Jersey Journalism Suffers Another Blow

Murphy's 2020 budget lacks funds for planned consortium to support local media.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Governor Phil Murphy’s 2020 New Jersey budget proposal fails to fund a new bill that would expand state support of local journalism, much to the dismay of proponents of the bill, which Murphy signed into law in July 2018.

Leaders of Free Press Action Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to making media and news more accessible, expressed disappointment in the lack of funding for the Civic Information Consortium, a nonprofit created by last year’s Civic Information Bill.

The consortium is conceived as a partnership among five New Jersey institutions: The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University and Rowan University. With their combined resources, along with ideas from grant applicants, the goal is to support more local journalism around the state. Layoffs and industry consolidation have significantly reduced the number of local reporters working in New Jersey.

Prior to the signing of the bill, Murphy pledged $5 million for the creation of the consortium. However, upon signing it, the governor said funds were not yet available. Supporters’ hopes were further dashed when the governor made no mention of the consortium in his 2020 budget proposal earlier this month.

Mike Rispoli, director of Free Press Action Fund’s News Voices initiative, says the project is essential to providing news access to underserved and low-income communities. To make it a reality, he says, supporters must be heard.

“The only way this is going to happen is if people contact their lawmakers,” says Rispoli.

The bill’s sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, are in talks with other legislative leaders and the governor to add funding for the consortium to the 2020 budget. Shane Mitchell, legislative director for Weinberg, says the senator hopes to secure funding for the project by July 1, the deadline for budget approval.

“The senator [Weinberg] believes strongly in the Civic Information Consortium and hopes to get it adequately funded,” Mitchell says. “We are going to fight for it again.”

The governor’s office did not provide a comment by deadline.

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