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Local Beat: A Surreality Tour of Atlantic County

Thursday Jun 30, 2016  |  1 comment

Local Beat is the NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting by community news sources.

A SURREALITY TOUR OF ATLANTIC COUNTY
A welcome center in the middle of an expressway, a bicycle path that goes (practically) nowhere, an abandoned racetrack. These are some of the stops on Route 40’s Surreality Tour of some of the ugliest places and strangest public improvement projects in Atlantic County.

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Local Beat: When a Bear Visits Downtown Montclair, Baristanet Pounces

Thursday Jun 16, 2016  | 

Local Beat is the NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting by community news sources.

WHEN A BEAR VISITS DOWNTOWN MONTCLAIR, BARISTANET POUNCES
When a black bear wandered where black bears are not supposed to wander, into the territory of Baristanet, the site pounced. From the moment the bear was seen last Thursday in downtown Montclair until it was tranquilized and removed to be released into the wild, Baristanet covered the ursine circus with photos, videos and a steady fusillade of tweets. Some of the photos are blurry, some are great, but the best nugget from the coverage was this detail: the director of the local animal shelter removed tics from the sleeping animal so it would be more comfortable when it woke up.

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Local Beat: Beloved New Brunswick Pub to Change Hands

Thursday Jun 09, 2016  | 

Local Beat is the NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting by community news sources.

NEW BRUNSWICK INSTITUTION, TUMULTY’S, TO CHANGE HANDS
New Brunswick Today editor Charlie Kratovil is usually busy sniffing out political scandal, but this week he shows his colors as a Hub City bro. Kratovil reports that Tumulty’s Pub, a local institution which challenges customers to figure out how to eat the massive $17.95 Death by Burger, is changing hands. Here is the hard-nosed Kratovil at his most wistful: “Despite relocating to new buildings twice during its lengthy run, Tumulty’s remained one of the few spaces in a rapidly-changing area that did not seem to change much at all from year to year.” Okay, he doesn’t really do wistful. A little political scandal also sneaks into the story – involving the closure of a nearby parking deck

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Local Beat: Bedminster Startup Aims to Stop Kid-on-Kid Bullying

Thursday May 26, 2016  | 

Local Beat is the NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting by community news sources.

BEDMINSTER STARTUP AIMS TO STOP KID-ON-KID BULLYING
We all heard the tragic story of a British Columbia teenager, Amanda Todd, who killed herself in 2012 after being bullied online, but Todd Schobel decided to do something about it. NJ Tech Weekly profiles the Bedminster entrepreneur who founded an anti-bullying startup, STOPit, which enables kids to quickly and anonymously report bullying, drug dealing, and other troubling peer behavior.

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Local Beat: Manhunt in Barnegat, Plans to Close Oyster Creek

Thursday May 05, 2016  | 

Local Beat is the NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting by community news sources.

JSHN STAYS ON TOP OF MANHUNT FOR ESCAPED BARNEGAT PRISONER
The newly-launched Jersey Shore Hurricane News website has been keeping close tabs on the manhunt for a convict who escaped from the prison unit of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Winslow Tuesday. JSHN reported that the Barnegat Township School District considered closing schools today if the fugitive wasn’t found, but ultimately decided to stay open with police presence. JSHN is still publishing on Facebook, where it started in 2011 just days before Hurricane Irene.

OYSTER CREEK NUCLEAR PLANT CLOSURE PLANS DETAILED 
Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant, the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the US, is on track to close in November, 2019, The Southern Ocean Times reports. Although a 2019 closure was announced in 2010, shutting down a nuclear plant is not as easy as it appears on The Simpsons. The plant’s owner, Exelon Corporation, is now working out safety plans to prevent, among other things, zirconium fire. The Times report is based on minutes from a meeting between Exelon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

MAPLEWOOD CONSIDERS LEAF BLOWER BAN DURING SUMMER
The Village Green reports that freelancers may be able to concentrate and babies to nap if Maplewood’s township committee goes through with a plan to ban leaf blowers from June 1 to August 31.

DIGITAL PIONEER CELEBRATED AT BELL LABS
Civic Story joined 250 information theorists, scientists, engineers and researchers at Nokia Bell Labs in Murray Hill last week as they celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of Claude Shannon, the man who first recognized that all data could be reduced from its analog form into what we now call “bits.” Civic Story founder Susan Haig was particularly charmed by anthropologist and tech designer Amber Case, who spoke about designing “calm technology” to combat the constant interruptions from all the devices that arose from Shannon’s insight.

