Rowan student journalists, faculty join “first-in-the-nation” program to partner with local news outlets

Rowan student journalists, faculty join “first-in-the-nation” program to partner with local news outlets


Working with four local news organizations, Rowan University is helping to strengthen communities through the sharing of news.

Sanford Tweedie, dean of the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts, said Rowan, through its partnership in the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium (NJCIC), joins a first-in-the-nation effort to leverage public funds to help better inform underserved communities.

“News about one’s community strengthens the community,” Tweedie said. “In news deserts today, people aren’t aware of what’s going on in their own towns and cities because news organizations that for generations served them have disappeared. Through this program we’ll help reinvigorate communities through the sharing of news.”

Students and faculty within Rowan’s Department of Journalism partnered with four local news organizations that received funding through the NJCIC: the Hammonton Gazette, an Atlantic County weekly; Hopeloft, a Bridgeton-based nonprofit; the Trenton Journal; and the collaborative Stories of Atlantic City project.

The statewide NJCIC is an independent nonprofit established by statute in 2018 that formed, according to its website, to “reimagine how public funding can be used to address the growing problem of news deserts, misinformation and support more informed communities.”

The consortium seeks to support community journalism at a time when changes in media economics have diminished local reporting.

“Directing public money and the expertise of publicly funded universities toward serving these communities is a win for everybody,” Tweedie said. “Underserved areas and constituencies get help with expanding the reach of civic information, and many of our students gain experience providing local news to people who need it.”

The enabling legislation requires member universities to provide expertise and support to the news outlets, some of them recent startups and others that are established but seek to expand and diversify coverage.

Under the plan, the Hammonton Gazette will make its coverage more representative of the municipality’s southern New Jersey community. The paper will offer news articles in Spanish and initiate outreach to seasonal farm workers and more permanent members of the local Spanish-speaking community.

Hopeloft, an organization dedicated to social justice and equity, is pursuing a multifaceted strategy that includes developing a vibrant and hyper-local news platform powered by diverse community voices.

The Trenton Journal will train more local community contributors to increase the frequency of its editorial output and help change the narrative about what it’s like to live in Trenton.

The Stories of Atlantic City project, which is jointly advised by Rowan and Stockton University faculty, will train community members as reporters covering local governing bodies, planning board and school board hearings. The initiative will develop new ways to engage community members in the decision-making processes that impact their lives.

“Local journalism is part of what gives people a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” said Carl Hausman, a Rowan professor of journalism and member of the NJCIC board of directors.  “This program involves both underserved members of the community and younger journalists participating through internships, which adds a new constituency to the effort to reinvigorate local news.”

Composed of representatives from New Jersey’s five public research universities, media representatives, experts from the technology sector, community activists, elected officials and working journalists, the NJCIC seeks to extend the reach of media into underserved areas and amplify diverse voices.

Fourteen grants averaging $35,000 were awarded from among 74 applications to help emerging enterprises become self-sufficient.

New Jersey’s Civic Information Consortium is currently organizing statewide public meetings to solicit feedback on its first year of operation and to identify any changes needed in program direction or the application process for its second year of grantmaking.