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  • WILMINGTON — Do you want your news outlet to better serve the public interest in North Carolina? Are you covering the local movement for racial justice?

    If you’re a reporter who wants to build skills in accessing public records, reporting on state government or understanding movements for social justice, please join us at the Free Movement Conference in Wilmington on March 23–25.

    Free Press will facilitate the conference’s “Journalism and Media Justice in the South” track. The series of panels, workshops and discussions are part of our News Voices: North Carolina initiative, which focuses on connecting reporters and residents throughout the state.

    Here are the details:

    What: Free Movement Conference
    When: March 23–25 (Fri.–Sun.)
    Where: Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, 120 South 2nd St., Wilmington
    RSVP: Tickets are available here.

    Here’s what’s on the agenda:

    • MuckRock: Putting Public Records in Everyone's Hands: One of the leading open-government organizations in the country is coming to the Port City to train journalists, activists and anyone else who wants to learn how to access information under the Freedom of Information Act.
    • How to Keep an Eye on Raleigh: A veteran journalist discusses how to keep tabs on the North Carolina General Assembly.
    • How-To for Citizen Journalists: Led by student journalist Azuree Bateman and Professor Tamara Jeffries of Bennett College.
    • Who Is Your Media Strategy? Free Press Organizer Alicia Bell shows community members, organizers and advocates how to build ongoing transformational relationships with local media.
    • Legacy of Black Media: Featuring Free Press’ Joseph Torres, co-author of News for All the People; North Carolina Central University Journalism Professor Brett Chambers, who heads the Triangle Association of Black Journalists; and Octavia Rainey, columnist for The Carolinian.
    • Truth, Fear and the Wilmington Water Crisis: With Lisa Sorg of North Carolina Policy Watch, Adam Wagner of StarNews, Wilmington-based activist Dana Sargent and Melanie Sill of the Democracy Fund.
    • Anti-Oppression Media Strategies Toward Transgender Justice: Featuring Lewis Wallace of Scalawag, Reverend Debra J. Hopkins of Sisters Together and Reaching, Gabrielle Bellot of the Literary Hub and Kyle Dacuyan of PEN America, a national organization promoting freedom of expression.

    Free Movement 2018 also includes sessions on ending mass incarceration, shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline, arts activism, grassroots fundraising and more.

    Register now to attend the Free Movement Conference on March 23–25. Free Press Journalism Program Director Fiona Morgan is available for press inquiries at 919-491-1901, and at fmorgan@freepress.net.

  • TRENTON — On Monday, New Jersey State Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald reintroduced the Civic Info Bill. The legislation would establish and fund the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium (NJCIC), an initiative uniting several of New Jersey’s leading higher-education institutions to invest in projects that would strengthen local news coverage, community information, civic technology and civic engagement across the state.

    The Civic Info Bill (A3628) calls on the state to allocate $20 million as a seed investment in its FY 2019 budget, and $1 million in subsequent years to ensure effective administration of the original investment.

    Thousands of New Jersey residents supported a 2017 version of the legislation, attending community forums, calling and emailing elected representatives, writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and attending lobby days in the statehouse.

    A main goal of the NJCIC is to build stronger connections between reporters and the communities they serve. The consortium would seek out, evaluate and invest in proposed collaborations among residents, the media industry, technology sector, community organizations and academic partners. The participating higher-education institutions are The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University.

    “If we want New Jersey’s communities to thrive, we need to ensure residents have access to trustworthy, accurate and relevant news and information,” said Mike Rispoli, the director of Free Press Action Fund’s News Voices: New Jersey project. “The Civic Info Bill provides the best opportunity to strengthen, revive and transform local media in the state, and would provide funding for innovative projects around New Jersey that would invigorate public-interest journalism, especially coverage of issues that matter to low-income communities and communities of color.”

    In 2017, Free Press Action Fund launched a campaign to pass an earlier version of the Civic Info Bill. The group is now organizing a statewide campaign to mobilize thousands more in support of the 2018 bill.

    “We will redouble efforts to pass the Civic Info Bill in 2018,” Rispoli said. “Thousands of people across the state have told us that the disappearance of local news and information has left them in the dark about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. They crave more information to make important decisions about their lives. This bill not only would support quality journalism happening right now in New Jersey, but would pioneer a local-news and technology model designed to spark civic engagement and lift up voices from communities feeling left out of the conversation. It would instantly transform our state into a standard-bearer for the rest of the country.”

    Free Press Action Fund’s News Voices: New Jersey initiative has convened public forums in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Glassboro, Hackensack, Montclair, Morristown, Newark, New Brunswick and Tuckerton. Across the state residents have spoken out about how the lack of local news and information has harmed their communities. More meetings and activism are planned as Trenton lawmakers consider the Civic Info Bill.