The Item’s Bridget Turcotte is a 2018 New England First Amendment Institute fellow

The Item's Bridget Turcotte is a 2018 New England First Amendment Institute fellow. (Spenser R. Hasak)

Item reporter Bridget Turcotte is one of 25 journalists selected to attend the 2018 New England First Amendment Institute.

The three-day conference, run each year by the New England First Amendment Coalition, provides a select group of young journalists with the opportunity to learn skills and techniques used in investigative journalism.

“I’m excited for the chance to learn from very successful journalists, and to network and meet some other local journalists who are learning, too,” Turcotte said.

Turcotte, 26, graduated from Salem State University with a double major in English and Communications in 2015 before joining the Item staff later that year. She covers Saugus, Nahant and Revere, and during her tenure has broken several stories that required digging beyond the given statements of town officials.

“It always feels good when you have a hunch about something, are told you’re wrong, but you press and find you were right, and get the information you need,” she said. “It happened in Nahant with the lawsuit filed by the former town administrator and on a smaller scale with other things.”

Earlier this year, Turcotte was the first to report that former Nahant Town Manager Jeffrey Chelgren sued the town for discrimination and breach of contract. Chelgren alleged that two selectmen had made homophobic comments toward him prior to his abrupt departure in March.

After being told there was no lawsuit by the town’s selectmen and administration, she tracked down the filing in Lawrence Superior Court. That forced town officials to admit the suit had been filed and address the allegations made by Chelgren.

Turcotte said she hoped the fellowship would help deepen her understanding of investigative reporting.

“I’m not here to transcribe anything. I’m here to report,” she said.

It’s a far cry from her first foray into writing, when she penned a book about teddy bears in the first grade.

“My first grade teacher, Mrs. (Sandra) Jordan, got us these hardcover books that were blank inside and asked us to fill them,” she said. “My memere (grandmother Joan Turcotte) would pick me up up from school everyday and she loved teddy bears, so I wrote about that. It wasn’t very in-depth.”

Ted Grant, publisher of Essex Media Group, which owns the Item, said Turcotte embodies the energy and doggedness needed in a good journalist.

“Bridget is a talented young reporter on a staff of talented young reporters,” he said. “We couldn’t be more proud that she was selected for this honor.”

The institute will be held Sept. 16-18 at Northeastern University. Lecturers include Pulitzer Prize winner Stephanie McCrummen of The Washington Post, Todd Wallack of The Boston Globe and Mike Beaudet of WCVB-TV.

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