We have chosen six pilot sites in New York and New Jersey as partners who we will be working with to develop and test new revenue models and community engagement strategies. These six pilot sites are each unique in their approach to local news and their willingness to experiment and share what they are learning.
BrickCityLive covers business, arts, entertainment, politics, and lifestyle in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city. While the city’s effort to remake itself has been a decades-long project, the demographic, political, and economic factors that will reshape the city in the decades ahead are coming to a head right now. With unprecedented residential and commercial development, high-stakes debates about the way forward on education, public safety, and employment, and a new mayor at the helm following Cory Booker’s high-profile tenure in office, Brick City Live seeks to cover the issues and events undergirding the city’s transformation, and the key figures who are driving those changes.
Justin Auciello calls JSHN a “two-way news outlet… for the people, by the people.” Auciello launched JSHN, formerly known as Jersey Shore Hurricane News, on Facebook in 2011 just before Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey. In the years since, it has grown to a vibrant community of more than 222,000 people. JSHN has pioneered participatory reporting on Facebook, partnering with an ever changing corps of contributors who help report news, traffic, weather, and general community news — like the regular sunrise and sunset photos from around the Jersey Shore. JSHN became a critical information resource during Superstorm Sandy and the ensuing recovery efforts. Auciello’s reporting and service to the local communities around New Jersey have been profiled in a number of publications and recognized by the White House. More recently, JSHN has partnered with WHYY in Philadelphia to expand that station’s coverage of New Jersey. Now, however Auciello is building a new home for JSHN, and bringing his his two-way news organization beyond Facebook.
Ed Litvak and Traven Rice both had long histories working in TV journalism and film before starting their local news site on the lower east side of Manhattan in 2009. Starting with local politics, the site quickly expanded to cover the full diversity of the lower east side. “Rather than serve a single segment of our diverse neighborhood,” write the editors, “we are a resource for all cultures and groups on the LES to share information and ideas and to engage in a meaningful dialogue about issues that unite and divide us.” In 2012 The Lo-Down launched a monthly print magazine featuring original reporting and the best content from the website. The magazine is direct mailed out to a large swath of the residents on the lower east side and has become hugely popular.
Editor Kevin Coughlin helped launch Morristown Green in 2007 when it was part of NJ.com and affiliated with New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. Coughlin was the Star-Ledger’s first technology reporter, but when it looked like the hyperlocal experiment might get closed down Coughlin left the paper to run Morristown Green on his own. He describes the site as “an online version of the venerable Morristown Green (plaza?), where people from Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains come together to discuss anything and everything that matters to them.” In addition to daily coverage of local news Coughlin produces regular video reports on events from concerts to town government. Morristown Green also runs a film festival, poetry nights and concerts.
New Brunswick Today aims to be a community hub for the “Hub City.” Run by a staff of three and a team of freelancers and correspondents, the site publishes accountability reporting in Spanish and English and prints a monthly newspaper. New Brunswick Today started as an email newsletter run by Charlie Kratovil and has grown into a powerful local watchdog that has gained national attention for its scoops. The staff at New Brunswick Today are deeply rooted in the community, as is evident by a note from their publisher on the about page, “I believe that our greatest strength is in the people of New Brunswick, and that the decisions that affect us should be made by us.”
Since 2008 Ned Berke has been covering the streets of Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood street by street with a terrific mix of politics, history, arts and culture. Sheepshead Bites describes itself as “part community bulletin board, part newspaper” and is pairing online reporting with great offline events that are all about building community. In describing “A Taste of Sheepshead Bay,” the food festival sponsored by the site, Berke says “it was born out of a love of the neighborhood’s food and a desire to help build bridges between the neighborhood’s various ethnic groups.” The site boasts a growing audience and has racked up recognition from other local media. A lot of what makes Sheepshead Bites special is evident in his manifesto for hyperlocal news.