Here’s what you missed at the 2022 NJ Local News Summit
A look back at some of the exciting local news efforts underway in New Jersey
On Nov. 17, the 2022 NJ Local News Summit brought together journalists, media professionals, and community members to discuss the future of local news in New Jersey. This year’s Summit was co-presented by the Center for Cooperative Media and the NJ Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Even though the Summit is now officially in our collective rearview mirror, we haven’t been able to stop talking and thinking about the discussions and presentations we heard last month. So, here’s a brief overview of what you missed if you were unable to attend.
You can check out all of the materials and documentation from this year’s Summit on the LNS22 Extras page, including the full schedule and speaker list, and see the full playlist of all the recorded sessions below:
🗝️ Kicking things off with a keynote
Our keynote conversation featured Terrence T. McDonald, editor of the New Jersey Monitor, who discussed the challenges and opportunities of leading a new nonprofit news organization in the midst of a pandemic and political polarization. Ambreen Ali, former Center staffer and founder of Central Desi, served as the host for the keynote conversation.
McDonald shared his experiences leading the newly-formed NJ Monitor through the first two years of the pandemic and discussed what he believes is the future of media in the state. He emphasized the importance of local journalism in providing critical information to communities and the challenges faced by media organizations during the pandemic.
Following the keynote, participants had the chance to share their funding priorities with members of the NJ Civic Information Consortium’s board and grants strategy committee during a listening session.
⌛ Newsroom representation and accountability
One of the highlights of the Summit was the panel discussion on holding newsrooms accountable with the newly-formed JAWN Coalition (Journalism Accountability Watchdog Network).
The panel featured Tauhid Chappell of Free Press, Ernest Owens of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, Jingyao Yu of Resolve Philly and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, and Vanessa Maria Graber of Free Press and the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
The panel discussed equity, representation, and accountability in NJ, NY, and PA newsrooms — specifically the JAWN Coalition’s recent interactions (or lack thereof) with The Philadelphia Inquirer.
⚒️ Hands-on workshops
After a brief lunch and networking break, attendees had the option of participating in one of two workshops: “How to bring a community together to build a podcast,” led by Jordan Gass-Poore’ of the Hazard NJ Podcast, or “Time management for local journalists,” led by Jeremy Caplan of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
These workshops were not recorded, but materials from each workshop are available upon request.
✍️ Community scribes and the cost of local news
Next, we hosted a panel on “Cultivating community scribes in South Jersey,” featuring representatives from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, and Journalism + Design at The New School.
The panel discussed the successes of the Community Scribe program, which trains community members in journalism skills to report on local issues and events.
In particular, Dr. Stonbely’s forthcoming research will focus on what people in the Garden State are asked to pay to get full access to digital and print news in various outlets and geographic areas across the state.
We’ll make sure to post updates and more information once the full paper is published.
⚡Lightning talks to bring us home
The Summit wrapped up with a series of lightning talks — consistently one of our most popular offerings at our Summits and journalism conferences — which covered a range of topics relevant to local journalists and publishers across the Garden State.
One theme that emerged from the talks was the importance of diversity and inclusivity in local news. Several speakers, including Ambreen Ali and Tennyson Donyéa, talked about the “solopreneur” journalism space and creating room for a more inclusive news ecosystem in the state.
Oni Advincula talked about his work at the Center to launch and facilitate the new NJ News Commons Spanish Translation News Service, statewide collaborative meant to increase the amount of quality statewide news available to Spanish-language news audiences.
Next, Center staffers Reet Starwind and Cassandra Etienne talked about their work on Stories Invincible and the South Jersey Information Equity Project, highlighting their efforts to improve the quality and quantity of local news and information produced by and for people of color in South Jersey.
Another theme that emerged from the lightning talks was the role of local news in addressing pressing community issues. Melissa Helmbrecht discussed the work of her organization, Hopeloft, in addressing issues facing local communities, and Amanda Richardson from the Corporation for NJ Local Media talked about the Northern New Jersey News Collaborative’s use of solutions journalism to report on the topic of flooding and stormwater management.
Flisadam Pointer also discussed the value of arts and entertainment coverage as a way to bring communities together.
The lightning talks also touched on the importance of digital strategies and innovation in local news. Neill Borowski of 70and73.com discussed the value of planning board coverage and how to effectively cover and promote the reporting on social media. Jason Strother talked about Lens15 Media, New Jersey’s first disability-focused news agency, and how he leverages digital platforms to tell accessible stories and reach a wider audience.
Overall, the panels, lightning talks, and other presentations at this year’s Summit highlighted the diverse range of issues and challenges facing local journalists and publishers in New Jersey — along with the importance of diversity, inclusivity, equity, accessibility, and innovation when attempting to address them.
We are so grateful to everyone who presented, attended, and participated in this year’s NJ Local News Summit, and we can’t wait to see you all again in 2023 for the next one.
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, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 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.