Layoffs in local newsrooms: A study of recent changes within North Jersey Media Group

When the Center for Cooperative Media was founded in 2012, it followed a wave of large layoffs at the state’s largest newspaper, The (Newark) Star-Ledger. Our mission since then has been to find ways to grow and strengthen the local news ecosystem in New Jersey for the benefit of citizens.

So when Gannett acquired The Record and dozens of other assets owned by the North Jersey Media Group and announced a reorganization that would result in layoffs, we knew it was time for us to step up and help.

Thanks to a grant in late 2016 from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, we connected laid-off folks together and provided stories of what to do next during a “Life After the Newsroom” luncheon. We partnered with The Poynter Institute to offer free training to recently laid-off journalists through the News University certificate program. We coached some folks thinking about staying in the industry and starting their own news outlet.

We also told Dodge that we would do an independent assessment of the changes being made in the North Jersey Media Group and make recommendations for how future work or investment could defray any negative impacts.

That report, titled “Layoffs in Local Newsrooms: Documenting the changing New Jersey local journalism ecosystem, 2016-2017” was investigated and written by Sarah Stonbely, who manages research on behalf of the center.

We don’t think there is anything surprising in this study, but it does provide some hard data showing that the content some communities are getting now is different than before North Jersey Media Group’s restructuring.

“Any time a community sees such a loss in the number (and experience level) of reporters and editors covering its news, and a corresponding change in available content, it is fair to say the consequences are negative,” the report said.

Our strategic recommendations are listed at the bottom of the report. We’d love to hear from you, too; what do you think has to be done to bolster local news coverage here in the Garden State? Email your ideas to us at info@njnewscommons.org.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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