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TRENTON — The state of New Jersey will be releasing the remainder of the $235 million in spending Gov. Phil Murphy froze when he signed the state budget in June 2019. This includes the first $1 million of the $2 million earmarked for the Civic Information Consortium, a first-of-its-kind initiative to strengthen local-news coverage and boost civic engagement across the state.

This innovative nonprofit, which Free Press Action conceived of and advocated for, will help ensure the people of New Jersey have access to quality news and information about their communities. It will invest in valuable local-news coverage in parts of the state that have become news deserts and will elevate the voices of people of color and others who have been systematically ignored by many media outlets.

The bill establishing the consortium passed the state legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2018 and was signed into law by Gov. Murphy. But while the state’s FY 2019 budget dedicated money for the consortium, Murphy later said that the earmarked funds were not yet available. The Murphy administration released this money on Thursday.

“New Jersey took bold action to address the local-news crisis when it created the Civic Information Consortium,” said Mike Rispoli, Free Press Action’s News Voices director. “It signaled to other policymakers around the country that we need innovative solutions to ensure communities have the news they need to stay informed and engaged. New Jersey residents have told us time and again how the loss of local news has left them in the dark, and we’ve always believed that the consortium can begin to revitalize and transform media in the state. We want to thank Governor Murphy and the legislature for creating a bright future for informed communities in New Jersey.”

“I would like to thank Governor Murphy for releasing the funding for the consortium and thank our legislative supporters for their support during the budget process last spring,” said New Jersey Civic Information Consortium Board Member John R.D. Celock. “The consortium has a lot of work to do to address the news-desert crisis in communities across the state, particularly in our rural areas and in communities of color. The governor’s release of these funds is an important step for us to start our work.”

“Our thanks to Governor Murphy for releasing $2 million to launch the consortium,” said Juan González, a fellow board member, the co-host of Democracy Now! and a professor at Rutgers University, which is a member of the consortium. “With so many traditional sources of local news vanishing throughout the country, this state support will help local communities partner with public higher education to pioneer and implement new models of disseminating vital information in the future to New Jersey residents.”  

“The news that Governor Murphy has released the money needed to initiate the Civic Information Consortium is a very welcome outcome, and a boon for local journalism,” said Maurice L. Hall, a fellow board member and dean and professor of communications at the College of New Jersey, another consortium member. “With increasing attention being paid to the decimation of local-news outlets across the country, the consortium is an exciting opportunity for the state of New Jersey to be an innovator and a national leader in rethinking and reshaping local journalism.”

“This is a much-needed step for local news in New Jersey — thanks to the support of the legislature and governor,” said Chris Daggett, former president of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and a consortium board member.

Free Press Action worked closely with the consortium’s legislative champions, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and State Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, to secure funding for this historic effort.

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