‘Team of Rivals’ forms non-profit to preserve community journalism

Jun 16, 2020

Two candidates who ran against each other last November are teaming up in a non-partisan effort to preserve and strengthen community newspapers in New Jersey.

Nicolas Platt, a Republican Harding Township Committee member and former mayor, and his past opponent, Amanda Richardson, the Harding Democratic chair, formed the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media, http://www.newsweneed.org, to ensure the future of community newspapers.

The new organization will kick off its efforts with a webinar from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 23 on “The Future of Local Journalism.”

The new non-profit will “preserve and expand the quality and accessibility of professional journalism that is vital to informed civic engagement and the practice of democracy,” including exploring non-pro!t ownership as a sustainable model for community newspapers.

“Local newspapers are the lifeblood of our communities, but their future is increasingly threatened,” said Platt, the non-pro!t’s founding chair.

“Nearly 2,000 community newspapers across the country have closed in the past 15 years, and thousands more have been acquired by large corporations, eliminating the jobs of thousands of reporters who covered council meetings, promoted community engagement and chronicled the lives of their communities.

“We need to think creatively and act aggressively if we want to preserve professional community journalism before it is gone forever,” said Richardson, executive director of the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media. “Fortunately, there are promising new approaches that combine traditional newspaper operations with non-pro!t fund-raising models to create sustainable community journalism.”

The Corporation for New Jersey Local Media will operate as a special project under the aegis of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, which successfully launched New Jersey Spotlight, the respected public policy website, a decade ago.

“We are pleased to facilitate this important effort to not only preserve community newspapers, but also expand their capacity to enhance civic engagement and participation at the regional and local level on issues of importance, as New Jersey Spotlight did on a statewide basis,” said Hans Dekker, president of the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

While new on-line news organizations like New Jersey Spotlight have frequently organized as non-pro!ts, the model didn’t begin to spread to traditional newspapers until three years ago, when the Philadelphia Inquirer shifted to community ownership under the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

The Salt Lake Tribune transitioned into a nonpro!t last November, and the weekly Montclair Local became the !rst non-pro!t newspaper in New Jersey the following month.

John Mooney, founder of New Jersey Spotlight, and Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Lenfest Institute, will join Heeten Choxi, publisher of Montclair Local, and Liz Parker, co-publisher with her brother Steve Parker of the New Jersey Hills Media Group, which owns this newspaper, on the panel for the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media’s webinar on “The Future of Local Journalism.”

“We are pleased to have such a knowledgeable and thoughtful panel of experts for our opening webinar,” said Platt. “Preserving and expanding community journalism is vital to our democracy, and invite concerned, civic-minded citizens to join us for this important discussion.”

Participants can sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-future-of-local- journalism-tickets-109577033858 and can submit questions for the panelists.

Platt serves as one of New Jersey’s two Shared Services Czars, is president of the Hartley Dodge Foundation, and serves on the boards of GAMCO Advisors and the Eisenhower Foundation. Richardson, a lawyer, previously cofounded and served as program director for Resource Equity, a non-pro!t with a $1.25 million budget that worked on securing land rights for women internationally

Rachel Holland, who serves as events coordinator for New Jersey Spotlight, is also taking on that role for the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media. Tamara Pompey, a Los Angeles-based non-pro!t expert, is serving as chief strategist, and Matt Phillp, a Brooklyn-based marketing specialist, as creative director.

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