Loved and Lost statewide media collaboration launched to identify, remember NJ COVID-19 victims
Partnership builds off work started by NorthJersey.com journalists, will be coordinated by Center for Cooperative Media
At least 12,835 people have died in New Jersey due to COVID-19 as of today.
I’ve had to revise that sentence several times since I first started writing this post, and it will likely be out of date by the time you read it.
It’s hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? At least 12,835 people who, on New Year’s Day this year, had no idea their life would end suddenly and soon because of a horrific respiratory disease. At least 12,835 people who maybe had plans to be visiting with family or traveling right now. At least 12,835 people who were alive this winter but gone by summer.
At least 12,835 families who were forced to have only a very small funeral or memorial ceremony for their loved one—or, more likely, nothing at all.
Earlier this year, journalists at The Record and NorthJersey.com started a project to memorialize New Jersey’s COVID-19 victims. At that time, the state had several hundred deaths. I reached out to the top editor there, Dan Sforza, and by the time we got on the phone the death toll had hit 1,500 and was growing rapidly.
My ask was simple: Given the scale of the tragedy, would The Record and NorthJersey.com be willing to share management of its project with us at the Center for Cooperative Media, and allow us to transform it into a statewide collaboration?
Yes, he said. He and his team knew they wouldn’t be able to tackle the project alone. And that’s become ever more true as the number of deaths has swelled.
Today, I’m thrilled to announce the Center is partnering with The Record and NorthJersey.com to re-launch Loved and Lost as a statewide collaboration, thanks to initial support from The Nicholson Foundation. (You can read NorthJersey.com’s column about Loved and Lost here.)
Our goal is two-fold: First, to name as many New Jersey COVID-19 victims as we are able to verify and add them to our wall of names at LovedAndLostNJ.com; and second, to have journalists and storytellers do as many stories about the people who died as we possibly can.
If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and would like to add their name to the wall of names, use this form to send us that information.
We’re recruiting media and storytelling partners across the state to help in this mammoth effort; large and small, independent, hyperlocal, nonprofit and public media are all welcome, as are student journalists, independent journalists, local media-makers and storytellers. We are asking all partners to help promote the name submission form noted above, to send us links to stories they have already done about individuals who died from COVID-19, and to continue to produce stories about others.
To begin with, all the Gannett newspapers across New Jersey — including NorthJersey.com, The Record, Asbury Park Press, Daily Record, NJ Herald, Courier News, Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and Home News Tribune —have joined the project.
Media partners interested in joining Loved and Lost can sign up here.
An effort this size needs a lot of coordination and collaboration, which is why the Center and NorthJersey.com are also pleased to welcome Chanteé Lans to join the project.
Chanteé is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist and is serving as the initial project manager, based at the Center.
She was previously a general assignment reporter at KYW-TV CBS 3 Philadelphia. She joined CBS 3 from WBZ-TV, the CBS-owned and operated sister station in Boston, Massachusetts where she was also a general assignment reporter.
I’m grateful to Dan and his team at NorthJersey.com, especially editor Jim O’Neill, for their leadership in getting this project launched and organized.
I’m so thankful for the support of The Nicholson Foundation. This is very personal to their team; Colette Lamothe-Galette, a senior program officer at The Nicholson Foundation, passed away on April 4 at the age of 45, a victim of COVID-19. This is also personal to us at the Center, as one of our staffers, Nicole Wigfall, lost her father Thomas A. Wigfall, Jr. to COVID-19 on April 1.
Finally, I’m hopeful we will be able to take our current list of about 400 names and grow it to thousands of names, because New Jersey’s coronavirus victims should not pass in shadow or silence. Each life had a meaning that should be celebrated, and only by understanding who we are losing can we understand the true impact of this virus.
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Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact her at email@example.com.
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.