To the Editor:
New Jerseyans are stranded in a news desert. That is, we lack essential news and information about ourselves and our communities. Why? The state is wedged between two populous cities, New York City to the north and Philadelphia to the south. As a result — and depending on which half of the state you live in — you’re receiving a daily ration of news by broadcast and print outlets based out of state, while getting very little reporting about the New Jersey community in which you live.
Last year the Federal Communications Commission auctioned off the state’s two main public TV stations, WNJN and WNJT, a sale of locally-controlled spectrum that generated a $332 million windfall for state coffers. This year thousands of people across the state are asking for a dividend in return for the sale of our stations. They’re taking action to support the Civic Info Bill (S2317/A3628), which would create a public fund to invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to revive local news coverage, community and municipal information, and civic engagement across New Jersey.
The bill creates a fund to improve the quantity and quality of information in New Jersey communities, which would benefit longstanding and startup news outlets alike while also launching statewide media-literacy and civic-engagement programs. Importantly, it would also provide grants to support the information needs of the states low-income communities and communities of color, long neglected by traditional outlets.
The Civic Info Bill is a lifeline for communities across New Jersey. And it needs the support of everyone. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham represents many of us in Hudson County, and she chairs the Higher Education Committee, which could be instrumental in sponsoring this legislation. We’ve got only a month left to tell Sen. Cunningham and other lawmakers in Trenton to support the legislation. A simple call from you could be the catalyst for local reporting and information services where you live. Make the call and help transform New Jersey news.