BIEBER-COP SELFIE MAKES NEWS 
That wily bad boy of pop music, Justin Bieber, has had several run-ins with the law over the years, but this week Bieber initiated one himself when he “pulled over” a Bergen County Sheriff’s officer in Wood-Ridge and the two then posed for a selfie. The report by Jerry DeMarco of DV Pilot, a reincarnation of DeMarco’s Cliffview Pilot under the Daily Voice brand, was picked up by NJ.com and New Jersey 101.5.

HYPERLOCAL REPORTS ON BIRTH OF A COMPETITOR
This story is heartwarming to those of us who have worked hard to foster cooperation among media in NJ. The Fairlawn-Glen Rock Daily Voice yesterday ran a generous feature on hometown competitor Julie Maxwell Allen’s startup Banana Tree News, which covers some of the same territory. The DV story explained the choice of the Banana Tree name: “Her inspiration was a fake banana tree that has been a fixture in Kilroy’s Wonder Market for all of the grocery store’s 100 years in business.”

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Verona Voting Place Moved Over Mayor’s Objections

Thursday Apr 28, 2016  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

VERONA VOTING PLACE MOVED TO CONDO OVER MAYOR’S OBJECTIONS
Over objections of Verona’s mayor, the Essex County elections board has decided to move the voting location for one of the town’s districts to a private luxury townhouse building, MyVeronaNJ reports. The mayor calls the polling place change, which goes into effect with the June primary, “politically motivated,” and argues that the condo not only lacks handicap parking spaces but has a steep grade that may make access difficult for some voters.

DJ, DECRYING TICKETMASTER FEE, CREATES A WORKAROUND
When DJ Rich Russo of the syndicated radio show “Anything Anything” discovered that Ticketmaster was marking up tickets for a July 15 show he’s hosting in Asbury Park by 45 percent, he was outraged. But he figured out a way to help music lovers bypass Ticketmaster. He’s offered to go to Asbury Park himself, buy the tickets locally at a more reasonable 15 percent markup, and distribute them to concert-goers himself. NJArts.net has the story.

WHAT’S KILLING THE FISH IN A PRINCETON LAKE?
Hundreds of dead and rotting fish have floated to the surface of Princeton’s Lake Carnegie this spring, and nearby residents say they’ve never seen anything like it. Planet Princeton reports that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection sent an officer to investigate after resident complaints, but the official was not alarmed, saying that temperature changes this time of year can result in fish deaths. An investigation, however, continues.

TOMS RIVER MAY FINALLY GET MUNICIPAL BOAT RAMP
Despite its miles of waterfront, Toms River has never had a municipal boat ramp. The Toms River Times reports on efforts to get one built.

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Local Beat: Two Versions of Shooting at Franklin/New Brunswick Border

Thursday Apr 14, 2016  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting from local news sites around New Jersey.

 

FRANKLIN MAN SHOT BY FRANKLIN POLICE, IN NEW BRUNSWICK: TWO VERSIONS
The police shooting Saturday of a 27-year-old man, Diahlo Grant, near the border of New Brunswick and Franklin Township became a story for two local news outlets, New Brunswick Today and Franklin Reporter & Advocate. The victim, Diahlo Grant of Franklin Township, was black; police reports say he carried a gun and exchanged fire with police officers. He was being pursued for outstanding warrants.

Although the Franklin Township police began their chase in Franklin, the shooting actually took place across the border in New Brunswick. That means that the Middlesex County prosecutor, rather than the Somerset County prosecutor, will investigate – and that is the focus of Charlie Kratovil’s story for New Brunswick Today. “Now it is up to [Middlesex Prosecutor Andrew C.] Carey and his controversial agency, which has been accused of covering for cops in the past, to investigate the fatal shooting and determine if the out-of-town police ought to be charged with crimes,” Kratovil writes.

Kratovil’s story also points out how rare it is for police to be charged for shootings in NJ: “New Jersey police officers shot and killed seventeen people in 2015, and killed another five by running them over with vehicles, but only one cop was charged with crimes stemming from the incidents.”

The Franklin Reporter’s initial story covers the same ground about the shooting, but has been updated with a series of articles from the community perspective: the creation of a Facebook group called #JusticeForDiahlo, a GoFundMe campaign to pay for Grant’s funeral, the reaction of the local NAACP and photos of a candlelight vigil.

CHALLENGER TO DONALD NORCROSS LOSES COURT BATTLE
NJ Pen writes about a court challenge by Alex Law against Camden County Clerk Joseph Ripa, charging the clerk with “secrecy, stonewalling, and carrying out partisan political agendas” in the construction of the primary ballot that pits Law against incumbent Donald Norcross in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. Law lost his case, which involves extremely technical and complicated issues about “bracketing” of candidates, in superior court. Norcross, of course, is the brother of NJ power broker George Norcross.

