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It’s official: On Thursday the Civic Info Bill was introduced to New Jersey’s legislature, giving lawmakers the chance to revive and transform local news media across the Garden State.

A chance to fix the state's news crisis

When the news broke a few months ago that New Jersey would receive $332 million from the sale of old public-media stations in a federal spectrum auction, we knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a new model for community-engaged journalism — especially in the wake of massive layoffs and newsroom closings.

Since then, Free Press Action Fund has been campaigning to ensure that a significant portion of the auction proceeds is invested in a newly created New Jersey Civic Information Consortium.

Statehouse leaders back the bill

And on June 1, State Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D–Camden) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D–Bergen) introduced legislation to accomplish just that.

Assembly Bill A4933 and Senate Bill S3303 would allocate $100 million in proceeds from the spectrum auction.

The funding for the consortium would be allocated in $20-million annual disbursements over a five-year period. By leveraging the resources, knowledge and expertise of our partners at Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University, the consortium could help bolster public-interest journalism, civic information and media innovation for decades to come.

This effort would focus in particular on meeting the information needs of underserved New Jersey communities.

This legislation is a unique opportunity to fix the local news crisis.

People rely on locally produced news and information to engage with their neighbors, learn about volunteer opportunities, make decisions about voting, run for public office, get information about small businesses and support their children in local schools. But right now too many communities across the state are missing this essential information.

The fate of this bill will be decided in the next few weeks — and we need your voice to cross the finish line.

Urge your lawmakers to vote YES on the Civic Info Bill.

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