Cover Sandy recovery and get money

Hey Jersey journalists: There’s a big opportunity in New Jersey to cover the Hurricane Sandy recovery and get support from a group of foundations to get started and build a media business.

My personal wish for this money is that some smart journalist sees the chance to cover a huge story, bringing accountability to this effort (in a state that always needs accountability!) and starting a new service that can live and serve the shore community for many years after it is rebuilt.

The New Jersey Recovery fund has an RFP up now (full PDF here, HTML here). The money comes from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and others.

When I first discussed this funding opportunity with Knight’s Eric Newton, he told me a great story of a newspaper that sprouted up in the Oakland Hills (Newton was managing editor of the Oakland Tribune) to serve just 5,000 families disrupted by a huge fire in the 1990s. He said it lasted a year and a half and was even profitable.

I think that’s a great model for what could happen in New Jersey but now online. Imagine starting a site to cover the recovery at the shore … and then imagine having a brand and audience to carry on to build into a robust and ongoing hyperlocal business. Hell, if I weren’t busy, I’d do it.

Whether you like my idea or not, there is a great opportunity to bring journalism to the Sandy recovery — to start a local site, to watch how money is spent, to help communities and governments do a better job of communicating in the next (God help us) disaster, and so on. Have at it. The deadlines are nigh.

I also argue that New Jersey is a spectacular laboratory for building new futures for news. There’s an opportunity to work collaboratively with entities from NJ.com to NJ Spotlight to Pro Publica to the New Jersey News Commons, which has started out of Montclair State to help grow and improve the state’s news ecosystem with training, promotion, collaboration, and other services. New Jersey needs more journalism. The journalists who take up the opportunity will get more help. Have at it!

Disclosures: I work with NJ.com and helped start it. I helped start the NJ News Commons working with MSU. I also advise Dodge. And I live in New Jersey. I care.

  • Tim Pendry

    Best of luck with this.

    Although fifty years old, the story from Wales (UK) of the Aberfan disaster is an interesting (if perhaps extreme) case study that shows just how important it is that journalists are enabled to scrutinise the aftermath of disasters and the management of disaster relief – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

    John Summers of the Daily Telegraph (now deceased) played a leading role at the time in exposing wrong-doing (although other journalists are said to have behaved very badly in the immediate aftermath). The story was bound up in local Welsh nationalist agitation at the time (oddly unreported in the Wikipedia piece) – http://www.john-summers.net/aberfan1.html

    I appreciate wrong-doing is almost certainly not at issue in New Jersey (we hope) and that the online age is vastly different from the closed print world of the 1960s in Great Britain but poor communications, lack of sensitivity and bureaucracy never seem to go away.

    If the people of Aberfan had had their own journalistic advocates embedded and our modern online advantages, the local community would probably not have had to wait until 1997 for £150,000 (without inflation accounted for) to be returned. The very fact of an embedded and ‘live’ scrutiny might have restrained some very naughty people and forced those complicit to meet their responsibilities.

  • You speak truth in this post! I hope Congress was shamed when Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo called them out on their lack of help. It took 66 days for Federal funding to get there I think! Didn’t Katrina teach us anything?

  • Nark J. Wagner

    Few facts about weather and science, please follow attached link and support an Open Letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council:
    http://www.zhibit.org/mjw23/united-nations-human-rights-council