New Jersey News Co-op

Here are excerpts from the proposal for a New Jersey News Co-op. I’ve copied much of it here so it’s easier to read but please, please go to the Knight News Challenge site to rate and comment. And pass it around….

Project Title:
New Jersey News Co-op: Enabling the local ecosystem

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge:

Expected amount of time required to complete project:

Total cost of project including all sources of funding:

Describe your project:

A new news ecosystem is emerging in New Jersey with new reportorial sites and hyperlocal blogs joining financially challenged newspapers and a rapidly changing public broadcasting scene. They are disparate and disorganized.

The Co-op will tie them together so they can share content and support and collaborate to create reporting together—so the ecosystem can grow to be more than the sum of it parts. It will work in three ways:

1. Training the ecosystem: With the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the Co-op will provide training in journalism, business, and technology to new news outlets from bloggers to unemployed journalists to community members. It will identify the best players and their best content and help set and maintain standards for journalistic quality, reliability, and fact-checking across the ecosystem.

2. Coordinating collaboration in the ecosystem: The Co-op will gather management, editorial, and technology resources to help quality news outlets of all models and media to:
* Share content, curating the best work and distributing it across the ecosystem to bring it more audience, attention, and influence;
* Share technology, including tools—many open-source—to gather, analyze, and present news and data;
* Share work among sites, reporters, and citizens and manage that effort—from filing FOIAs to covering events to fact-checking reports to making financial contributions;
* Lobby for data transparency at all levels of government and coordinate reporting on it;
* Create joint investigative projects with the ecosystem and its communities.

3. Filling in blanks left by the market and the ecosystem: The Co-op will maintain a small reporting staff — its size dependent on revenue — to cover neglected and important beats and to perform targeted investigations.

The Co-op will also work with others — sponsors, universities — to provide coverage in underserved and disadvantaged communities to which the market and the emerging ecosystem are not delivering. We see an opportunity to use innovative means to build a platform to coordinate such efforts.

The Co-op will be run by an editor/manager whose primary job is coordination, overseeing a minimum of two beat and investigative reporters, two technologists to support collaboration and data projects, and a sponsorship fundraiser. It will work with CUNY and other schools in New Jersey and will coordinate the efforts of volunteers, including teachers, editors, and fact-checkers.

To become sustainable as a not-for-profit enterprise, the Co-op will rely on multiple revenue streams:
* Sales of sponsorships attached to content distributed across the ecosystem;
* Modest revenue share on Co-op content that is distributed, otherwise for free, to members and media outlets;
* Use of Spot.US and the Kickstarter models to underwrite specific stories, projects, and beats and bring control to the notion of memberships;
* Revenue from events;
* Limited revenue from training programs;
* Local and community foundation support for specific reporting projects, beats, and local coverage (rather than ongoing operations).

How will your project improve the delivery of news and information to geographic communities?:

The Co-op will encourage many more journalists to create sites, services, and businesses to add to the reporting the state and its communities need.

It will support new and legacy media in all forms with content, promotion, and advice, helping them to do better work and to be more sustainable.

It will provide training: in journalism to bloggers; in business to journalists; in media ethics to members of the community; in technology to all.

It will provide content to members of the ecosystem across all media: investigative stories run in newspapers; resources about government for hyperlocal bloggers’ sites; stories and interviews for broadcast outlets; data-as-news projects for all; and much more.

It will set high standards for reliability and fact-checking and will hold regular training sessions to spread those standards across the ecosystem.

It will establish a network infrastructure to distribute the best of the ecosystem’s content across all of its members in all media.

It will adopt the Public Insight Network to provide a platform for community and audience engagement to diversify and improve journalism.

It will create valuable and reliable beat reporting for the state. It will provide investigative reporting. It will coordinate collaborative reporting projects.

What unmet need does your proposal answer?:

New Jersey’s media and journalistic sectors are in dire straits–which is also what makes the market such an appealing blank slate for this endeavor.

We have no commercial TV station. The state is considering the sale or lease of its public broadcasting licenses and the ending of government support. (If and when that change occurs, the Co-op will work with any public-media entities that serve the state.) Other public radio outlets here serve music fans and other constituents well, but less so our news needs. New Jersey-based commercial radio is a journalistic non-entity. The largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger, is in chronic financial distress and its competitors are in no better condition; all are shrinking. The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer have cut coverage of New Jersey. Commercial broadcast affiliates in both cities ill serve our state.

At the same time, there is an emerging news ecosystem in New Jersey, with hyperlocal bloggers and new sites trying to serve statewide civic needs. But they are in desperate need of support: content; the infrastructure for collaboration; advertising networks and other revenue sources; training in business; training in journalism and new media; and promotion to drive audience.

There are scores of recently unemployed journalists in the state who are known to be eager to start new sites to serve towns and topics if only they had the platforms, means, and support. That is what the New Jersey News Co-op will bring them.

How is your idea new?:

We are attempting to redefine public media for the internet age, expanding its reach. The New Jersey News Co-op will become an enabling entity that supports the public itself in creating the robust and sustainable news ecosystem the state so urgently needs.

As a blank media slate, New Jersey is a unique laboratory in which to develop this new definition and model of public media. It will work with and support other public media outlets and bring the public itself – local bloggers, volunteer reporters, volunteer fact-checkers, FOIA-filers – into the process of covering their communities. Rather than concentrating on creating its own reporting and brand — as many other laudable not-for-profit news enterprises have done in other markets — the New Jersey News Co-op will concentrate on building, enabling, and supporting the emerging ecosystem of news in the state. It is first and foremost a platform, an open platform.

The Co-op’s interests will be aligned with those of the members of this ecosystem. It will support them in their own work but also bring them together to accomplish more as a network than they can individually. The Co-op adds value to the ecosystem through this collaboration, creating the means to share content and to create and manage resources and work in collaborative projects, from investigative efforts to covering underserved constituencies in the state.

Thus, more than an enterprise devoted strictly to content creation, the Co-op is scalable. It will have a greater impact in the market by supporting more New Jersey-centric coverage from the ecosystem as a whole.

If the Co-op succeeds, it will provide an open-source model that can be replicated in any other market in the country. The Co-op will publish its methods and share its lessons – successes and failures – openly, from the start.

What will you have changed by the end of the project?:

The number of local and interest-driven sites in the state will increase markedly. The number of working journalists will increase. Those journalists will be more accountable to their communities. The quality of coverage of the state and its communities and governments will improve. Outlets of all models and sizes will have better journalistic content. There will be far more collaboration across media outlets of all sizes and types. An open-source model that can be replicated across other markets will be produced.

Why are you the right person or team to complete this project?:

Recruiting the right leader—someone with the best credentials in journalism and management and a keen understanding of our state—is the critical need in moving this project forward. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has agreed to fund the completion of a plan and budget for the Co-op and to identify candidates to lead it by the time the News Challenge awards are made. This search has informally begun. The Co-op and its leader will have the support of foundations, corporations, media outlets, and universities in the region, some of which have already come together to try to find innovative solutions for New Jersey’s problems in journalism. Interested foundations thus far include Community Foundation of New Jersey, Fund for New Jersey, William Penn Foundation, and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The group has also been working with Jeff Jarvis, who plans to bring the educational resources of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism to the project. CUNY’s school is a leader in entrepreneurial and multimedia journalism. The project will work closely with public-media in the region.

What terms best describe your project?:

Platform. Enabling. Ecosystem. Local. Community. Collaborative. Complementary. Curatorial. High standards. Investigative. Data-based. Transparent. Independent. Educational. Innovative. Constructive. Optimistic. Networked. Scalable. Efficient. Open-source. Public.