TRENTON — On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy released a revised FY21 budget that funds the Civic Information Consortium, signaling the state’s commitment to giving people access to local news statewide and reaffirming the essential role that journalism plays in ensuring safe, healthy and engaged communities.
Free Press Action conceived of and campaigned for the creation of the consortium, which state lawmakers approved in 2018 under the leadership of State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and State Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. The funding in Gov. Murphy's budget allocates $500,000 to the consortium, and will allow the nonprofit to provide grants to support valuable local-news coverage in parts of the state that have become news deserts. The consortium will also elevate the voices of people of color and others who have been systematically ignored or misrepresented by many media outlets.
Mike Rispoli, Free Press Action’s News Voices director and Civic Information Consortium board member, made the following statement:
“Funding to support the Civic Information Consortium comes at a critical time for local news in New Jersey. People across the state are turning to local outlets in the middle of a global pandemic, economic downturn and racial-justice uprisings. And yet news outlets are getting hit hard, closing down newsrooms and laying off reporters just when we need them the most. Our communities need trustworthy news and information to stay informed, healthy and engaged. With this funding, the Civic Information Consortium can help make local media more accessible and equitable.
“New Jersey took bold action two years ago to address the local-news crisis when it created the consortium. It opened up the possibility for local lawmakers in other parts of the country to craft innovative solutions to ensure communities have the news they need. Since the consortium was created, the local-news landscape in New Jersey has only become more dire. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic contraction have accelerated this crisis.
“Today’s announcement allows us to take steps toward revitalizing and transforming media in the state. We’re grateful that Governor Murphy recognizes the vital role local media play, especially during a health emergency and related economic crisis. During difficult times like these, people rely on local news to stay safe and healthy and to look out for the economic welfare of their families and communities.
“The consortium now has a lot of work to do to address the hardships confronting people across the state, particularly in communities of color. The governor’s inclusion of this in his latest budget is a much-needed step in the right direction, and we look forward to working with the governor and state legislature to secure additional funds for the effort. At this critical moment in our history, the consortium is poised to make New Jersey a national innovator in rethinking and reshaping local journalism.”