TRENTON — Late Sunday night, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy approved dedicating $5 million to the Civic Information Consortium, a first-of-its-kind nonprofit with a mission to revive, strengthen and transform local media in New Jersey.
Legislation that will create the consortium, nicknamed the Civic Info Bill, passed the legislature and is on Gov. Murphy’s desk awaiting his signature.
Free Press Action Fund conceived the legislation by drawing on more than two years of community input and engagement. The historic bill creates the Civic Information Consortium and will invest the $5 million in projects designed to meet the information needs of residents around New Jersey, especially in underserved communities, low-income communities and communities of color.
The Civic Information Consortium will be 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 will 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 media-literacy and civic-engagement programs. It will also provide grants to support the information needs of New Jersey’s low-income communities and communities of color.
Mike Rispoli, the state director for Free Press Action Fund, made the following statement:
“Today marks a historic victory for all people across New Jersey. Over the last 18 months, residents around the state spoke out in support of the Civic Info Bill. Thousands signed petitions, called their lawmakers, attended community forums and participated in lobby days at the statehouse. Their stories about how communities have suffered from years of media consolidation were the driving force to securing millions of dollars that will strengthen local news and information in towns and cities across New Jersey.
“Never before has a state taken the lead to address the growing crisis in local news. Trustworthy local journalism is the lifeblood of democracy; it allows people to participate meaningfully in decisions regarding local elections, public schools and policy decisions.
“New Jersey is now a model for the rest of the nation, and we’re grateful for the support of lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and all the other sponsors of this landmark legislation. And we thank Governor Murphy for dedicating millions of dollars to launch the Civic Information Consortium.
“Now we need to get to work. Free Press Action Fund will ensure that the consortium fulfills its mission of strengthening local journalism, fostering community engagement and amplifying the voices of people of color and other marginalized communities. We look forward to continuing to engage residents around New Jersey to hear how the consortium can support their communities.”