Matt DeRienzo has welcomed the community into his newsroom, unlocking the doors and letting them walk right in.
This hasn’t led to any security concerns, and he has only had to call the police once – when he spotted “a kid watching porn on one of our computers, and refused to leave,” DeRienzo said. (I was lucky enough to join some journalists from the Cape Cod Times for a tour of his Newsroom Café in Torrington, Connecticut in March.)
Opening the doors means learning a lot about your community, he explained. He’s had a homeless man come in to use Google earth on one of the public computers to find a place to sleep.
When some of his staff complained about the homeless using the space in the winter, DeRienzo said he pushed back. “I will address the issue if there is a smell, but not the fact there is a homeless person here.”
Besides, he added “it’s noisiest when my kids are here.”
DeRienzo opened the Register Citizen‘s News Café in December, 2010. To do this, he moved his newsroom to a new location (an abandoned ball bearing and sewing machine parts factory) in downtown Torrington, with an eye to a place that could host a space “for coffee and pastries.”
In this setting, the front door is unlocked, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. There is no reception or security desk. But it is one of three locations in town with free wifi.
The public can – and has – walked in and talked to a reporter about a story. Sometimes this is a good thing, DeRienzo said, it can result in story leads. Other times, people have to be reminded they’ve made their point, and that reporters have a job to do.