New Jersey Funds the Civic Info Consortium, Recognizes the Vital Role Local News Plays During Crises
TRENTON — On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the FY2021 budget, which provides $500,000 for the Civic Information Consortium. This funding continues the state’s commitment to giving people access to local news and reaffirming the essential role that journalism plays in ensuring safe, healthy and engaged communities.
Led by Free Press Action, a broad coalition of universities, journalists, lawmakers and thousands of state residents helped craft the legislation to create the consortium to fund innovative media and civic-technology projects in New Jersey. State lawmakers passed the bill in 2018 under the leadership of State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and State Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.
The funding in the FY2021 budget allows the nonprofit consortium, which is hosted at Montclair State University, 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, director of Free Press Action’s News Voices project, 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 presidential election, a global pandemic, a grave 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. Since then, the local-news landscape in New Jersey has only become more dire. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic contraction have accelerated this 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. Tuesday’s announcement allows us to take steps toward revitalizing and transforming media in the state. We’re grateful that Governor Murphy and state lawmakers recognize the vital role that local media play, especially during a public-health emergency and related economic crisis.”
Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, made the following statement:
“As the host institution for the consortium, Montclair State is providing back-office support as the organization prepares to begin its work. The center has also been a member of the coalition that helped build support for the consortium over the last several years.
“Mike is right that the local-news landscape is shifting and news outlets are getting hit hard. We need journalists on the ground in New Jersey, and we need more funding flowing to people and organizations in our state that can provide communities with trustworthy local information. The consortium can help make those things happen. The fact that the consortium’s eventual grantmaking will also involve faculty and students from the five member universities is important to us. I am thrilled to see the Civic Information Consortium finally come to life and look forward to supporting its work.”
For more information about the Civic Information Consortium, visit njcivicinfo.org.