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TRENTON — On Monday, the New Jersey Senate passed the Civic Info Bill (S2317), legislation Free Press Action Fund spearheaded that would create a public fund to invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to strengthen local news coverage statewide.

The New Jersey Assembly passed its companion bill (A3628) last Thursday. Once the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill are reconciled this week, the legislation will head to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The bill would create the Civic Information Consortium, 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 consortium would fund projects to improve the quantity and quality of news and information in New Jersey communities, which would benefit longstanding and startup news outlets alike while also launching statewide media-literacy and civic-engagement programs. It would also provide grants to support the information needs of New Jersey’s low-income communities and communities of color. It would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Free Press Action Fund News Voices Director Mike Rispoli made the following statement:

“Strengthening local media in New Jersey is one of the best ways we can ensure that communities stay informed and engaged. Despite the good work of many talented journalists across the state, years of runaway media consolidation, layoffs and newsroom closings have left many communities with little to no local news coverage. That’s not just bad for the journalism industry — it’s harmful to our communities and our democracy.

“The Civic Info Bill couldn’t come at a more urgent time. It would invest millions of dollars in projects designed to strengthen local journalism, foster community engagement and amplify the voices of people of color and other marginalized communities. We’re excited to see lawmakers support this effort, and we urge Governor Murphy to sign this bill into law and help make New Jersey a national model for how to create a 21st-century public-interest media system, one that’s rooted in communities, based on collaboration, and focused on lifting up unheard voices.”

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