A project of Democracy Fund

New Jersey Local News Lab Fund

The New Jersey Local News Lab Fund is a collaborative fund that supports people and organizations working towards building a more connected, collaborative and sustainable  local news and information ecosystem in New Jersey.

The Fund will invest in people and organizations who are working on the front lines of local communities to ensure that New Jersey residents have access to the news and information they need to participate fully in their democracy and help their communities thrive.

The New Jersey Local News Lab Fund builds on five years of work to support independent journalism, reporting collaborations, new business models for news and experiments in community and civic engagement. With the establishment of this fund, we invite other funders and donors to join the effort to support quality, trusted journalism and community information needs.   

The Fund is locally-led and managed by an advisory group made up of local stakeholders, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Democracy Fund.

Grantees of the NJ Local News Fund include:

  • Black Public Media – $30,000 to host a Black Story Summit in New Jersey bringing together social justice leaders, media makers, funders, and others to connect and catalyze relationships between stakeholders, create a space for learning, connection, and exchange, and seed content and support for local and regional makers.
  • Center for Cooperative Media – $100,000 to continue to provide training and business model development, support expanded collaborative reporting projects, local news research (including mapping ethnic news media in the state and local news research). This grant also includes support for the second year of a Local-National reporting program to facilitate connections for news organizations to source, localize, and publish stories that begin at a national or statewide level; and a scholarship fund to help New Jersey journalists attend events by organizations that work to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in media.
  • Chalkbeat Newark – $75,000 to sustain coverage of K-12 education in Newark through local, investigative reporting that champions collaboration and engagement, focusing especially on efforts to improve schools for all children.
  • Media Mobilizing Project – $100,000 for a project telling the stories of residents’ relationship to safety and justice in regards to New Jersey’s recent bail reform through videos, a website and open database, a workshop toolkit, and a series of public events centered around key themes relating to criminal justice reform.
  • Participatory Budgeting Project – $30,000 to build the capacity of key partners in New Jersey as a way to expand civic participation, enhance government transparency, and share power in communities and institutions with those most affected and least often engaged.
  • Sustainable Jersey – $75,000 to support its Public Information and Engagement (PIE) initiative, aimed at making governments more transparent and equipping them with the technology and expertise to engage the public, to review and launch new PIE actions, facilitate trainings for municipal governments and staff, and conduct municipal technology assessments.
  • WBGO – $150,000 for a pilot project providing funding for WBGO and Free Press to co-design a News Voices Fellowship position in which a fellow with community organizing skills and knowledge of the specific community will be based in and employed by the newsroom and receive additional coaching and support from Free Press.

The NJ Local News Lab advisors include:

  • Elizabeth Good Christopherson – Elizabeth Good Christopherson is president and chief executive officer of the Rita Allen Foundation, which invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems, including fostering informed civic engagement. At the Foundation, Elizabeth champions philanthropy’s role as network builders, risk-takers, and information weavers and emphasizes science itself as a civic issue. Elizabeth is a longtime arts and public media advocate and served as the executive director of New Jersey Network for nearly 15 years.
  • Cynthia Evans – Cynthia Evans is interim president and chief executive officer and of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, which envisions and equitable New Jersey New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities. Cynthia, who has been with Dodge for more than 20 years, is also the chief financial officer, overseeing the Foundation’s budget, investment strategies, and personnel.
  • Teresa Gorman – Teresa Gorman is the senior program associate in the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Teresa supports the Public Square Program’s mission to invest in innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process. Previously, Teresa spent her career working at the intersection of public media, local news, and digital media, including helping incubate new storytelling models with communities at Association of Independents in Radio.
  • Meghan Van Dyk – Meghan Van Dyk is the program officer of the Informed Communities program and communications director at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She oversees grants to foster robust civic engagement through inclusive, people-powered news and information projects across the state and works with partners toward supporting a connected and collaborative news and information ecosystem in New Jersey. Before joining Dodge, Meghan was a reporter and local news editor at the Daily Record, where she launched a series of community-focused dinners and awards to bring together food innovators, sustainability champions, and residents.
  • Kim Pearson – Kim Pearson is a journalism professor, civic media researcher, and founding member of a project aimed at documenting the stories of the people, places, and policies that made Trenton a hidden treasure of the music world. Pearson, associate professor of journalism and professional writing at The College of New Jersey, regularly offers courses on Race, Gender and the News, Future of the News, and Writing for Interactive Multimedia. On top of research on creating and sustaining models for civic engagement in an environment that has upended traditional journalism and civic culture, she hones her skills and passion for community through Trenton Makes Music, archiving the city’s musical roots.
  • Josh Stearns – Josh Stearns is the program director of the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. Josh leads the Public Square Program in its mission to invest in innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process. A journalist, community builder, and civic strategist, Josh joined the Democracy Fund from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, where he supported and expanded community-driven local news and helped found the Local News Lab, which invests in creative experiments in revenue and community engagement in journalism.
  • Andaiye Taylor – Andaiye Taylor is an independent journalism entrepreneur and a financial tech content marketer and corporate editor. She founded and edits Brick City Live, a digital hyperlocal news property, which includes a website, custom mobile app, and social media, to cover business, entrepreneurship, the arts, entertainment, and lifestyle in Newark, New Jersey’s largest and most populous city. As one of six initial member news properties in the Local News Lab, Andaiye’s drive for innovation and business and technology acumen has pushed Brick City Live to the forefront of news organizations not just talking about local news sustainability, but doing something about it.

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