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’ve worked all around the state, including Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Ewing, Glassboro, Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, New Brunswick and Tuckerton.
Thousands of people, including journalists, activists, students, faith leaders, union workers and artists, have come together to support the future of local news in their communities, discuss pressing local issues and 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, providing workshops in newsrooms and with community allies, training student journalists and launching collaborative storytelling projects around local concerns.
We’re continuing to bring people together across the state. Want to get involved? Reach out to James Thompson to find out how to participate.
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're on the verge of making this happen.
In 2017, Free Press launched a campaign to create the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, a first-of-its-kind fund with the mission of reviving, strengthening and transforming local media in New Jersey.
On June 1, 2017, the majority leaders of the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate introduced legislation to establish the consortium, which would be a collaborative effort led by The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University.
The Civic Info Bill garnered the support of 15 sponsors in the legislature, and thousands of people signed petitions, attended organizing meetings, and urged their local representatives to support the bill.
While the bill wasn’t brought to the floor in 2017, lawmakers reintroduced it in 2018, and it passed both chambers of the statehouse in June. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law in August, marking the first time a state has taken the lead to address the growing crisis in local news. This is a historic victory for all people across New Jersey.
While the state’s FY 2019 budget set aside $5 million for the Civic Info Consortium, the Murphy administration now says the earmarked funds are not available to support the nonprofit. New legislation from two of our legislative champions would give the consortium the money it needs to launch.
We’ve already done the impossible — now it’s time to get the consortium the funding it needs. Urge legislators to fully fund the Civic Info Consortium.