It was November 1968 and anti-war protesters had stormed into Gulley Hall at the University of Connecticut and refused to leave the building. UConn’s Storrs campus was in turmoil.
G. Claude Albert was an undergraduate student and news editor for The Daily Campus. Albert ran to Gulley Hall as soon as he heard what was going on. After observing the scene and gathering all the facts he could, he began writing a news story about the hostile takeover while his friend drove him to the printer. Albert was determined to have his breaking news story run in the next morning’s paper.
Shortly after that Gulley Hall incident, anti-war protesters burned down an ROTC structure on campus. Albert was one of the first reporters to see the ROTC building in flames, and then write about it.
These instances are two of the many memorable events that Albert, who is now editor-in-chief of The Connecticut Mirror, recalls covering during his time as a UConn student. Albert’s career in journalism spans nearly a half century now, a professional calling that he’s happy to see come full circle.
Albert, who grew up in Stamford, Conn., arrived at UConn in the fall of 1967, as an honors English literature major focused on pre-med. Although the pre-med courses were challenging, Albert made it through his first two years, even when a new passion started to get in the way.
During Albert’s second semester, a friend who wrote for The Daily Campus convinced him to give it a try. Albert went over to UConn’s student-run newspaper, which at the time was located in the Student Union, and was assigned to write an article about an upcoming speech on campus.
After the speech, Albert headed over to the Student Union snack bar. With no prior experience writing news stories, he sat down and wrote what he thought sounded best.
“I had read newspapers for years and just did it by ear. It sounded like a news story so I wrote it that way,” Albert said. Despite Albert’s lack of experience, his story was good enough to be published on the front page the following day.
He was hooked.
For the next three years, Albert worked at The Daily Campus, rising up through the ranks to managing editor. Albert recalled being at the student newspaper offices at all hours of the day and night. Many nights he would leave the newsroom at two in the morning, only to get up for his 8 a.m. organic chemistry class.
Albert’s time at The Daily Campus coincided with a tumultuous period in America. Albert remembered how strong the anti-war sentiment was on campus at the time, as well as the unstable atmosphere that loomed over the university.
“The Daily Campus was just starting to evolve into a newspaper that had to cover very serious things… and look at the news of the nation and the world through the local lens,” Albert said.
Eventually, Albert decided that journalism was his true passion, and he stopped pursuing medical school. At the time, the UConn journalism program was just a series of courses. Therefore, Albert kept English literature as his major, and took classes from UConn’s only two journalism professors at the time, Evan Hill and John J. Breen.
Albert knew he wanted a career in journalism.
Albert landed his first job while still in college as a stringer for The Hartford Courant. He said he got paid 25 cents per inch and $2 per town meeting to cover the town of Willington, not far from UConn’s Storrs campus.
After graduating in 1972, Albert secured a job on the Courant’s state desk doing copy editing. He worked his way up over several years, becoming assistant state editor, and then state editor, a job he loved. That position allowed him to work with reporters and build relationships with many of them, Albert said.
When Times Mirror Co. (later purchased by Tribune Co.) bought the Hartford Courant in 1979, the paper went through a major reorganization. Albert was promoted to deputy metro editor. He continued to work his way up the editing chain, becoming the deputy managing editor in 1989. He was named managing editor in 2006.
Albert’s main task during his time at these positions was to supervise the Courant’s Sunday newspaper, a position he said he enjoyed because of the variety and depth of the stories he worked on. As he moved up in management, though, Albert said he also moved further away from the duties he loved as state editor.
In 2008, during a time of financial turmoil for the newspaper industry, Albert was let go from the Courant. It was one of the numerous downsizes in which, Albert said, “we’d lose dozens at a clip.”
Not ready to retire, Albert took on the position of editor-in-chief at The Connecticut Mirror in August 2014. Unlike the Hartford Courant, which at its prime consisted of a huge newsroom with hundreds of employees, the CT Mirror is a small, nonprofit, nonpartisan online news outlet with 11 employees.
Albert said he’s delighted to once again be working directly with reporters.
“In a way I’m doing what I did when I was state editor of the Courant, in that sense I’ve come full circle,” he said. “I’ve come back to some of the things about editing that I love the most.”
UConn Journalism celebrates 50 years on April 15-16, 2016 with special events on campus in Storrs. All alumni and friends are invited to participate in interesting talks, food, tours, drop-in workshops and visits with old (and new!) friends. RSVP for the event through this registration form.