The newly-formed Corporation for New Jersey Local Media is planning to transition 14 high-quality weekly newspapers owned by the New Jersey Hills Media Group to non-profit ownership.
The move will help to protect the chain of weekly newspapers in Morris, Somerset, Essex and Hunterdon counties after being run for years by two legends of New Jersey journalism, Liz Parker and Steve Parker.
“As we contemplated the future of our papers,” said Liz Parker, co-publisher and executive editor, “teaming up with a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the local news coverage we provide – in print, on the web, and on social media – was always our first choice.”
The group would be the third largest weekly newspaper group in the nation operating under non-profit ownership once the deal is finalized.
The potential acquisition comes at a time when local news coverage has suffered extraordinary reductions in service, leaving many communities without access to critical information enjoyed at a time when many community newspapers thrived economically.
Old media daily newspapers no longer offer serious coverage of local news. In the past, the larger newspapers assigned reporters to cover municipal beats. Newsrooms in county courthouses and large city halls have been closed for several years.
The non-profit corporation was founded last year by two former political opponents who came to together in a bid to preserve local news in New Jersey: former Harding Mayor Nic Platt and his onetime Democratic opponent, Amanda Richardson.
“Our mission is to strengthen communities by preserving and expanding local journalism, and shepherding this conversion is the first step in making that mission a reality,” said CNJLM executive director Amanda Richardson. “We are grateful for the chance to ensure that the New Jersey Hills Media Group remains a vital community resource that provides quality journalism, serves as a watchdog on local government, and keeps readers abreast of the news they need.”
Platt said that non-profit ownership “strengthens community journalism by supplementing traditional newspaper advertising and subscription revenue with foundation grants, events, tax-deductible contributions, and memberships to fund robust reporting that enhances civic engagement and builds stronger communities.”
The New Jersey Hills group includes the Bernardsville News, Chatham Courier, Echoes Sentinel, in Warren Florham Park Eagle, Hanover Eagle, Hunterdon Review, Madison Eagle, Morris News Bee, Mount Olive Chronicle, Observer-Tribune in Mendham, Randolph Reporter, Roxbury Register, The Citizen in Denville, and The Progress in Caldwell.
The group has also assembled an advisory board that includes: Linda Stamato, Director Emerita of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Rutgers University; Fruqan Mouzon of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter; State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Franklin); former Democratic State Senate candidate Dr. Lisa Bhimani; John Mooney, Founding CEO of New Jersey Spotlight; Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media, Montclair State University; and Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of Rutgers University’s Bloustein Local Government Services Center.