Mike directs Free Press’ News Voices project, which connects local communities and the newsrooms that serve them via public engagement, advocacy campaigns and collaborative projects. He also teaches journalism as a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University. Before joining Free Press, Mike worked for the human-rights organizations Privacy International and Access. Mike also served as the technical editor on the 2015 book You: For Sale, a look at protecting user data and privacy online. In a past life, Mike was a journalist for the Newark Star-Ledger and Gannett Newspapers. Mike received his master’s degree in media studies and media management at the New School in New York City and his bachelor’s degree in journalism at Marist College.
Jersey Matters sits down with Mike Rispoli, the News Voices director for Free Press Action, to discuss the importance of connecting newsrooms with communities.
Weeks after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation earmarking $5 million for a consortium designed to boost local journalism, a state budget mix-up has kept the group from getting off the ground.
Weeks after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Civic Info Bill, a celebratory moment became clouded in confusion.
While signaling his “unwavering support” for strengthening local journalism in New Jersey, Murphy (pictured) said the $5 million allocated for the Civic Info Consortium, a first-of-its-kind nonprofit that would fund innovative projects meant to better inform residents across the state, was in fact not there as previously believed.
On Monday, Murphy appeared on the bimonthly “Ask the Governor” show hosted at WBGO’s studios in Newark and broadcast on WNYC in New York and WHYY in Philadelphia. It was one of the first times Murphy had taken questions from the public since signing the Civic Info Bill in August, so we called into the show to get him on the record about how he intends to fund the consortium.
Gov. Murphy extolled the vision of the Civic Info Bill — which Free Press Action drafted — and articulated the need for residents to have trusted local news sources. He said he was “proud” to support the bill and called signing it into law “a no-brainer.”
“We are committed to try to figure out not just how to establish this in law … but also to put resources behind it that allow it to do the work it's intended to,” Murphy said. “So stay tuned."
While Gov. Murphy didn’t clarify where the funding would come from, his response is a sign that he cares about keeping our communities informed and engaged. We hope that he backs that up by funding the consortium with the $5 million he promised in his budget.
In another promising development, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald introduced legislation this week that would allocate $5 million from the state’s general fund to the consortium.
Sen. Weinberg and Asm. Greenwald have championed the bill from the start of this Free Press Action campaign in 2017, and their leadership on this issue shows their dedication to ensuring the consortium lives up to its promise of reviving, strengthening and transforming New Jersey media.
Without full and proper funding for the consortium, however, it has little chance of succeeding. That’s why Free Press Action’s New Jersey members have been reaching out to Gov. Murphy’s office and calling on him to fund the consortium. Given Murphy’s comments this week and the introduction of a funding measure in the state legislature, those efforts seem to be working.
Pushing the Civic Info Bill over the finish line in August was a hard-fought and historic victory, and we have to keep up the pressure. The only way we’re going to see the type of local news New Jersey needs is if Gov. Murphy makes good on his word. Sign the petition today to urge Murphy to dedicate $5 million to the Civic Info Consortium.