Background image: The Mohawk Park Bridge in Cranford, NJ. Photo: Jackie Finn-Irwin via Flickr.

Cranford Radio partners with TAPinto Cranford to create collaborative local news podcast

A group of local publishers in New Jersey have started working across corporate lines on a collaborative news project that they hope will provide a vital public service to their community: a local news podcast.

Bernie Wagenblast is the founder, editor and producer of Cranford Radio. Cranford is a small, middle-class town in Union County, N.J., with just over 22,600 residents. Wagenblast recently partnered with Cranford.com, and TAPinto Cranford, a hyperlocal news website run by Leah Scalzadonna, to produce and distribute a weekly local news podcast covering all things Cranford.

“I’ve always been a fan of collaboration,” Wagenblast says. “Not just in my business, but also in everyday life.”

Wagenblast launched Cranford Radio in January 2014 and describes it as “the place to not only learn about what’s happening in Cranford but to hear the people of Cranford.” Wagenblast says he views Cranford Radio as a public service, and therefore derives no revenue from the site. (Wagenblast makes his living from writing the Transportation Communications Newsletter and doing voiceover work through his business, Bernie Wagenblast Communications, LLC.)

The process for producing each episode is straightforward. During the week, Wagenblast reads through the original reporting on the TAPinto Cranford website and summarizes the stories to make them more podcast-friendly.

He usually finishes putting the final touches on the script by Thursday, and the finished episode goes live on Friday — just as local listeners are preparing for the weekend. Each episode includes anywhere from two to five headlines, mostly consisting of hard news and current affairs, and ends with a brief rundown of upcoming events and other useful information for local residents derived from Cranford.com.

TAPinto Cranford is then able to take the weekend update episode and republish it on the TAPinto Cranford homepage in the form of a YouTube video.

Because the podcast is also available on TuneIn, listeners can access each episode of the podcast using the Amazon Echo. Users can simply say, “Alexa, play Cranford Radio podcast,” and the latest episode will automatically start playing.

“I’m definitely interested in expanding this project in the future to include more collaborators,” said Leah Scalzadonna, editor of TAPinto Cranford. “I think collaboration is an awesome way to reach a broader audience and lend different voices to a story. I hope it’s something that TAPinto Cranford can continue to do in the future.”

Wagenblast has also worked behind the scenes in the past with Jackie Lieberman, editor of TAPinto Westfield, to help her launch her own local news podcast.

“My idea was to start with something small,” Wagenblast says, and then work toward bigger collaborations and other projects in the future.

Working independently, but with a collaborative mindset, allows each partner to continue doing what they do best while also taking advantage of the additional content and promotional benefits that come with their informal partnership.

“It helps to develop a level of trust between each other by working on these smaller projects,” Lieberman said.


Bernie Wagenblast will help lead a free training session in February 2018 for local publishers interested in starting an audio newscast or local podcast in their community. Send an email to info@njnewscommons.org if you are interested in attending.

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact him at amditisj@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. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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