When it comes to news coverage, New Jersey is one of the most underserved states. Sandwiched between the New York and Philadelphia media markets, New Jersey receives little to no coverage of its state and local governments.
Newsrooms are shrinking, TV stations are closing down and public-media funding has been slashed. While local news startups are providing fresh voices, they struggle to break even financially and tackle statewide issues.
New Jersey is a place of both great challenges and great opportunities. Journalists, academics, philanthropists and community leaders are joining together to make the state a model for the future of news.
We launched News Voices: New Jersey in 2015 to bring together communities and newsrooms to tackle problems in cities and neighborhoods throughout the Garden State. We’re now active in six communities — Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Morristown, Newark and New Brunswick.
Hundreds of people, including journalists, community members, activists, students, faith leaders, union workers and artists, have come together at our events to discuss pressing local issues and ways that they can collaborate to tell stories with impact.
Our work is ongoing. We’re taking what we’ve learned in each community and teaming up with local residents and newsrooms to find ways to tell stories that matter. Some of these partnerships include organizing local forums, training student journalists to work with the community or launching collaborative storytelling projects around local concerns.
Funding the future of news in New Jersey
Imagine if we had millions of dollars to strengthen local media and meet the evolving information needs of New Jersey’s underserved communities. This investment would mean more responsive local journalism and essential community information.
And right now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this happen.
New Jersey participated in a recently concluded federal spectrum auction in which the sale of New Jersey public-television stations WNJN and WNJT brought in more than $330 million in revenues to the state.
New Jersey — perhaps more than any other state — needs these kinds of resources to serve community needs. At Free Press Action Fund, we’re campaigning to ensure that a significant portion of the auction proceeds is invested in a newly created New Jersey Civic Information Consortium.
On June 1, the majority leaders of the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate introduced legislation to establish the consortium. Assembly Bill A4933 and Senate Bill S3303, introduced by State Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D–Camden) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D–Bergen), would allocate $100 million in proceeds from the spectrum auction. The funding for the Civic Information Consortium would be allocated in $20-million annual disbursements over a five-year period.
By leveraging the resources, knowledge and expertise of our partners at The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University, the consortium could help bolster public-interest journalism, civic information and media innovation for decades to come.
Creating the Civic Information Consortium will require action from the state legislature and the governor. That won’t happen without public involvement and pressure. We have a real shot at securing these funds, but only if we act now.
We’re traveling across the state to gather input on what kinds of projects the consortium could support. Join us in transforming local journalism and local communities: Tell state lawmakers to fix the local news crisis.