TRENTON — This week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy released his proposed FY 2020 budget, which includes $1 million in funding for the Civic Information Consortium.
This innovative nonprofit, which Free Press Action conceived of, would ensure residents have access to quality news and information about their communities. It would invest in valuable local-news coverage in parts of New Jersey that have become news deserts and 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 $5 million for the consortium, Murphy later said that the earmarked funds were not available.
Since then, Free Press Action has been working with the consortium’s legislative champions, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and State Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald, to secure full funding for this first-of-its-kind effort. The $1 million allotted in Gov. Murphy’s budget, while a good first step, would not allow the consortium to succeed.
Free Press Action New Jersey Organizer James L. Thompson made the following statement:
“We appreciate the vote of confidence Governor Murphy has given the Civic Info Consortium by including $1 million in funding for this historic initiative in his budget. But this amount is just a fraction of the $5 million lawmakers and the governor approved for the consortium last year.
“The consortium needs to be fully funded to give New Jersey residents access to better local news and information. The state’s media are in crisis, with journalists losing their jobs on a regular basis and the threat of even more media consolidation looming. Failing to fully fund the consortium would deal a serious blow to civic engagement and dialogue for people across the state.
“It’s a positive sign that Governor Murphy has committed to funding the consortium. Free Press Action looks forward to working with the governor and legislative leaders to ensure this much-needed nonprofit receives the $5 million it needs to get off the ground and serve the people of New Jersey.”