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Local Beat: Citizen Journalist Documents Crumbling CSX Rail Bridge

Thursday Mar 10, 2016  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

CITIZEN JOURNALISM: DOCUMENTING A CRUMBLING BRIDGE IN HOPEWELL
When a Hopewell Borough man heard an NPR story about poorly-maintained rail bridges used by tankers transporting crude oil, he decided to take a look at a CSX train bridge right near his home, and documented what he found on video. MercerMe, which has been closely following CSX, ran the video and asked CSX for comment.

COURT RULING MAY PAVE WAY FOR MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NJ
The Ocean County Superior Court ruled last month that 13 local municipalities had not met their affordable housing requirements. Ocean County Politics says the decision could be a victory for affordable housing proponents throughout the state because it cast doubts on a report commissioned by the League of Municipalities and prepared by Econsult Solutions, which asserted that only 37,000 new affordable housing units need to be developed statewide over the next decade. Affordable housing advocates put the number at 202,000.

700 TESTED FOR LEAD CONTAMINATION IN MORRISTOWN  
Following up on last week’s story that lead was found in drinking water at Morristown Medical Center, Morristown Green reports that 700 people – including children at the hospital’s day care center – have been tested for lead levels in their blood.

NJ CRAFT BEER MAKERS FACE CHALLENGE FROM BIG BEER
Jersey Bites looks at a new incentive plan rolled out by Anheuser Busch, which will reward beer distributors whose sales are at least 98 percent AB products, and how that could endanger craft beer makers in NJ.

NEWARK ROBOTICS CENTER SPACE FOR LEASE
While the grudge match between Gov. Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka over charter schools continues to grab headlines, Essex County Place notices that a tiny vacant lot, owned by the Newark Schools, has now been listed for lease. In 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the East Ward lot to celebrate a future robotics center for the Newark Schools. It was never built.

BELLMAWR SUED FOR NOT TAKING MINUTES AT MEETING
Freelance open records advocate John Paff has sued Bellmawr Borough under OPRA for failing to keep any minutes or records of its regular caucus meetings, South Jersey Observerreports.  “I have been doing this for about 20 years and I don’t think I have ever found an instance of Borough Council or a Municipal Council not keeping meeting minutes at all, for a class of meetings,” Paff told the Observer.

CELEBRATE 350 SONGS ABOUT NEW JERSEY 
NJArts.net spent a year on a project called 350 Jersey Songs, which featured a daily feature on a song related to New Jersey. This Sunday, there’ll be a concert-fundraiser in Garwood to celebrate the project and raise money for NJArts. Tickets are $25 and available here.

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Local Beat: A Manifesto for Non-Partisan News

Thursday Feb 25, 2016  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

A MANIFESTO FOR NON-PARTISAN NEWS
The mudslinging and partisan politics that began immediately after news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death turned Susan Haig’s stomach. “By Monday morning, headlines trumpeted an epic political battle between those ‘for’ or ‘against’ a timely nomination, while a family grieved,” Haig wrote. So the publisher of CivicStory, a news site dedicated to elevating public conversation in NJ, wrote a manifesto of what she thinks news should be like. Haig imagines “non partisan news,” newspapers that don’t pander to “fear, indignation, or anger,” which tackle complexity and demonstrate independent thought. Making a similar point, Matt Taibbi makes a powerful case in Rolling Stone that the media is complicit in the electoral politics circus that has catapulted Donald Trump. “The presidency is serious,” Taibbi writes. “The presidential electoral process, however, is a sick joke, in which everyone loses except the people behind the rope line.”

LAKEWOOD PARENTS PRESS FOR STATE TAKEOVER OF SCHOOLS
Parents in Lakewood are asking the state to take over their local schools, Reporte Hispanowrites, because the district’s school board is comprised mostly of Orthodox Jewish members who don’t send their own children to the public schools and don’t represent the interests of the predominantly Hispanic students who attend them. The latest outrage, according to the story, is the elimination of bus services for students in the district. Note: this story is in Spanish, but if you read it using a Chrome browser, you have an option of seeing it translated instantly into English.

PRINCIPAL’S RELATIVE SKIPS OUT-OF-TOWN SCHOOL FEES 
After Roselle Park News received two tips that the out-of-town relative of a school principal was attending a district school for free, it submitted an OPRA request asking for proof of payment. The request was submitted on Friday Jan. 29 and – voila! – on Monday Feb. 1, a check covering five months of tuition for the relative suddenly materialized. Tuition is supposed to be paid on the first of each month.

