Gov. Phil Murphy soon is expected to sign a bill to create a fund to help bolster local media, amidst an era of nationwide declining news coverage and shrinking local journalism.
Five universities would oversee the $5 million fund, called the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, created to provide grants to emerging local media outlets.
“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,” said Free Press Action Fund News Voices Director Mike Rispoli.
The nonprofit helped craft the bill and pressed for its passage.
Rispoli said that in 2017, the Free Press Action Fund held 10 public forums across the state to hammer out ideas on the consortium.
The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University will lead the consortium, with the goal of improving the quantity and quality of news, the bill reads.
“We need to establish a university-based consortium that promotes innovation in the media and trains a new generation of journalists to work in a changing environment,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District, one of the bill’s sponsors. “A functioning, representative democracy is dependent on a vital free press.”
A 13-member board of directors will oversee the nonprofit consortium, with two members each appointed by the Governor and Legislature. Each of the five colleges will appoint its own member, with another four from community groups, and the media and technology field.
The consortium would also have four staff to oversee the administrative aspects of the fund.
Grant-eligible organizations have to show that they’re collaborating with at least one of the member universities and a local community, media or technology organization, according to the bill.