By Abigail Brone | March 8, 2019
Matt DeRienzo began working as a journalist the day after his eighteenth birthday.
“I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper in Maine about a drunk driver that hit and killed a friend of mine’s mother. I argued the bar that served the driver should get its license taken away,” DeRienzo said. “They wouldn’t print it, but offered me a job. I started as a part-time reporter, never wound up going back to college, and here I am.”
DeRienzo is the vice president of news and digital content for Hearst Media Group in Connecticut, the company that owns the New Haven Register, Connecticut Post, Stamford Advocate and The Norwalk Hour.
DeRienzo is the first vice president to control both the newsroom and digital teams for Hearst’s newspapers. He said the company is adapting well to the online demands.
“The switch from print to web or to digital is not just a switch in preference from paper to screen, but it’s a fundamental relationship shift between readers and the publication,” he said. “We need a relationship of transparency and trust.”
Along with overseeing Hearst’s eight daily newspapers and 13 weeklies, DeRienzo said the most important—and sometimes hardest— part of his job is the weight of the decisions he has to make and those it affects.
“The words we use matter. What we choose to cover and not cover can really affect people’s lives and communities. It can affect our own staff as well.”
“It’s not an easy industry to work for in terms of buyouts and layoffs,” DeRienzo said. “Dealing with the financial complexities of the industry while coming into work every day and writing about very difficult topics, but also getting criticized about how you write.”
When it comes to the difference between working for a privately-owned newspaper and a chain that owns hundreds of news outlets across the country, DeRienzo said that having worked for both, there are pros and cons.
“There are good corporate actors and there are bad,” he said. “Obviously, I think I work for a good one because I used to work for a bad one and left because of that.”
DeRienzo said the con to working in the corporate news world is the disconnect from the communities in which he works. “I’m the top editor for eight dailies and couldn’t be immersed in each of those communities,” he said. “The top decision-making gets away from the Main Street grassroots organizations.”
One of the pros to working in a large newsroom is the resources provided for each reporter and the lawyers to back the papers up on Freedom of Information requests or defending themselves in the wake of controversial stories, DeRienzo said.
“As the newspaper industry declines, there are some looking to profit off that decline, slashing newsroom expenses,” he said. “Hearst has a long history and long future and isn’t subject to the whims of the stock market. It has proven over many years its willingness to invest.”
Matt DeRienzo on Twitter: @mattderienzo