Earlier this month, WNET acquired the digital news organization NJ Spotlight from the Community Foundation of New Jersey. It will join forces with NJTV News to create NJ-centric, multi-platform content and one of the largest and most comprehensive public affairs organizations in New Jersey.
News of the acquisition was first shared with VIPs at an event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark on March 4, which featured a panel discussion on “Spotlight on the Future of Local Journalism.” Moderated by WNET President & CEO Neal Shapiro, the panel included insight from John Thornton, Founder, The Texas Tribune and the American Journalism Project; Jennifer Preston, Vice President, Journalism, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; John Mooney, Founding Editor, NJ Spotlight; and Liza Gross, Vice President, Newsroom Practice Change Solutions Journalism Network.
The panelists discussed the state of today’s journalism industry, the voids in local coverage and the need to foster better relationships between constituents and media. Preston remains optimistic for the journalism industry: “We believe the best way to restore trust is one community at a time. It’s a matter of democracy, it’s news and information that’s critical for a healthy democracy. And that’s what’s at risk right now.”
Gross expressed the need for solutions-based journalism in today’s society, which leaves the audience with a feeling of hope that someone is doing something about their issues.
Reflecting on the need for local journalism, Thornton said that, “I think what this ecosystem is figuring out is that there is a way to do old-fashioned accountability journalism without being unnecessarily negative but reinforcing that these local news institutions have your back.”
Mooney said, “What was central to all this was maintaining the high standards of journalism. This is not about NJTV or Spotlight…this is about New Jersey and having a powerful force covering public affairs issues.”
The event attracted about 120 attendees, including principals and staff from WNET, NJTV and NJ Spotlight: NJTV’s General Manager John Servidio and NJ Spotlight’s President Hans Dekker; members of Public Media NJ/NJTV’s Board of Trustees including former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, Tracy McManimon, Mike Poncia, Bob Smartt and Liz Thomas; NJ Spotlight’s Trustees Ingrid Reed, Jim Willse and Laurene Mahon and NJTV’s Community Advisory board members Ingrid Reed (who also served as NJ Spotlight’s Board Chair) and Pat Phillips and Agnes Rymer.
Watch the panel discussion here: