Big Names at Montclair State Media Conference

Center for Cooperative Media's first-ever annual conference, “Innovating the Local News Ecosystem," takes place April 24/25.

Merrill Brown, Director, School of Communication and Media, Montclair State University

BuzzFeed. Huffington Post. The New York Times. The Boston Globe.

Eric Newton. Ken Doctor. Larry Kramer. Jeff Jarvis. Michele McLellan. Steven Waldman.

Big names and heavy hitters in media will gather April 24 and 25 at Montclair State University for the Center for Cooperative Media's first annual conference, “Innovating the Local News Ecosystem."

"We're pleased to present what we hope will be a timely and utilitarian look at local news and information," said Merrill Brown, Director of Montclair State's School of Communication and Media.

"We'll focus on the realities of the marketplace and intend to provide multiple sessions that offer those in attendance as well as those who will listen online and follow our sessions via social media real solutions that can help them be effective in their communities. This is an opportunity to share some of our initial observations and provide a sense of what's working in the New Jersey media ecosystem. There's been too much emphasis on the local struggle and not enough attention focused on what's been learned and on what's going right. The local media leaders in attendance will help fill that void."

The conference is arguably the biggest undertaking to date for the Center for Cooperative Media — which was launched just one year ago out of the shifting media landscape created by the state’s dissolution of the New Jersey Network in 2011. After providing studio and newsroom space to the newly formed NJTV and forging a similar agreement with WNYC’s New Jersey Public Radio, the University formed the Center with the ultimate goal of developing partnerships with many of the state’s major news organizations.

An initiative of the School of Communication and Media, the Center for Cooperative Media has fostered journalistic collaboration and media innovation in the New Jersey ecosystem through these partnerships and through its first major initiative, the NJ News Commons, which has focused on grants, trainings and other services to help news entrepreneurs as well as legacy media.

The conference has been spearheaded by Center Director Ju-Don Marshall Roberts, well-known in the media world for helping to create The Washington Post's digital presence and serving on the boards of media organizations.

"This conference reflects the mission of the Center, which is to find ways to foster collaboration and sustainability in local media," said Roberts. "The issues we'll explore with the group of national journalism leaders gathering here -- revenue, engagement, journalism and innovation -- mirror those we address through smaller trainings and events for members of the New Jersey ecosystem on a regular basis."

"The conference, with its focus on local journalism in particular, couldn't come at a more opportune time," Roberts said, adding: "Despite the difficulties that our colleagues in the larger local journalism community are facing, we have to press even harder for experiments, and ultimately solutions, that will sustain local media. We may not get it right immediately, but only through continued experimentation will we eventually find the answers local journalism so desperately needs. What happens to our communities and our democracy if local journalism fails? It's a question we cannot afford to have answered."

The two opening sessions of the conference will tackle that issue head on. The Knight Foundation's Eric Newton will open the conference on April 24 with a keynote on the future of journalism from a foundation's perspective. The first panel of the Friday sessions, titled The New Normal, will explore the challenging local media landscape. Brown will lead that discussion featuring media analyst Ken Doctor, USA Today's Larry Kramer, the Association of Alternative News Media's Tiffany Shackelford, and Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of Digital First Media.

“Over the past couple of years, New Jersey’s news ecosystem has become a hotbed of innovation and collaboration, thanks in large part to the leadership efforts of Montclair State’s Center for Cooperative Media and NJ News Commons initiative," said Molly de Aguiar of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. "The recent news that the Star-Ledger is going through yet another round of layoffs, however, underscores the urgency we feel at Dodge to push forward and continually experiment with our partners toward a more sustainable future for journalism. This conference, which is bringing together some the brightest thinkers around these issues, couldn’t come at a better time.”

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.

Visit here to see the full conference schedule or to register for the conference.

This conference is made possible through the support of Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.