Are you a news or information provider based in New Jersey? Then you should be a member of the NJ News Commons.

The NJ News Commons is the flagship project of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. It is a broad network and coalition of organizations and people across the Garden State that work to provide and/or support the creation of quality news and information. Equitable access to accurate information can save lives and is critical for civic health and community resiliency.

All we ask in return is that members show up. You don’t have to pay to join. All you have to do is participate!

If this describes you or your organization, apply to join us as either a media member or an individual stakeholder!

The following page specifically outlines what membership in the NJ News Commons entails in order to give prospective members a better idea of what to expect if they choose to become a part of our network.

VIDEO: The birth of the NJ News Commons

Watch this video recap of the last ten years of the Center’s work, starting with the birth of the NJ News Commons and the growth of the NJ local news ecosystem. Produced by Joe Amditis.

Who is eligible to join?

Any organization or individual person who has a vested interest in quality news and information in New Jersey is eligible to join. People who work directly in media, news or journalism can join as members; people who work outside media but want to support quality news and information can join as a stakeholder.

Joining is free! The NJ News Commons program is supported by the Center for Cooperative Media, which receives operational funding from Montclair State University, Democracy Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Abrams Foundation.

Please note that while you don’t have to pay to join, we do want you to participate. And there are different ways you can show up and support local news as a member of the Commons.

Our goal is to network with as many people and organizations as we can across New Jersey who want to help ensure equitable access to quality news and information.

NOTE: While we encourage members to display the NJ News Commons logo or branding to showcase their affiliation, these logos should not be used on individual content or in a manner that suggests the Center for Cooperative Media or NJ News Commons is endorsing, sponsoring, or co-signing specific stories, statements, opinions, or coverage.

Membership categories

You can join the NJ News Commons as a member of the media or as a stakeholder. The following categories are offered for the NJ News Commons:

Individual media membership

Freelancers, academics, and employees currently affiliated with a New Jersey-based news organization, information platform, or education institution are eligible to join.

Community stakeholder membership

This category includes any individual or organization that is not a newsroom or not journalism-intensive, but supports the goal of growing and strengthening local news for the benefit of New Jersey civic health and community resiliency, wants membership within the NJNC, and seeks continued partnership with the Center.

What do members get?

All individual media members have access to the following:

Communication and connection

The Center and the NJ News Commons serve as a hub of what’s happening in the news industry in the Garden State. You will get access to our members-only listserv, a private Facebook group, and several industry newsletters — including a daily roundup of top news in New Jersey, a weekly newsletter that helps localize national stories, a biweekly Newsroom Digest that covers what’s happening in NJ media, and a biweekly national newsletter about collaborative journalism. All new members are automatically added to our members-only listserv and receive the Newsroom Digest.

Coaching and counseling

We are here for you. Any member of the Commons is welcome to call, email, text or otherwise ping the Center when you have a difficult issue to work through, need advice, or need a connection or a referral. We’ve assisted with ethical questions, made legal referrals to pro bono attorneys, supported news startups, reviewed grant proposals, and so much more. Contact us at [email protected].

Content sharing

Since Hurricane Sandy hit our state, the Center has coordinated content sharing and other collaborative activities for NJ News Commons members. During the pandemic, we ran a program to make NJ Spotlight News content available to all NJ News Commons members. We also work with Nordot to provide its story-sharing technology to New Jersey news providers. And, we try to remind you when there are other opportunities to pick up content. If you need access to any of these services, email us at [email protected].

Translation services

The Center began providing translation services during the pandemic, and we’re looking forward to expanding this work in new ways in 2022.

Ethnic and community media support

Thanks to the hard work of Anthony Advincula, the Center has greatly expanded its support for community and ethnic media across New Jersey over the last several years. This is critically important and will continue to be a key focus for the Commons.

Training and professional development

For years the Center has offered a wide variety of free skill-building opportunities to Commons members. Everything from SEO to LinkedIn to podcasting to OPRA and more, we’ve got you covered. The Center has also provided scholarships for New Jersey media makers to enroll in programs including CUNY’s Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators program. Click here to see a list of current trainings and programs.

Awards and recognition

Annually in February, the Center awards NJ News Commons members with Excellence in Local News Awards, which comes with bragging rights and a modest monetary prize.

Access to research

The Center’s research on the state of the media landscape in New Jersey is important and will continue with a series of white papers released in 2022.

Stipends for association membership

The Center has and will continue to provide stipends to support participation in NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, NLGJA, NAJA and other trade associations. The Center will continue to support NJ News Commons members who seek to join professional journalism associations with sponsorship or coverage of membership fees. We will announce the 2022 process early in the year.

