Coders and journalists, unite!

From the newly created NJ News Commons project at Montclair State, this great training opportunity:

It’s a weekend. It’s a contest. It’s a chance to be on the cutting edge of journalism. HackJersey — coders and journalists working together to tell stories using public data — is coming Jan. 25-27, 2013. Journalists, if you’ve ever wondered how amazing data visualizations and interactives like this are created, you want to be part of this weekend. You don’t need to come with programming skills; you’ll join a team with coders. This is the first hackathon in the state of New Jersey to bring the two disciplines together. Prizes include lunch with Jeff Jarvis and a tour of the New York Times R&D labs.

Cost is $10 for pros, free for students. For more info, go here.…

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NJSPJ Sandy help for journalists

Dear members:

We hope you and your families are safe and warm following superstorm Sandy and the impending nor’easter.

So many journalism colleagues have been affected storm and need help, large and small. Many of you are also looking for ways to lend a hand.

Do you need a place to charge up, get access to the web or simply to have a place to work? Do you need a warm place to stay, clothing or other essentials?

If you’re in need of help, or if you’re willing to donate, please don’t be shy.

Contact us at or call  908-399-4771 and we’ll connect you.

There are also many other ways to help people who’ve been hit by Sandy. Here are some resources:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated its transitional shelter program, which allows those who cannot return to their homes because of storm damage to stay in participating hotels, motels or other housing. You must first register with FEMA at a recovery center, by calling 800-621-3362 or by going to

Donate to the American Red Cross’s Sandy efforts


Charities is a McCormick Foundation fund that offers 50% matching donations for grants to be made to qualified nonprofit organizations with programs
that concentrate on child abuse prevention and treatment; child and youth education; housing; and hunger.…

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We’re hosting!

Yes, you heard it right. We’re stepping up to the plate to host this year’s regional. The place? The School of  Communication and Information on the lovely Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. The dates? April 12-13. Right now we’re busy planning workshops, booking venues and hammering out a million other details. Stay tuned for more information.

And, of course, if you’ve got an idea or if you want to help, contact chapter president Jane Primerano at…

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Kickstarting new ventures

The New Member Task Force of SPJ-NJ has been very busy this summer. We’ve had three events with very sizable turnouts, focusing on three goals:

  • Making SPJ-NJ a more useful organization for mid-career journalists… people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
  • Holding more activities in northern NJ.
  • Establishing new student chapters.

Seventeen people attended the “new member” meeting we held in Montclair in June. That meeting created some exciting possibilities. There was general consensus that SPJ-NJ must revitalize its website.

To that end, I am pleased to announce the New Member Task Force has spun-off its first committee. Miriam Ascarelli, who attended the June meeting, has now been named the chairperson of the SPJ Website Committee. If you’d like more information, you can contact Miriam at mascarel@ADM.NJIT.EDU.

Now to the Montclair meeting… It can be summarized in two words: Excitement and frustration.

People are frustrated with recent trends in journalism but excited about the opportunity to do something about it. When presented with a wide range of possibilities of what SPJ can become in our state, the overwhelming consensus is that we should promote quality journalism.

At the Montclair meeting, several people offered concrete suggestions:

  • There was general enthusiasm for the idea that SPJ should establish a speakers’ bureau, so that members can volunteer to go into schools in their community. To that end, I and other members will be going to Stony Brook to learn about their news literacy program. You can get general information at
  • There are some hyper-local and alternative news websites in NJ that are making money and paying their reporters. Some of the people who work at those sites were at the meeting. One site in particular is eager to share its business model with fellow journalists. SPJ wants to use its connectivity to make it a little easier to advance quality journalism in this manner.
  • There were many suggestions regarding journalistic ethics, with specifics on how SPJ can help the public identify quality journalism.
  • There were suggestions about increased activism. Representatives from the National Writers Union were present at the meeting, as well as several NJ-members, talking about the “Pay the Writer” campaign. SPJ is not a union, but we certainly support the idea that professional journalists should be properly paid for their work. SPJ is already active in supporting First Amendment concerns and government transparency. SPJ is considering doing more in the near future. If you care about a particular cause that you feel most professional journalists would support, please contact me. I will pass along your suggestions to the board.

There were suggestions in other areas that are worth noting:

  • SPJ is a very large organization that is in a position to negotiate discounts for its members.
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