Rally in Trenton! NJ-SPJ speaks out against “newspaper-revenge bill”

It’s not over til it’s over. Legislators arrived at the statehouse in Trenton this morning, only to discover protesters from all over the state expressing their opposition to a pair of bills that would remove the requirement that legal notices run in newspapers.

NJ-SPJ was there too, thanks to board members Emily Kratzer, Bob Schapiro and Ron Miskoff. And as Emily, Bob and Ron said over and over again in interviews today, we oppose the bill for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, it opens the door to corruption because it allows governmental entities to pressure cash-strapped news organizations to give them favorable coverage in exchange for potential revenues from legal notices. (Remember: the bill makes running the notices in a newspaper optional.) It also creates the temptation for politicians to hide information from the public in the far corners of governmental websites.

Supporters claim that the measure will save money — but how? If the ads are to be posted on governmental sites, those sites will need to be secured against hacking. That costs money. It also requires personnel, something that will certainly strain smaller communities. As for the proposal in the bill to create a state-wide aggregator website run by the NJ Office of Information Technology, that, too, will add up to more taxpayer expenses.

During their visit to Trenton, Emily, Bob and Ron managed to button hole  Senate President Steve Sweeney, who, when pressed about why he allowed such a bad bill to move forward, replied, “I’m working on it, I’m working on it.”

Does this mean that there’s hope that the bill may be voted down after all? Votes for both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled for this afternoon. Stay tuned!



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Reinvention 101

Journalists who have been laid off or are looking for work are invited to attend “Life After The Newsroom,” a free luncheon, panel discussion and networking event on Monday, Dec. 12 at The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. The event will feature a panel discussion by those who have either been let go from legacy organizations or who took a buyout, and who have forged new or different career paths for themselves. The panel includes Chris Satullo, formerly of WHYY and the Philadelphia Inquirer, now running Keystone Civic Ventures; Mike Rispoli, formerly of Gannett and now of Free Press; Sandy Levine, formerly of NJN and now an independent documentary and video producer; John Mooney, also formerly of The Star-Ledger and now of NJ Spotlight; and Tanya Barrientos, formerly of the Philadelpha Inquirer and now of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The luncheon starts at 1 p.m.; the program itself kicks off at 2 p.m. Space is limited to the first 75 people who sign up. For more information, click here.…

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Huge layoffs coming at North Jersey Media Group

The bad news many have been dreading since this summer when the Gannett Co. Inc. purchased The Record and the dozens of community newspapers that comprise the North Jersey Media Group came to pass yesterday with the announcement that 426 employees will receive pink slips by the end of the week. About half of those being laid off are expected to be rehired for new positions created as part of a restructuring, meaning the net job loss will be about 200, the company said.

Gannett bought the North Jersey Media Group in July from the Borg family, which had owned the NJMG for more than 80 years.…

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Sept. 20: Free Forum on NJ open records and open meetings laws

Our friends at that New Jersey Foundation for Open Government will be hosting a discussion on the state’s open records and open meetings laws from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 228 High St., Perth Amboy.

The event is free, and will feature open government advocate John Paff and Walter Luers, a New Jersey attorney who specializes in public records cases. Light refreshments will be provided.

To register, click here.

For more information, send an email to info@njfog.org or call 732-992-6550.…

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NJ-SPJ starts Garden State Registry of Historic Sites in Journalism

registry logo_centeredAt NJ-SPJ, we value journalism history, so, in the spirit of our national organization’s program recognizing historic sites in journalism, we have decided to create a registry of historic sites in journalism dedicated to the Garden State.

We’re kicking off our project by naming three sites to our registry: the Red Bank home of T. Thomas Fortune (1856-1928), who, in the late 19th and early 20th century, was one of the most prominent African-American journalists of his day, and The Union Hotel and Historic Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, both important because of their connection to the 1935 Lindbergh kidnapping trial.

All three sites are in the New Jersey as well as National Register of Historic Places. The Historic Hunterdon Courthouse was restored in the late 1990s and is now used for special events such as re-enactments of the infamous trial, but both the Union Hotel and the T. Thomas Fortune home are in disrepair.

Of the three, only the Union Hotel — the quintessential grand Victorian hotel and which, together with the courthouse gives Main Street in Flemington its identity– is in danger of disappearing. That’s because the Flemington Borough Council has granted a redevelopment contract to a developer who wants to tear down four historic buildings, including the hotel, to build large, modern buildings and a parking garage.

The T. Thomas Fortune home was saved from the jaws of death in July when the city of Red Bank approved a plan by developer Roger Mumford to rehabilitate the home and convert it to a cultural center and build 31 luxury apartments in the style of the home in the back of the property. The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2018, according to a report in the Asbury Park Press.

Fortune lived in Red Bank from 1901 until 1910. He called his home Maple Hall, and the house is located at 94 Drs. James Parker Blvd.

Fortune was co-owner and editor of The New York Age, the most widely read African-American newspaper of its day and known for its strong stance against lynching, discrimination, mob violence, and disenfranchisement of blacks in America. In 1892, when a white mob destroyed the Memphis newspaper owned by journalist Ida B. Wells, Wells found a new home on the pages of The New York Age as Fortune began publishing Wells’ investigative articles that documented how lynching was used as a means of social control.

Over the course of his career, Fortune wrote over 20 books and hundreds of editorials. Fortune’s involvement in two strong African-American advocacy organizations helped lay the foundation for the NAACP and other civil rights organizations that followed.

The Union Hotel and Historic Hunterdon County Courthouse are important sites in journalism because of their connection to the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, which, in 1935, turned the sleepy town of Flemington, New Jersey into the epicenter of a media circus.…

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