15 New Jersey news organizations awarded stipends to cover digital divide and solutions for students

The awards are facilitated by the Center for Cooperative Media and funded by the New Jersey Children’s Foundation

Stefanie Murray
Feb 15 · 5 min read

The digital divide has had a major, detrimental impact on the lives of thousands of students around New Jersey since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year. Students without consistent Internet access or proper computer equipment at home have struggled. And it’s still unclear when students might be back to full in-person learning.

To enable additional reporting on how the digital divide is affecting New Jersey’s K-12 students and what solutions could help, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is pleased to announce reporting awards to 15 news organizations. Our awardees will each be given $1,500 to support their pursuit of at least two written stories with images, or one video or audio package.

These awards from the Center are supported by funding from the New Jersey Children’s Foundation.

The awardees include:

Atlantic City

  • Stories of Atlantic City, Atlantic City, N.J.: Stories of Atlantic City will report on the challenges and successes of the how the Oceanside Family Success Center is addressing the void created by COVID-19 with a multifaceted approach, and how Atlantic City educator Kierra Walker created personalized, take-home fundamental boards for students and hosted socially distanced events to encourage physical activity and socialization.
  • Raymond Tyler for Shore Local Newsmagazine, Atlantic County Magazine, FM 106. 5 WPPM and 91.7 WLFR FM, Atlantic County, N.J.: Reporter Raymond Tyler will look at what has been done to to help students for whom the digital divide is exacerbated by a lack of food, as many students including those in Atlantic City depend on school breakfast and lunch programs. He will also explore what the educational system has planned for the students that could not keep up with virtual learning.
  • Front Runner New Jersey, Atlantic City, N.J.: Front Runner journalist Clyde Hughes will look at how the digital divide is affecting students of color in Atlantic City and Camden, including a look at what help creative educators are getting to bridge that gap.
  • Shore Local Newsmagazine, Atlantic City, N.J.: Shore Local will look at how virtual learning and hybrid learning have impacted students and families in Atlantic City compared to surrounding communities.

Camden

  • Katrina Janco for NJ Pen, Camden, N.J.: Reporter Katrina Janco will examine how Camden can bridge the digital divide for good and without depending on the inconsistent goodwill of outside businesses and nonprofits. For example, could municipal public broadband be created in Camden, as a public utility, similar in some ways to Newark Fiber or the Electric Power Board in Chattanooga, Tennessee?
  • Sarah Baldwin for NJ Pen, Camden, N.J.: Reporter Sarah Baldwin will examine local projects and businesses that are working to increase internet access for low-income residents in Camden, such as the Camden Dream Project and the “No Child Left Offline” program. She will also talk to teachers within Camden and surrounding schools about how they have adjusted lesson plans for remote learning and how they have ensured that the lessons are accessible to all students.
  • TAPinto Camden, Camden, N.J.: Journalist Steven Rodas of TAPinto Camden will look at what else the district is doing, or could do, to keep students engaged online beyond supplying equipment, and also how educators are keeping students engaged when they are in virtual class.

Newark

  • WBGO in Newark, N.J.: Using Zoom panel interviews and radio features, reporter Alexandra Hill will do a series of reports from the perspective of parents, students and teachers in Newark about the digital divide.
  • The Newark Times, Newark, N.J.: The Newark Times will look at what the pandemic has shown about the allocation of Newark’s education resources, and also how families and community organizations have worked together to support students in virtual learning.

Other New Jersey cities

  • The Hammonton Gazette in Hammonton, N.J.: Reporter Joseph F. Berenato will examine how the Hammonton school district is reaching students in low-income families and families where English is not the primary language spoken, as well as how special needs students in those two groups are being educated. Kristin Guglietti will be reporting on absenteeism issues in the district.
  • TAPinto Plainfield in Plainfield, N.J.: The Plainfield Public School district provided mobile hotspots to assist students without Internet connectivity. Despite being able to get online, there have been gaps in understanding for parents trying to help their children with virtual learning. TAPinto Plainfield plans to find out what the stumbling blocks are and then devise a plan — utilizing video — to help families learn how to use programs like Schoology
  • Trenton Journal in Trenton, N.J.: The Trenton Journal will explore how the school system and the community are working to close the digital divide in Trenton, and what solutions could help. The story will also examine how other school systems have had success in closing digital gaps.
  • TAPinto Paterson, Paterson, N.J.: TAPinto Paterson will work directly with the Paterson Youth Council to help Paterson youth tell stories of how the digital divide has impacted their studies. The students will be compensated via the grant award.
  • TAPinto Hackensack, Hackensack, N.J.: TAPinto Hackensack will look at the the digital divide as it applies to several schools in the City of Hackensack, Hackensack Public Schools, Bergen Arts & Sciences Charter School, Bergen County Academies, Bergen County Technical High School, and the small Bergen County Christian Academy, including the resources those schools have provided to assist their students and how community groups and stakeholders have stepped up.
  • TAPinto New Brunswick, News Brunswick, N.J.: TAPinto New Brunswick will look at the impact of language barriers on top of a digital divide in a city where half of the residents speak a language other than English at home.

Applications were judged using a scoring rubric with weighted objective and subjective criteria. The objective scoring prioritized New Jersey-based organizations and freelancers, stories from a preferred city, applicants who identified as part of an underrepresented or marginalized group, and applicants who identified as having a high financial need. The subjective scoring was done by an outside panel of judges and assessed how well the story pitches addressed issues and solutions relating to the digital divide, its potential impact and the overall strength of the application.

The external judges included John Mooney, co-founder of NJ Spotlight News and longtime education reporter; Rann Miller, a freelance writer, a Ph.D. candidate and a director for a school district afterschool and summer program; and Tara George, associate professor at the School of Communication and head of the journalism and television/digital media program at Montclair State University.

Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact her at murrayst@montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair…

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