100+ students attend annual “Meet the Press” event

meet the pressMore than 100 students attended today’s annual NJ-SPJ/Public Relations Society of America “Meet The Press” panel at Rutgers University’s Piscataway campus. The five media panelists were: David Levitt, Bloomberg Business News;  Gema de las Heras, “A Tu Lado” consumer producer for Univision (WXTV 41 New York); Tom Bergeron, editor, NJBIZ Magazine; Josh Cornfield, New Jersey news editor, Associated Press; and Walt Kane, investigative reporter, News 12 NJ

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Anna Quindlen to speak in Montclair on April 28

On April 28, Anna Quindlen will be in conversation with Montclair’s Elisabeth Egan in another great, FREE talk in the Montclair Public Library’s Open Book Open Mind series. The discussion, about Quindlen’s latest novel, Miller’s Valley, begins at 7:45 pm at Mount Hebron Middle School, 173 Bellevue Ave., Montclair, is free and open to all who make a reservation. In addition, the library is hosting an intimate cocktail party at 6:30 p.m. with Ms. Quindlen and Ms. Egan at the Bellevue Avenue Library, 185 Bellevue Avenue, located next door to the middle school. Tickets to the cocktail party are $50 and $100, and will support the Open Book, Open Mind series as well as all of the Montclair Public Library’s programs. Ms. Quindlen will also speak briefly about a book that changed her life.

For tickets to the Pre-Party Fundraiser and Premium Seating click here or call Anita at 973-744-0500 x2222.
For general reservations click here or call 973-744-0500 x2235.
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Contest deadline extended!

Excellence_croppedStragglers, rejoice! We’ve extended the contest deadline to 11:59 Tuesday, March 8 for all categories EXCEPT the Awbrey, our special local journalism category for work that goes the extra mile and seeks to engage and improve communities. Because the Awbrey requires extra documentation, the deadline for submissions is March 15. However, because of technical issues, after March 8, all Awbrey submissions need to be sent to newjerseyspj.feedback@gmail.com. Just be sure to put “Awbrey awards” in the subject line.

Submitting your work is easy. Click here to see all of our contest categories. Click here to enter. All entries must have been published, broadcast or placed online in 2015.…

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Help support immigration reporting in NJ

NJ Spotlight and the Center for Cooperative Media are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to support a year of reporting on immigrants in NJ. There are 76 backers so far, who’ve made contributions ranging from $10 to $1,000. The project is being supported by a dollar for dollar match from Beacon Reader, but won’t receive any money if it doesn’t meet its $30,000 goal by March 8. Support journalism in NJ by clicking here.…

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An OPRA victory: getting pole-cam video from Bloomfield

Journalists, watchdogs and open public records advocates won a small victory for OPRA law earlier this month when the Township of Bloomfield released some municipal camera surveillance video as the result of an OPRA request — apparently backing down on a legal position that surveillance video should be exempted from public records law.

At stake is a case currently before the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which pits a particularly tenacious local watchdog, Patricia Gilleran, against the Township of Bloomfield.

In 2014, Gilleran asked for a week of security tape footage of Bloomfield’s municipal parking lot. She had been looking into how the town issued parking placards, which she says are valuable because they can be used anywhere in town, and suspected that politically connected people using the municipal parking lot had received the special placards. Gilleran asked for footage from that camera in order to test her hypothesis. “It’s a machine,” Gilleran said. “There’s an awful lot of behind-the-scenes power.”

When Bloomfield denied the request, saying it was burdensome and a potential security threat, Gilleran litigated the case using Pashman Stein attorney C.J. Griffin.

Griffin won in Essex County Superior Court in June 2014. The decision was upheld, after appeal by Bloomfield, in appellate court. Bloomfield has since appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

Gilleran has been joined by 18 journalism organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society for Professional Journalists, Advance Publications and North Jersey Media Group, who together have filed an amicus brief arguing that a blanket exemption for security video would compromise the press’s ability to cover police misconduct.

Bloomfield was joined by the New Jersey Attorney General.

The state’s amicus brief raised the following objections to releasing the footage: that surveillance footage doesn’t constitute public records; that even if surveillance footage was part of the public record it would be exempt due to security exemptions in OPRA, that the municipal building’s proximity to the police station would compromise both police informants and crime victims, and that Gilleran’s original request, for a week of video, was overly broad and would take too long for officials to monitor. Gilleran later reduced her request to 24 hours, but the township said that was still too long a period to vet.

Then, this January, something else in the municipal parking lot drew Gilleran’s attention. Right after after the township’s January reorganization meeting, a parking lot fight broke out between Bloomfield councilman Joseph Lopez and the nephew of another councilman, Eli Chalet.

Chalet, who is alleged to have taken a $15,000 bribe, has since been indicted. At the Jan. 4 meeting, Lopez called for Chalet’s resignation. Lopez and Chalet’s nephew paint starkly different pictures of that scuffle.…

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