Legislation Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty and Carol Murphy sponsored to establish a New Jersey Civic Information Consortium was approved 54-22 Thursday by the full Assembly.
“New Jersey’s reliance on New York and Philadelphia media outlets for information means that a lot of our residents’ news is coming not from their neighbors, but rather outside reporters who may be unfamiliar with the links between the state’s past and its present,” said Greenwald
(D-Camden/Burlington). “Local news is the lifeblood of a community. It adds local context to stories and keeps those in power accountable. Supporting it is undoubtedly in the public’s best interest.”
The bill (A-3628) would establish the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium to advance research and innovation in media and technology to benefit the state’s civic life and evolving information needs. The consortium – which would comprise Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University – would be established as an educational, charitable 501©(3) nonprofit corporation and would provide grants that support news and information in New Jersey.
“Sometimes all it takes for someone to become an active participant in improving his or her community is a news package that identifies a problem and sparks a passion for finding the solution, but if people don’t know what’s wrong, they can’t make it right,” said Moriarty
(D-Camden/Gloucester). “Bolstering public-interest journalism, civic information and media innovation is about giving New Jersey residents the tools they need to get involved and change their communities for the better.”
“When it comes to state news coverage and civic information, New Jersey is one of the most underserved states in the nation,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “This lack of information makes it difficult for New Jersey residents to know what’s happening in their communities, which has a negative impact on civic engagement.”
The bill would require the consortium to report annually to the governor and the legislature on its activities and make the report available on its website. The report is to include, but not be limited to:
a list of all grant applicants and approved grant applicants;
the grant amounts of approved grant applicants
the amount of matching funds and types of in-kind contributions provided to approved grant applicants; and
a status report on the activities funded by an approved grant applicant.
The bill also would require the board to hold one public hearing annually in the northern, central and southern regions of the state to provide a forum for the board to report on how public funds are spent and gather public input on the consortium’s mission.
The consortium’s 13-member board would consist of the following members: two gubernatorial appointees; one member each appointed by the Senate president and the Assembly speaker; one appointment each by the president of each member university with a background in journalism, media or technology; and five members, appointed by a majority vote of the other eight appointed board members, of which one member is to represent the media sector, one member to represent the technology sector, one member to represent the nonprofit sector, and two members, not employed by the state or a member university at the time of their appointment, having demonstrated a record of commitment to public service and understanding the importance of media and technology to New Jersey’s future.
The bill now awaits further consideration by the Senate.