BELMAWR EMT GETS $32.5K IN WRONGFUL TERMINATION SETTLEMENT
The Borough of Bellmawr has settled out-of-court with a former EMT who said he was wrongfully fired in 2013. Bellmawr agreed to pay $32,500. The settlement was discovered as a result of an OPRA request by the South Jersey Observer.

BLOOMFIELD RELEASES POLE-CAM VIDEO DESPITE SUPREME CT CASE
And in one more OPRA-related story, this one penned by yours truly, the Township of Bloomfield has released pole-cam video from a municipal parking lot security camera – despite its position that such video should be subject to a blanket exemption from OPRA. A case testing the question is currently before the state supreme court. You can read the story on the website of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Local Beat: Love, Actually

Thursday Feb 18, 2016  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. This week we focus on the noble feature story, with four examples that do it proud.

LOVE, NEWARK
Valentines Day, like every calendar holiday, comes once a year – and offers the opportunity to serve up a stale Whitman’s Sampler or something really special. Andaiye Taylor of Brick City Live chose the latter, teaming up with Tamara Fleming Photography to give readers the opportunity to tell their love stories, with five winning a professional portrait by Fleming. Thirty-three couples were profiled. Extra credit: Taylor sliced and diced the interviews into a nifty data overview at the top of the story: 10 couples listed Branch Brook Park as their favorite place in town.

THE ‘MISSING MAN’ TABLE IN JACKSON
A black folding chair, a small round table with a white tablecloth and a single red rose. This enigmatic installation in Jackson Township’s municipal building gets its due in The Jackson Times, which deconstructed each element of the tribute to the 91,000 U.S. soldiers since WWI who never came home and were never found.

THE STUDY HALL GANG
Robert Putnam’s 2000 book Bowling Alone told the story of an increasingly atomized and disconnected society. This sweet story in Baristanet celebrates a couple who broke through that sense of isolation by using an online community bulletin board to invite the town to join them for weekly drinks at a local bar. On the eighth week, someone finally showed up. Then others started coming. Now a group that calls itself The Study Hall Gang, in a nod to The Breakfast Club, is 70 members strong.

REINVENTING THE LOCAL GREEK DINER
You know the typical Greek diner. Good for cheeseburgers, short stacks and a menu so routine you could recite it in your sleep. So when a real Athens native moved to town and took over the Verona Diner, introducing kale-and-goat cheese omelets, quinoa salads and (gasp!) rectangular plates, Verona native and My Verona NJ publisher Virginia Citrano sat up and took note. “Where a classic Greek diner sports a menu as long as a Victorian novel,” Citrano writes. “Pardalis has pared the list at the new Verona Diner to items that can be made fresh, and he tracks his best sellers with the precision that you might expect of someone who studied information technology.”

HOBOKEN BIKE LANE CHATTER
It doesn’t get more local, idiosyncratic and frankly weird than this Hoboken 411 podcast on a proposed bicycle lane for Hoboken’s Washington Street: an uncensored conversation between Hoboken 411 founder Perry Klaussen and Hoboken Internet Radio’s Alice Stockton Rossini. The Hudson Reporter has the story on what Hoboken’s council did with that plan at its meeting last night.

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Local Beat: How to Write an Obituary

Thursday Feb 19, 2015  | 

Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey.

HOW TO WRITE AN OBITUARY
Kevin Coughlin of Morristown Green shows us how to honor an extraordinary life in this obituary of Chef Melody McGinley Whitelaw, “caterer to the stars.” Loaded with quirky anecdotes, photos and even video, the obit was also honest: “A proud woman, Melody could be short with people who did not accord her the respect she felt was her due.” Another interesting obit this week from Franklin Reporter, which honored Michele Ferrero, inventor of Nutella, who died on Valentines Day. The company that sells Nutella is based in Franklin. And Jay Lustig atNJArts.net decided to feature a different Leslie Gore song than everybody else in his farewell to the NJ-born singer-songwriter, who died Monday.

HOW TO INTERVIEW A LOCAL CELEBRITY
And speaking of obituaries, we pull rank this week to feature a 2011 Baristanet interview by yours truly of the late, great David Carr. The best thing about the interview: stepping out of the way and allowing Carr to tell his story in his own words.

HOW TO COVER A PROPOSED BOARDWALK DEVELOPMENT
Take a picture of the site plans, like Riverside Signal did, in this in-depth report on plans to redevelop the Funtown Pier in Seaside Park. Developers are requesting that the 50-foot height limit on rides be raised to 300 feet.

HOW TO BRIGHTEN UP THE WINTER WITH PUNS AND PICTURES
Just go look.

Scroll down for more or check out our must-reads here.

 

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