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MONTCLAIR — On Wednesday, the New Jersey Civic Info Consortium announced that it is now accepting applications for its inaugural round of grant funding, a milestone in the years-long effort by residents, journalists and local organizations to invest public funding to foster more informed communities.

Over the past several months, the consortium and Free Press Action partnered to hold listening sessions in every county in New Jersey, launch a statewide survey and meet with journalists and community members to better understand the public’s information needs. In response to this feedback, the consortium is seeking proposals that will expand access to news-and-information projects focused on community health, government transparency and diversifying New Jersey’s press corps. The nonprofit is especially interested in local-journalism and civic-technology proposals that focus on better serving low-income communities, communities of color, immigrants and rural residents.

The consortium represents a first-of-its-kind state model for funding to support quality local journalism, promising media startups and other efforts meant to better inform people and promote civic engagement.

Since 2017, Free Press Action has organized alongside a broad coalition of universities, journalists, lawmakers and thousands of state residents to create the consortium. The nonprofit received $500,000 in New Jersey State funding for the FY2021 year and will hold three information sessions in March about the grant-application process. Awards in this round will be capped at $35,000 apiece.

News Voices Director Mike Rispoli, who is also a consortium board member, made the following statement:

“Our communities need trustworthy news and information to stay informed, healthy and engaged. The consortium will support valuable local-news coverage in parts of the state that have become news deserts and will also work to elevate the voices of people of color and others who have been systematically ignored or misrepresented by many media outlets.

“At a time in which predatory hedge funds like Alden Global Capital are decimating local journalism, the consortium grants will help New Jersey combat the local-news crisis. In the midst of a devastating pandemic, this work could not be more crucial.

“With this state-funding mechanism, New Jersey has created a model that other states should look to as they search for new ways to support independent and local news.”

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