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Majority Leaders Louis Greenwald and Loretta Weinberg to Introduce Legislation Creating the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium

Senator Weinberg

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) today announced they are introducing legislation to create the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium (A-4933), a nonprofit that will support news and information and benefit New Jersey’s underserved communities.

“Over the past decade we’ve seen news organizations throughout the state shut their doors, leaving many communities without quality local news and reporting,” said Majority Leader Greenwald. “The New Jersey Civic Information Consortium will reinvigorate our local media and allow for more civic engagement in our communities.”

This consortium will consist of four member universities (Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University, and Rutgers University), who partner to focus on key areas of information needs, providing better quality civic information to New Jerseyans, give residents greater access to government data, train the next generation of journalists, and provide better information to underserved communities.

“With the closure of many local, family-owned papers, New Jersey has lost much of its local news coverage, making us an extremely underserved state,” said Majority Leader Weinberg. “We’ve also seen cutbacks at some of the larger newspapers in the state, resulting in smaller staffs and fewer resources to cover the state. Particularly during these uncertain times, we need a strong and free press, which we know is the best safeguard for truth in our state and the country. This legislation will provide support for journalism and for the kind of programs that will help to keep the public informed and provide government accountability and transparency that our residents deserve.”

Each year grants will be provided for collaborative projects between local universities, media organizations, and community organizations. These projects can span from creating small digital newsrooms within partner universities, or creating data portals for municipalities, giving residents more access to local government, to initiating an AmeriCorps-like program to bring a diverse cohort of journalists to New Jersey for at least two years at a time.

The board will be made up by 13 members; two appointed by the Governor; one member appointed by the Senate President; one  appointed by the Assembly Speaker; four members appointed by member university presidents; five appointed by the majority vote of the eight appointed members; and two members who have a commitment to public service and media.

The consortium would be funded by the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority with the proceeds derived from the annual Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Spectrum Auction. $20,000,000 would be transferred to the Consortium annually over a five year period.

“The Garden State is overshadowed by the New York and Philadelphia media markets, with no media market of its own. This legislation will create an influx of local news for the underserved communities throughout New Jersey,” said Majority Leader Greenwald. “Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that quality local journalism is available to all Garden State residents.”

This is a one-of-a-kind program that will bolster New Jersey’s media organizations and continue to provide accessibility and transparency for residents.