Professional programs

The Center runs a variety of programs at any given time, including fellowships (such as our current COVID-19 fellowship for ethnic media), collaborative reporting efforts (such as Loved and Lost), revenue projects (such as the Ad Lab) and more. These are open first to members of the Commons.

Peer groups

Through the NJ Commons, the Center identifies smaller peer groups to encourage partnership and collaboration between members. In addition to groups convened by the Center, members can request the development of new peer groups that would meet regularly, with facilitation provided by the Center. New peer groups will be announced in early 2022 through the Newsroom Digest newsletter and listserv.

Shared photography and video

The Center has provided content sharing for many years, and will be working in 2022 to expand the portfolio of shared photography and video available to members of the Commons. This will be announced through the Newsroom Digest and listserv.

Interactions with Montclair State University students

The Center is grateful to be based within the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, where hundreds of students are studying broadcast, journalism, strategic communications, film-making and more. In 2022, we will be launching programs to better connect our diverse student body with Commons members.

Crisis planning and emergency funds

It’s clear that our media ecosystem will continue to face crises. To help better prepare, the Center will work with the Commons on crisis planning and fundraising in 2022. In the past, for example, the Center distributed $250 gift cards to support equipment purchases for journalists impacted by COVID-19. This will be announced through the Newsroom Digest and the members-only listserv.

NJ media mentors program

We’re launching the NJ Media Mentors program, which will seek to pair people who formerly worked in media with current local news leaders and startups for support and mentorship. Click here to learn more.

Exclusive press briefings

The Center experimented with arranging press briefings for its ethnic and community media fellows in 2021, and intends to continue and expand this work in 2022. These will be announced through the News Digest newsletter and the listserv.

All community stakeholders have access to the following:

Communication and connection

The Center and the NJ News Commons are a hub of what’s happening in the news industry in the Garden State. All community will be subscribed to the Center’s biweekly News Digest for the NJ News Commons as well as the Center’s main email list. If you wish, you may join the NJ News Commons listserv as well.

Invitations to select events

As the Center hosts events like the 2021 NJ Local News Summit, you’ll be invited! This information will arrive via our email newsletters.

Access to research

The Center’s research on the state of the media landscape in New Jersey is important and will continue with a series of white papers released in 2022. You’ll be notified of these via our email newsletters.

NJ News Commons community guidelines

To be accepted as a member of the NJ News Commons, organizations must:

– Be a news and information provider who serves residents of the state of New Jersey.

– Adhere to a commonly-accepted professional journalism code of ethics, such as the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics or a comparable code, and indicate to us which code they follow.

– Agree to abide by our Community Guidelines (see below).

– Failure to meet any of the above criteria may be grounds for removal from the network.

We also encourage members of the NJ News Commons to:

– Recognize the value of cooperation and seek opportunities to collaborate for the benefit of citizens.

– Remain open to opportunities to work with the Center and its partners.

– Communicate with the Center to help us identify and address needs, issues, concerns, challenges, opportunities, and goals of our partners and others in the local news and information industry.

– Attend events, trainings, and other initiatives organized by the Center that are relevant to their interests and availability.

– Participate in various surveys and information-gathering initiatives.

Additional community guidelines:

These guidelines govern how we expect NJ News Commons members to interact with each other. We ask members of the NJ News Commons and all partners of the Center to conduct themselves accordingly.

View the additional guidelines

– Respect the privacy and personal information of others. No doxing. We strongly discourage people from publishing personal information about others. Do not share personal information about other people that violate their right to privacy.

– Be courteous and constructive. For the sake of a strong and healthy debate, we aim to foster constructive and focused discussion between our members and partners.

– Be open to debate and dissent. One of the most important requirements for maintaining a vibrant intellectual space is to promote and focus on the intelligent discussion of ideas. We are all still learning and no one knows everything.

– Be honest and truthful. Try to be clear and straightforward about what you are saying, but remember that people may interpret your contribution differently than you originally intended. Avoid knowingly disseminating false or misleading information.

– Refrain from personal attacks. Threats and abuse will not be tolerated. We don’t want to stifle debate, but we ask you to find ways to share your views without being divisive, threatening or toxic to others.

– Watch your language. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hateful speech will not be tolerated. There is a difference between criticizing ideas and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc.

– Avoid blatantly commercial or spam-like material. Sharing information that is intended solely for commercial purposes is not permitted.

– Moderators have the final say. When it comes to online forums, groups, and other communication channels, our moderation style is pretty tolerant. Most forms of self-expression are fine, even some of the more colorful or questionable forms, but try not to go overboard. Moderators of our online communities reserve the right to edit or remove a post if it violates any of the above guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between the Center for Cooperative Media and the NJ News Commons?

The Center for Cooperative Media is a program housed within the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, and its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism and support an informed society in New Jersey and beyond. The NJ News Commons is the Center’s flagship project and it refers specifically to the network of organizations and individuals who have agreed to be members of the Commons.

