Tackling Tough Issues in New Jersey

The New Jersey News Commons at Montclair State is partnering with local, state and national media for two major projects – one investigating toxic sites in New Jersey and the other looking at the issue of immigration.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey has more than 13,000 toxic sites – from Superfund sites to dry cleaners and gas stations – with the potential to seriously undermine environmental and human health.

Dirty Little Secrets logo.

“Dirty Little Secrets,” a yearlong collaborative investigation of the state’s toxic legacy, was launched in December with grant support from the Dodge Foundation. Coordinated by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media and San Francisco’s Center for Investigative Reporting, which is taking it national, the series has already received kudos from the Columbia Journalism Review for embodying “the future of investigative reporting at the local level.”

Project media partners include New Jersey Public Radio/WNYC; WHYY; NJTV; NJ Spotlight; Jersey Shore Hurricane News; WBGO; New Brunswick Today; and the Rutgers Department of Journalism and Media Studies. Together, they will explore the effects of toxic waste pollution through radio stories, video reports, articles and a podcast. Members of the public can also share their stories and concerns on Twitter by using the hashtag #ToxicNJ.

The WNYC data team has created a searchable, interactive map of all the known toxic sites in New Jersey, while journalists have reported on everything from the hidden hazards of underground home oil tanks to the dangers of diesel exhaust.

In February, the News Commons launched another yearlong reporting project with NJ Spotlight to explore New Jersey’s immigrant population, including the measures of and barriers to their success. The “In the Shadow of Liberty: New Jersey Immigration” project is being paid for through donations through beaconreader.com, a journalism crowd-funding site.