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You can say a lot in six words or less:

“I came. I saw. I conquered.”

“Baby, we were born to run.”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

“No, Luke, I am your father.”

Free Press Action Fund has been holding community forums around New Jersey this year to discuss ideas to strengthen local news and civic information. At these sessions, we’ve challenged participants to sum up the state of New Jersey’s media in six words or less.

The sticky notes with the pithy summaries get posted on an easel for all to see. It’s been one of the more fun and revealing parts of the forums.

Here’s a sampling of some of the best wit and wisdom from our collection of stickies:

  • No diversity! Understaffed! Clueless on Camden!
  • Stripped to the bones.
  • Be braver with investigative reporting.
  • “No man’s land” of media.
  • Needs to be more humble.
  • Needs voices of working people!
  • Lacking a sense of statewide mission.
  • Bean counters at odds with journalists.
  • We need more community coverage.
  • Ill-equipped to cover local government news.

The feedback hasn’t all been negative, though:

  • Embattled but essential.
  • Need more of it.
  • Necessary for the survival of democracy.
  • Doing well; how can public help?
  • Keep local news alive; it’s important.
  • Keep rooting out local corruption.
  • Hope it gets its mojo back.

Clearly, at least one journalist attended (actually, more than a few did):

       So much news, so little time.

Finally, New Jersey’s second-class status — it’s squeezed between the New York City and Philadelphia markets — got plenty of attention:

  • NYC. Philly. Not here. Not local.
  • New Jersey isn’t a New York suburb.
  • NJ doesn’t need NYC news.
  • Second place to NY and Philly.
  • Philly/NYC don’t equal Jersey.

The forums so far have been held in Asbury Park, Camden, Glassboro, Hackensack, Montclair and New Brunswick.

The final one is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum.

Free Press Action Fund has organized these events to inform the public about a bill in the legislature to create a New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, which would get $100 million of the $332-million windfall the state received from selling off old public-television stations.

The consortium, working with the state’s public research universities, community organizations, digital innovators and local journalists, would invest the money in projects to improve local news and civic information in innovative ways.

Free Press Action Fund is leading the drive to get the bill passed by June 30 as part of the state’s budget process.  An Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing on the bill is slated for June 19 in Trenton.

Urge your lawmakers to support the Civic Info Bill.

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