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Supporting Local Journalism Amid COVID-19

The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State supports local journalists reporting on coronavirus

Posted in: Communication and Media, Homepage News, University

As journalists and news organizations throughout New Jersey grapple with reporting timely and accurate information on the spread of COVID-19 to their local communities, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State is working to ensure that its 282 statewide partners have the tools and resources needed to keep New Jerseyans informed and safe.

Through content sharing, newsletters, webinars, conference calls, surveys, translation services and more, the Center – helmed by Director Stefanie Murray and Associate Director Joe Amditis – is offering direct advice and support through its NJ News Commons and NJ College News Commons networks.

Their efforts are already paying off.

“The Center’s updates have been crucial in keeping me informed with the little amount of time I have to catch up on statewide events,” reports Simon Galperin, a local journalist who has added a Coronavirus Information Center to his Bloomfield Information Project website. “We are providing daily coronavirus updates for and about Bloomfield through our website and new, daily email newsletter. Right now, I’m focused on gathering hyperlocal information, responding to my community’s questions, and organizing to support local aid delivery.”

Daily COVID-19 newsletter

The Center for Cooperative Media is publishing a daily COVID-19 newsletter specifically curated for NJ News Commons and NJ College News Commons news partners.

The newsletter includes links to statewide stories that are available for republication, and a list of newly announced reporting resources, grant opportunities, training sessions and more.

“There is a ton of information flying around right now, and while it’s great there are a lot of resources being made available to local journalists, it’s a lot of noise to cut through,” says Murray. “We’re going to pay attention and collect all the relevant info so our partners don’t have to.”

Sign up here to get the newsletter, and click here to join the NJ News Commons. Click here if you’re a freelancer.

New content-sharing partnerships

NJ Spotlight is making all of its COVID-19 statewide reporting available for local news organizations to republish.

“This should help some smaller sites tremendously, letting them focus entirely on local coverage of the pandemic,” says Amditis. The Center is sharing links to these stories with the republication guidelines every day in the new COVID-19 newsletter for NJ News Commons partners mentioned above.

NJTV, NJ Spotlight’s sister newsroom, also provides embed codes for all of its livestreams, videos and shows. Links to relevant videos are included in the daily newsletter.

Additionally, through a new newsletter Coronaviral, veteran investigative journalist Stephen Stirling is making free graphics available for reuse. The Center is including links to those graphics in the daily newsletter as well.

In addition, the Center has been working for the last few months with Nordot to relaunch the NJ Story Exchange. Using a plugin, Nordot allows news outlets to digitally republish reporting from larger newsrooms like and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Nordot platform also allows news organizations to make their own reporting “republishable” and keep additional ad revenue that is generated when someone else picks up the content. The Center has a standing feature noting what’s available in Nordot in the new COVID-19 newsletter.

Providing Spanish translation

“Providing critical information about the new coronavirus only in English misses a big part of New Jersey’s population,” reports Murray. To that end, the Center is partnering with Reporte Hispano, the state’s largest Spanish-language news organization, to provide daily Spanish translation of one or two articles produced by NJ Spotlight. The Center’s ethnic media coordinator, Anthony Advincula, is leading this effort. The Spanish translation is provided via the daily newsletter.

Weekly conference calls

The Center has begun hosting a weekly conference call on Fridays, led by Amditis, for NJ News Commons members in an effort to facilitate coordination among the state’s local news providers and to provide a safe place to vent. Information for the calls will also be provided as a standing item in the daily newsletter.

Last week, the Center also contacted all of its campus media partners that are part of the NJ College News Commons and scheduled an impromptu listening session to hear their concerns and plans for tackling the situation upon their (virtual) return from spring break. Those calls will continue as well.

Training webinars to be increased

“There’s a lot of training we’ll all need over the coming months, and so the Center is planning to ramp up the number of webinars and virtual training courses it provides on topics ranging from video conference tools to coronavirus data analysis,” says Amditis. The Center’s first such session was an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”). Next up, Amditis will provide basic video conference and remote work training on March 23 – click here to sign up. The Center will announce future trainings on social media and other topics in our forthcoming COVID-19 newsletter.

New COVID-19 section in The Daily Roundup

The Center’s daily NJ News Commons newsletter, The Daily Roundup, is the state’s only non-partisan roundup of top news from dozens of news providers around New Jersey. This newsletter is targeted toward news consumers in New Jersey, not news organizations themselves. The goal is to give residents a quick rundown of what’s being reported and to amplify the excellent journalism produced by the Center’s partners.

The Center’s Daily Roundup newsletter writer, Jeanette Beebe, has added an entire daily section rounding up coronavirus coverage from across the state, with a special focus on hyperlocal news. The Center plans to continue this new section for the foreseeable future.

New COVID-19 section in The Local Connection

The Center publishes a weekly newsletter on Mondays called The Local Connection. That newsletter takes three or four national stories each week and breaks down how local journalists can localize them, including local angles to consider and loads of local questions to ask.

The Center’s Local Connection newsletter writer, Carla Baranauckas, has added an entire weekly section on national coronavirus coverage. The Center plans to also continue this new section for the foreseeable future.

Surveying partners

“One of the first things the Center did when it became clear that the new coronavirus wasn’t going away was to reach out to its partners and ask them how it could help,” says Murray. “After all, it’s much harder to help someone if you don’t know what they need.”

The Center created and distributed a brief partner needs survey to its network of more than 285 New Jersey media partners, along with dozens of freelancers and independent reporters across the state. The survey asks about what support each organization or individual needs in regard to coronavirus reporting, how they prefer to communicate, which tools they use, what kind of training or guidance they might need, what their schedules look like, and if they would be interested in working collaboratively to cover COVID-19.

The Center will continue monitoring that survey (New Jersey news organizations can participate in the survey here) and will adjust its services to partners based on feedback.

“Even if you just need someone to listen while you figure everything out, we’re here,” says Amditis.

“Through the Center for Cooperative Media, I’ve discovered critical resources like NJ Spotlight’s story-sharing, Steve Stirling’s Coronavrial, and guides compiled by First Draft and the Lenfest Institute,” says Galperin. “The Center is providing a place where I can go to get informed about the latest statewide coronavirus developments and find suggestions on how to further hone my reporting as I do it.”

“In a lot of ways, it’s what the Center was built to do.”

Contact the Center at

About the Center for Cooperative Media

The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit