This past week, David Chen of The New York Times wrote about the dwindling number of media watchdogs in the State of New Jersey. While many in the media bemoan the state of the industry, there are numerous successful stories of new media companies that are making a difference, doing real journalism, and making money. These publications should receive far more attention than they currently do.
In recent years, news rooms at publications in New Jersey have been decimated by massive layoffs. Local and regional publications have been bought by national media conglomerates who have similarly reduced headcount in the quest for profit. Meanwhile other local and regional publications have simply gone out of business, leaving many municipalities and regions in New Jersey without high-quality objective local and regional news.
In some areas, blogs and Facebook groups have attempted to fill the void. While some do a pretty good job covering the news, the great majority do not. Attribution and sourcing is nonexistent. Objectivity is lacking. And “facts” are often cited that are simply rumors or gossip. Often these blogs and Facebook groups exercise a political or issue-based agenda. Sometimes the agenda of the publication is disclosed, but more often it is kept secret. As a result, propaganda masquerades as news or outright fake news becomes the local news source for a community’s residents. Despite some with the best of intentions, these blogs and Facebook groups often are a worse alternative for residents of a community than having no news source at all.
There is a lot of good news regarding the media that is being ignored or given short shrift by other media outlets. For example, in aforementioned article in The New York Times, in a 34 paragraph story, 33 paragraphs discussed the decline of the media in New Jersey and only one, approximately 20 paragraphs into the story, mentioned some success stories with little elaboration. However, I would be wrong to pick on The New York Times for its coverage of this issue because it is one of the only national or regional news publications – print, online, television and radio – that has actually mentioned any media success stories here in New Jersey.
There are many media success stories here in New Jersey, in fact too many to even mention. There’s so much innovation going on in the media industry in New Jersey that the Center for Cooperative Media was created to help facilitate and support such innovation.
On the state level, beyond the traditional publications, there’s NJ Spotlight, a statewide online publication that provides in-depth reporting and analysis about New Jersey issues. Politico New Jersey provides robust political coverage in the Garden State on a daily basis. There’s Observer New Jersey Politics that provides opinionated political coverage and often breaks the inside scoops in Trenton. And there are subject-matter publications like NJArts.net that covers the NJ arts scene like no one else currently can.
On the local and regional levels, in addition to the longtime local/regional weekly and daily newspapers, there are many one-off online sites doing great work like The Village Green that covers the South Orange/Maplewood area, Hudson County View that covers Hudson County, NJ, and Route 40 that covers the Atlantic City area.
There are also networks of local sites like TAPinto.net, the company I founded in 2008, that not only provide high quality, objective original local news coverage but also the ability for local publishers to take advantage of scale on the content side and the advertising side, creating even more robust local news coverage and a profitable business model. What began as an all-online objective local news site for New Providence, NJ, TAPinto.net is now a network of 60 franchised online local news sites in New Jersey and New York with more than 5.2M readers in 2016. More information can be found here.
At the end of the day, people read news, particularly local news. Times may change and technology continues to change, but the need and desire for news will persist and a profitable business model will exist to supply it. It may not be found in a traditional hard copy newspaper. It may be written by a nontraditional reporter. But high quality-objective news is here to stay. With publications like NJ Spotlight and TAPinto.net and the many others here in the Garden State, there is a bright future for the media, at least here in New Jersey.