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Connecticut Journalists Group Honors DeCesare

President/GM of WLIS and WMRD recognized for efforts in freedom of information efforts

James H. Smith (left) and Don DeCesare

Radio man Don DeCesare, a past chair of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association and a journalist for more than four decades, has been honored with an award from the Connecticut pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. CTSPJ presented DeCesare and James H. Smith, a retired journalist, with its Helen M. Loy Freedom of Information Award at the organization’s recent annual awards dinner.

“DeCesare and Smith, as members of the Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know, each fought for more access to crime scene photos after the legislature passed a law exempting the records from public release. DeCesare and Smith disagreed about the best strategy to try to change the law, which was passed — behind closed doors — in response to the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said CTSPJ. “Yet both men spent dozens of hours of their personal time working to change the law to allow the public to again have access to crime scene photos. For that tireless effort, CTSPJ thanks DeCesare and Smith.”

“Don DeCesare is a highly respected member of Connecticut’s broadcasting industry, both on air as a reporter/anchor and behind the scenes as a station manager,” said Klarn DePalma, chair of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association and the president and general manager of WFSB(TV) in Hartford, Conn. and WSHM(TV) in Springfield, Mass. He served with DeCesare on the state task force.

DeCesare, a resident of Norwalk, Conn., is president and general manager of WLIS(AM) in Old Saybrook, Conn., and WMRD(AM) in Middletown, Conn. He served as the co-chair of the Connecticut Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know, which presented its report to the legislature in December 2013. DeCesare worked at CBS Broadcasting in New York, where he went from editing radio broadcasts to overseeing TV news coverage. DeCesare served as chair of the CBA from 2005 to 2007, during which time the association led the effort to adopt a strong Shield Law for Connecticut.

Smith is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. He has previously won the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for a selection of his columns on the First Amendment, and is the four-time winner of the First Amendment Award from CTSPJ.

The Connecticut pro chapter of SPJ honors people who work to advance open government in the state. The late Helen M. Loy was a former chairwoman of the Freedom of Information Commission, and one of the trio of original members appointed by then-Gov. Ella T. Grasso. Loy served as a commissioner from 1975–1985 when she died. CTSPJ named its annual Freedom of Information award in her honor.