Open Government Nonprofit Names Longtime Hartford Courant Journalist as Interim Head

Connecticut Foundation for Open Government's Interim Executive Director Jim Welch (CT Examiner).


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WETHERSFIELD — For Connecticut Foundation for Open Government President Kate Farrish, finding a replacement for part-time executive director Katherine Garner required someone with a distinguished journalism background, a familiarity with Freedom of Information Commission laws, and a deep understanding of social media.

Farrish said longtime Hartford Courant reporter, editor and digital producer Jim Welch fit the bill and more.

“He’s also won some grants [with the Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative], and we are interested in applying for some grants. We liked that bit of experience too,” Farrish told CT Examiner on Tuesday. “We feel Jim is a really perfect fit for us when it comes to our mission, which is to educate the public about transparency [in government] and the importance of using the FOI laws to gain access to public meetings.”

Welch, who started as CFOG interim executive director on March 1, is also a freelance digital editor and reporter for Connecticut Public and a marketing and development coordinator for Ben Bronz Academy, roles he will continue.

Welch, who managed a staff of 14 multimedia reporters at the Courant and coached them in FOI and open government requests, told CT Examiner on Monday that his short-term goal is to “beef up” the CFOG website and its social media platforms.

However, Welch said his long-term goals for the nonprofit is to educate the public about the importance of government transparency and how to request public records.

“You don’t need a degree to file an FOIA request,” Welch said, noting individuals have the right to request documents on specific issues and town meetings. Ask for them cordially, Welch said, but be determined to file an FOIA request if necessary.

“I would recommend that citizens not be adversarial to government officials, but be vigilant,” he said. If those documents are denied, then those individuals would need to file an FOI request, Welch said.

Welch lamented that “fewer and fewer journalists” are covering town meetings, so residents can pick up the mantle by asking for town records and documents themselves.

“I’m a huge proponent of social media, but I’ve also been on those town Facebook pages where you can get recycled bad information,” Welch said. “How do we clear up that disinformation? How do we do that? By getting documents from the town [either by requesting them or via FOI]. You can then post that on the town Facebook page and you can shut down a lot of the disinformation right there.”

Welch said he plans to work up to 10 hours per week at the Glastonbury-based nonprofit. CFOG holds about six events a year, all with the goal of educating the public on transparency in government. The next CFOG event will take place in either April or May in the New Haven area, and will feature a “crash course” on FOI laws. 

Farrish said the organization’s two premier events include one held every February called “The Stories behind the Stories.” During the event, which usually attracts at least 100 people, five journalists talk about a big story they worked on the year before, and the work and research it took to write the story.

“It’s kind of a nice way to celebrate great journalism and to inform the public about how journalists do what they do,” Farrish said.

CFOG also annually hosts the Mitchell W. Pearlman Freedom of Information Award every November, honoring a journalist, a government official, and a member of the public for their contributions to promoting government transparency.

“It’s a cool event,” Farrish said. “We are honoring different people, different sectors of people and not just journalists.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950