We the undersigned residents and organizations of New Jersey believe that strong local news and information are essential to any community working to determine its future. With accurate news and information, residents are better able to make informed decisions about public services, education, jobs, business and so much more.
Thousands of newsroom jobs have disappeared and dozens of news outlets have shut down throughout New Jersey over the last decade.1 These cuts have harmed communities by reducing the amount of news and civic information residents have access to.
In the face of this crisis, we urge you to pass A4933/S3303 forming the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium (NJCIC), which would invest in projects to strengthen local news, community information, civic technology and civic engagement across New Jersey. This innovative new way of funding news and information would be built on collaboration among leading research universities, digital innovators, community groups and everyday people, and would the first of its kind in the nation.
Evidence shows that when local news disappears, civic participation drops,2 corruption increases3 and lawmakers are less responsive to the needs of their constituents.4 The NJCIC would cultivate new ways of informing our communities and shedding light on the lives of our most marginalized residents.
The New Jersey Civic Information Consortium represents our state’s best opportunity to create a transformative new model, using a portion of the $332 million in revenue recently earned from the FCC’s auction of two of the state’s old public-media stations. These stations were created to serve the public interest; it’s only right that the funds from their sale be used to rebuild local news and information.
The NJCIC would seek out, evaluate and invest in proposals in partnership with journalists, the technology sector, community organizations, and university partners.
The partnering universities would have resources to implement a range of noteworthy projects. For example, these are some of the innovative ideas that surfaced at community forums held across the state:
* Creating small digital newsrooms within partner universities
* Hosting journalism and media-business trainings with residents interested in building new media projects that serve their communities
* Giving residents greater access to information about their local government
* Creating fellowships for a diverse cohort of young journalists who would work for at least two years with established news organizations to cover local news in underserved areas
The rewards would be significant — beginning with an engaged, invigorated population better positioned to spark positive change.
Our state prides itself on being a place where people from all walks of life come to raise families, build careers and help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. The hundreds of millions received from the recent sale of old public-media stations represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give New Jerseyans the news and information they need to participate fully in our democracy.
We strongly urge you to pass A4933/S3303 using a portion of this revenue to fund the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium.