Generally speaking, when a baby is turning one year old, it is just starting to be able to stand, albeit a little wobbly, and taking its first steps. However, in the case of the College of the Arts’ Center for Cooperative Media, following its launch to the general public in March 2013, the “baby” is off and running.
Founded in 2012, and publicly unveiled several months later, the Center (housed in the School of Communication and Media) was created as a result of the shifting media landscape in New Jersey created by the state’s dissolution of New Jersey Network’s public radio and television stations in 2011. When the station WNET (also known as Channel 13) won the state’s public TV licenses and began the development of NJTV (New Jersey’s public television station), Montclair State University offered the network a home within its DuMont Television Center. A similar agreement with WNYC’s New Jersey Public Radio followed, and the School envisioned a goal of ultimately developing partnerships with many of the state’s major news organizations. Thusly, the Center was created to serve as the hub for New Jersey media, as both a centralized, physical center as well as a virtual resource center. (Read more about the launch of CCM here.)
In its new home in Conrad J. Schmitt Hall, the Center quickly set out to launch its first fully funded initiative, the NJ News Commons, to foster cooperation, collaboration and needed support to New Jersey news organizations. Debra Galant, former co-publisher of the hyperlocal online news site Baristanet, was tapped to serve as its associate director.
The Center soon gained a few more new partners, including AOL's Patch, NJ.com, NJ Spotlight, North Jersey Media Group, Reuters and WBGO (read more here). In November 2013, it welcomed its new director, award-winning journalist, digital media strategist and startup advisor Ju-Don Marshall Roberts. Before assuming the post, Roberts served as general manager and senior vice president of Everydayhealth.com, a health news, information and services network. She also held major positions with Beliefnet.com, a leading spirituality and inspirational website, and The Washington Post. (Read more about Roberts here.)
Roberts reports that the Center has been abuzz with activity in its first year.
"Over the last year, the Center for Cooperative Media has been active mostly through the NJ News Commons, which is an arm of the CCM," Roberts said. "NJ News Commons has grown to 75 media partners; produced trainings and hackathons; created services such as the OPRA (Open Public Request Act) Sherpa and investigative reporting coaching and peer-to-peer mentoring; administered grants for start-ups and investigative reporting; and produced a bimonthly podcast and daily email newsletters that aggregate the best in NJ news coverage."
Roberts added, in carrying out part of its mission to serve New Jersey's news ecosystem and be a focal point for expanding news and information in the state, the Center is also planning to host its first-ever annual conference this spring.
"The conference -- "Innovating the Local News Ecosystem -- will begin April 24 with a reception and keynote," Roberts said." On April 25, media leaders from across the country will gather at the Conference Center at Montclair State University for a day of keynotes and break-out sessions that will touch on the major trends and innovations impacting local media."
In attendance will be representatives from well-known companies, including BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, USA Today, and NJ.com, among others. The Conference's scheduled speakers read like a who's who in the field of media and include Eric Newton, Ken Doctor, Larry Kramer, Jeff Jarvis, Michele McLellan, and Steven Waldman. The conference will wrap with a town hall on the future of journalism led by Jeff Jarvis, director of CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.
Roberts said the conference is envisioned to be an annual, national event. The Center is also planning other events.
"In May, we are convening a data summit that will bring together journalists, technologists and municipal officials across the tristate area to explore topics in open data and open government, with a specific focus on New Jersey," Roberts said. "We have several smaller events on the calendar to assist start-ups, ethnic media and reporters needing assistance with investigations. In addition, there are a number of summits on big media issues that we are planning in conjunction with the City University of New York's Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism."
Roberts noted all of the Center's scheduled activities, while reflecting the School's commitment to media innovation and journalistic collaboration, offer an added advantage to its students and faculty, as well as the University community, as a whole.
"At the Center, we are facilitating a bold experiment in collaboration that brings members of the New Jersey media ecosystem together with Center staff and SCM students and faculty," she explains. "Our partners are doing groundbreaking work in investigative journalism, beat reporting and accountability journalism, and our students have had the rare opportunity to work alongside them. We expect these relationships to not only bolster the quality of the journalism in New Jersey but to also redefine the learning experience for our students."
As examples, she cites the Center's media partners have worked with the School's faculty to visit and lecture in classrooms, participate in Center events as panelists and speakers, join in podcasts, broadcast election coverage from our offices, and partner on projects, such as the Immigration Project, election night and voting problems tracking. They have also employed students as interns and alumni as staff.
"NJTV, of course, produces nightly news broadcasts from the DuMont television studios and runs its news operation out of Schmitt Hall, affording the School's students internships and networking opportunities," she added. "A number of our alumni, such as '13 graduate Erin Pedrini, have become employees of NJTV News."
That's a win-win situation for all, especially as the School announced recently it will offer a Journalism major in Fall 2014 (read more here).
As for the future, Roberts said the Center will continue its current path while rising to meet future challenges as they arise.
"The Center is looking to expand its services and training, increase the number of collaborations with media partners, support the creation of more media start-ups, and raise its profile in New Jersey and nationally as the go-to place for innovation in local and hyperlocal news coverage," she said. "This is only the beginning for the Center. We have big plans to expand into online training, create a news lab, facilitate collaborative investigative journalism projects and have fellowships that have benefits for our partners and our school.
"The Center for Cooperative Media is committed to building and expanding the ecosystem not only to address the unique opportunities and challenges created by New Jersey media but, also, to help develop and seed both media operations in under-covered communities and projects that fill needs in coverage and data gathering in under-reported topics. In addition to finding opportunities to expand or establish cover for under-served communities or under-reported topics, we are focused on helping our partners with sustainability issues."