Who funds the Center?

We are currently funded with operational support by Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Abrams Foundation.

Will you fund me?

In the past, the Center has been able to provide stipends to seed startups and pay for business coaching, fellowships, collaborative reporting projects and revenue experiments. Each of these opportunities has been project-based, however; the Center is not set up to make grants. You can learn about project-based funding we offer by subscribing to our daily and monthly newsletters.

How do I find out if I am a current member of the NJ News Commons?

A list of current NJ News Commons members is available at this link, via Airtable. Additionally, members with lapsed or idle memberships will receive email notices from the Center for Cooperative Media about how to help restore their active membership status.

Do I have to pay to join?

Because the Center for Cooperative Media is a primarily grant-funded initiative at Montclair State University, most of what we offer NJ News Commons members is provided at no cost to our members. So you don’t have to pay to join, but you do have to participate. And there are different ways you can show up and support local news as a member of the New Jersey News Commons. Learn about current programming and activities here.

However, please note that some of our trainings, events and conferences have registration fees, which will be clearly noted on registration forms.

If I am a member of LION or INN, why should I join the NJ News Commons?

We highly encourage New Jersey media who qualify to join the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN). The Center regularly works with both groups, and we have even paid for free membership to LION in the past.

The NJ News Commons is different in that it is exclusively focused on local news in New Jersey. At the Center we are committed to expanding news and information access to residents across the state. Through the NJ Commons we’ve formed relationships with and helped the efforts of news organizations and freelancers including journalists and media creators.

Currently we are branching out to create a more inclusive membership structure, and adding to our roster of programming and resources for those working within and interested in the state of New Jersey’s news industry.

I want to join the NJ News Commons but I only want to hear from you via email, not Facebook.

The annual NJ News Commons survey includes a question about preferred means of contact. You can also reach out to the Center and the Commons at [email protected] to update your contact information.

What kind of coaching do you provide?

Members of the NJ News Commons have access to business and journalism coaching, as well as feedback on grant submissions and more. Any member of the Commons is welcome to call, email, text or otherwise ping the Center when you have a difficult issue to work through, need advice, or need a connection or a referral. Need guidance on an upcoming project? Let us know! The Center can also help connect you to legal, research, grant writing, start up and other resources.

Will you give me money to start a news organization?

Currently, the Center does not provide start-up funding. However, the Center provides a number of support and growth opportunities for fledgling news organizations including training, coaching, referrals to grant and other funding opportunities and grant application reviews, as well as the new NJ Media Mentors program which pairs veteran news professionals with newly launched NJ newsrooms and information projects. To learn more about this and other Center initiatives that support news startups, contact us at [email protected].

How do I know if I am in good standing with the NJ News Commons?

The Center will maintain a membership tracking system to ensure that all statuses for NJ Commons members are current. Once a member submits an application and fills out our annual survey, you are considered to be in good standing. By completing the survey the following year, members meet the minimum requirement for continued NJ News Commons membership. In addition, you can always contact us at [email protected] to inquire about your membership status.

How do I update my information on file with the Center for my NJ News Commons membership?

Members can update the Center about information on file by emailing us at [email protected]. We will also reach out annually to confirm your membership information.

I want to leave the NJ News Commons; how do I do that?

First, we’re working to ensure that members are enjoying the benefits of their NJ Commons membership. We’d be sad to see you go, but those choosing to pause or end their NJ Commons membership may email us at [email protected] to start the membership termination process.

I am having problems with another NJ News Commons member, what do I do?

As part of our coaching and counseling services, staff at the Center have engaged in mediation efforts between NJ Commons members. To inquire about these services, contact us at [email protected].

How do I request services not included in my membership?

Members may contact the Center for Cooperative Media at [email protected] to inquire about and request any NJ News Commons offerings they are interested in, but are not automatically included within their specific membership categories.

When do I find out if my application to join the News Commons has been approved?

Once you’ve filled out the NJ News Commons membership application, please give the Center 3-5 business days to review your submission. Once approved, we will be in touch with more details and will add you to all pertinent communication lists.

If I get rejected for membership, how can I appeal?

The Center is proud to have relaunched the NJ News Commons with a broader membership structure to foster a more diverse and inclusive community of NJ news professionals, stakeholders and supporters. In the instance that your membership application is denied, we will communicate the reason for this decision via email. To make an appeal or inquire about other opportunities to join our efforts at the Center for Cooperative media, please contact us at [email protected].

What if I’m not a journalist, but I own a technology company or marketing organization and want to be affiliated with the NJ News Commons or the Center?

In this is the case, you can apply to join for an “individual stakeholder” membership.

Questions? Contact us at [email protected].