1 Route and 5 Businesses


Investigative — First Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine


Local Reporting — First Place

• Christopher DeFrancesco • Today Magazine


Education — First Place

• Chloe Kieper • Today Magazine


Leisure — First Place

• James Q. Rice • Today Magazine


SECOND PLACE — five awards


Local Reporting — Second Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

This story has won two awards, in the Arts & Entertainment and Local Reporting

categories — the SPJ allows a story to be entered two times in the contest


Sports Feature — Second Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine


Education — Second Place

• Elijah Livingston • Today Magazine


Feature Photo — Second Place

• Wendy Rosenberg • Today Magazine


Photo Essay — Second Place

• Wendy Rosenberg • Today Magazine

Today editor Bruce Deckert won an SPJ award for this cover layout — photo by Kayla Anneliese Deckert, the daughter born to Bruce and Mina Elizabeth Sykes Deckert — Kayla has married since this photo was taken, and her new name is Kayla Anneliese Tyson

THIRD PLACE — four awards


Arts & Entertainment — Third Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

This story has won two awards, in the Arts & Entertainment and Local Reporting

categories — the SPJ allows a story to be entered two times in the contest


Page 1 Layout — Third Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

• Photo by Kayla Anneliese Deckert


Business — Third Place

• Bruce Deckert and Vincenzo Frosolone • Today Magazine


Government — Third Place

Nora Howard and Terri Wilson • Today Magazine


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FUN TODAY FACTS

Did you know that when Today Publishing premiered in 2018, our news focus was on a sole Farmington Valley town? Following is a brief rundown of Today Publishing history, from awards to its ESPN connection:


• In the 2019 Connecticut SPJ contest, Today Publishing won one award for the cover story in its debut edition of Canton Today Magazine in October 2018 — Deckert wrote that article. A monthly print-and-digital publication, Canton Today focused exclusively on Canton and its attendant village Collinsville.


• In the 2020 contest, Today Publishing won two awards — including a first-place honor for Deckert's cover story about local volunteer firefighters and the 9/11 connection — followed by nine awards in the 2021 contest and 12 awards in 2022.



• To read the Today Online stories about Today's awards in the 2021 and 2022 contests, see the links at the conclusion of this story. Each annual SPJ contest recognizes media excellence in the previous calendar year.


• With the 16 SPJ awards Today Magazine has received in 2023, the Today Publishing award haul now totals 40 overall, in five SPJ award contests.


• However, Today hasn't been able to enter five full years of magazine coverage in those five annual contests — only four years and three months of coverage — because Canton Today was published just three times before the 2019 contest, in October and November and December of 2018.


• In April 2019, Today expanded to cover Avon and Simsbury as well as Canton via three distinct town magazines. Yes, for the uninitiated, Today Publishing produced Simsbury Today and Avon Today and Canton Today magazines in April, May and June of 2019 before combining them as one tri-town Today Magazine in July 2019 — these publications were print-and-digital monthlies.


• In July 2020, Today Publishing extended its coverage area​ again​ to include Farmington and Granby — the timing coincided with the reopening of many businesses in Connecticut after the nationwide COVID shutdown and the state's "Stay Safe, Stay Home" mandate in March 2020 — so the expanded all-Valley version of Today Magazine turns 3 years old this July.


• The all-Valley version of Today Magazine continued as a print-and-digital monthly publication until December 2020 — in January 2021, Today Magazine became a digital-exclusive magazine.


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BRIEF BIO — Bruce Deckert • Publisher + Editor-in-Chief

Bruce William Deckert is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Today Publishing and Today Magazine. He has worked in the media and communications realm for more than a quarter-century.


For 17 years, he served as an editor at ESPN.com and ESPN Digital Media. Before his ESPN tenure, he was a newspaper editor and reporter in Connecticut for three-plus years with the Journal Register Company aka JRC — including a stint with the former Imprint Newspapers group that was comprised of weekly papers covering 11 distinct towns in Greater Hartford, four in the Valley and seven others.


Deckert began his post-college journalism career at the Post in 1996 — not the New York or Washington outfits, but the Wethersfield Post in Connecticut. The Post was part of Imprint, then based in Bristol.


When Deckert was a JRC employee, Imprint was housed in the same building as The Bristol Press — previously Imprint was located in West Hartford. After his Imprint stint, he served at two other JRC newspapers: as a Bristol Press news editor and as editor-in-chief of The Herald Press, a joint Sunday paper of the New Britain Herald, The Middletown Press and The Bristol Press.


Serendipitously, ESPN is based in Bristol.


When Deckert established BWD Publishing LLC in January 2018 — Today Publishing is the DBA name (doing business as) of BWD Publishing — the fledgling media outlet was based exclusively in West Simsbury. He was a Simsbury resident for 27 years from 1995-2022 before moving to New Hartford, so Today Publishing is now located there while maintaining a West Simsbury P.O. box as the company's mailing address.


Deckert has won 25 SPJ awards overall in his career, including eight first-place honors — seven with Today Publishing and one with Imprint.


“My career has evidently come full circle — from hyper-local community-focused journalism to the Worldwide Leader In Sports and back to community journalism,” he says.


Born in Newark, N.J., Deckert was raised in Bloomfield and Plainfield — in New Jersey, not their namesakes in Connecticut. He graduated from Gordon College (Wenham, MA) and Plainfield (NJ) High School.


While in college, Deckert undertook his first professional journalism role via a six-month cooperative education (aka co-op) placement at the Salem Evening News in Massachusetts — now the Salem News — where he was assistant to the city editor. The college co-op model is essentially a full-time paid internship.


His first journalism experience was at a New Jersey high school — he served as co-editor of the Plainfield High newspaper. Yet neither Deckert nor his high school newspaper associates won an SPJ award as student journalists.


A further awards note: Deckert says he believes all human beings merit awards daily when we utilize our God-given talents for good in our local and global community. +


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Related 2022 StoryToday Magazine wins 12 more SPJ awards

Related 2021 Story9 more SPJ awards for Today Magazine


Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut's Farmington Valley — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury


CT SPJ Contest Winners — announced June 2023

  Source — Society of Professional Journalists: Connecticut Chapter


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