State Senator Ken LaValle presents RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti with a "Woman of Distinction" award yesterday in Port Jefferson.

RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti has been named a 2020 “Woman of Distinction” by State Senator Ken LaValle.

LaValle presented the Riverhead resident with the award in Port Jefferson yesterday.

“Once a year the Woman of Distinction Program provides members of the Senate with a special opportunity to honor extraordinary women for their achievements. I am proud to celebrate Denise Civiletti as this year’s Woman of Distinction for her achievements in journalism and her dedicated community service,” LaValle said.

Civiletti, 62, was one of 58 women in the state chosen by State Senators for the honor this year.

“These women are leaders and visionaries who open doors, break glass ceilings, and inspire us all; and today we recognize their bravery and dedication,” State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Minority Leader Robert Ortt said in an announcement of the 2020 awards.

Civiletti and her husband Peter Blasl, launched the RiverheadLOCAL news website in January 2010. Understanding the urgent need to untether local news from a failing business model reliant on print, Civiletti set out to forge a sustainable, online-only local news model. Her vision and passion for local news, new technology and the Riverhead community came together in RiverheadLOCAL — at a time when independent local online news was still in its infancy. RiverheadLOCAL is today one of the most successful independent local news websites in the U.S.

She oversees the site’s editorial content, works as its principal reporter and with her daughter, Katie Morosky, serves as copublisher.

State Sen. Ken LaValle with Denise Civiletti, Peter Blasl and Katie Morosky Aug. 26 in Port Jefferson, where LaValle presented Civiletti with a 2020 ‘Woman of Distinction’ award. Courtesy photo: Joann Scalia

Prior to launching RiverheadLOCAL, Civiletti worked for Times/Review Newspapers from from 1999-2009 where she was an opinion columnist, reporter, editor and then executive editor and copublisher. She led a newsroom staff that won numerous journalism awards, in addition to winning awards of her own for news stories, columns and editorials.

“I’ve always been dedicated to community journalism, because I’m dedicated to our community. We cover the stories that have the most impact on people’s lives, day in and day out,” she said.

“It’s challenging, all-consuming and certainly far from glamorous, but it’s important work — especially in the age of social media, where too often rumor and misinformation prevail. Local journalists sort facts from rumors and present news in context,” Civiletti said.

“It’s more important than ever to make sure local news survives,” she said.

Known for dedication to in-depth reporting and investigative journalism, Civiletti in 2018 won an award for those skills from the N.Y. Press Association, which also honored her with a writer of the year award in 2014.

Civiletti, who grew up in Coram, has in the First Senate District most of her life and in Riverhead for more than 34 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Stony Brook University, and a Juris Doctor degree in 1982 from New York University School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in the New York State and federal courts.

She is a member of the NYS Bar Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the New York Press Association, Local Independent Online News Publishers and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Civiletti served one term as Riverhead Town Councilwoman (1988-1991) during which she worked to establish the town’s trash collection districts and recycling program, authoring Riverhead’s first recycling law. She fought against a push to build a garbage incinerator and an ashfill in Riverhead. In addition, she concentrated on improving the operation of the Riverhead sewage treatment facilities, as well as on land use issues and updating the town’s zoning codes.

Due to the pandemic, the usual ceremony in Albany, which was to take place in March, was changed to a virtual event. Each honoree’s photograph and biography will become part of a special online exhibit proclaiming the contributions of these exemplary New York women. To view this event visit the senator’s website and and click the “Women of Distinction” icon.

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