Blog Posts

What it’s like to set up Facebook Instant Articles

Wednesday May 04, 2016  |  0 comments

For someone with only a basic understanding of computer logic, setting up Facebook Instant Articles for an indie publication is a pain in the ass. It’s tedious, buggy, and it comes with that familiar feeling of pending judgment as you submit your 10 sample articles for review.

Which is exactly why I’m doing it. I’m going through the motions of converting my old digital news startup, Muckgers, into a Facebook-first publication as we prepare it for a possible revitalization (more on this to come). Muckgers co-founder Simon Galperin and I will document our progress along the way, letting you know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s next. Think of Muckgers as a canary in the digital coal mine that is Facebook-first publishing. Our plan is to create useful walkthroughs and video tutorials along the way to help you navigate through the weeds.

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Collaboration is the future of impactful, sustainable enterprise journalism — and here’s why

Wednesday Apr 20, 2016  |  0 comments

Last year, some 400 journalists from 107 media organizations in 76 countries joined forces to investigate and analyze more than 11.5 million leaked documents. Their investigation, known as the Panama Papers, was published worldwide earlier this month.

The Panama Papers marked the biggest leak in whistleblower history. Analysis of such a huge trove of documents was only possible because such a large group of reporters and editors — led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — worked collaboratively on the project.

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Reboot: The Return of Peer-to-Peer Sessions

Thursday Mar 31, 2016  |  2 comments

It’s been a long time since we last held a peer-to-peer group session for NJ news entrepreneurs. We used to hold monthly meetings at Montclair State and via Zoom Conference where we’d bring together independent publishers and news entrepreneurs to discuss the challenges they faced. The goal was to get people in the same room to exchange best practices and hopefully find solutions that just don’t show up in a Google search.

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We’re launching another collaborative reporting project. Join us.

Tuesday Mar 29, 2016  |  0 comments

I spent a sizable chunk of 2015 helping to coordinate Dirty Little Secrets, the Center for Cooperative Media’s first statewide collaborative reporting project. The experience taught me a lot.

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Thinking It Through: Using design thinking to connect with your community

Wednesday Mar 16, 2016  |  0 comments

This week, the students of the CUNY Social Journalism program descended upon the Sheraton Times Square Hotel to host a day-long innovation challenge using design thinking at NYC16, the College Media Association’s Spring National Media Convention.

The challenge was pretty straightforward: Use design thinking to come up with ideas to improve the media experience of women on college campuses.

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Social Media Strategy for Small Publications

Monday Mar 14, 2016  |  0 comments

Some of us don’t have millions of subscribers and widespread brand recognition to lean on

Over the last five weeks or so, I’ve listened to guest speaker after guest speaker talk about the wonders of the latest social media innovations to come out of Facebook, The New York Times, Mashable, the Harvard Business Review, or one of the other media giants. While I understand the benefits of learning from their examples, I can’t help but feel like there’s a huge gap in this type of thinking when it comes to implementing these ideas at the local level.

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Going Mobile: Who will be New Jersey’s digital sherpa?

Wednesday Mar 09, 2016  |  0 comments


There’s a lot going on in the world of digital publishing, especially when it comes to the changing mobile landscape. Mobile innovation labs like the one at the Guardian are popping up left and right, new social and content sharing apps are released virtually every day, and the Internet giants are constantly updating the way users interact with their products at every level.

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Chris Christie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Wednesday Mar 02, 2016  |  0 comments


A lot has happened to Governor Christie since he endorsed Donald Trump for president over the weekend. He’s been humiliated on video, condemned by his former finance co-chair Meg Whitman, and lambasted for his disastrous TV interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

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Student Reporting Contest: How are we poisoning our environment?

Friday Oct 09, 2015  |  0 comments

“A simple pecking order has always characterized mankind’s relationship to waste: The wealthy throw out what they do not want, the poor scavenge what they can, and whatever remains is left to rot.”  — Dan Fagin, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction, from the book Toms River.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Joining a wide array of politicians, scientists, activists, advocates, and religious leaders in recognizing the critical state of our environmental health, the Rutgers Department of Journalism and Media Studies and Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University are making an open call for student journalism stories focused on the topic of environmental health and justice in New Jersey. The best of these stories will be included as part of a statewide collaborative project, Dirty Little Secrets: New Jersey’s Toxic Legacy, which specifically focuses on the lesser-known stories of environmental contamination in the state. And the very best will be awarded cash prizes.

We are looking for New Jersey-based news stories in all mediums, which seek answers to the following question: How are particular environmental issues impacting the health of local communities in New Jersey? Consider the following topics:

  • Health impacts and remediation of toxic sites across the state
  • The state of our water, air, cities, and food — with particular concern to human and environmental health
  • Climate issues that have changed or impacted communities
  • Preparation for and effects of weather and earth events

In addition to original ideas, we will maintain a repository of specific ideas related to our project that students may draw from. Reporting well on one of these ideas, rather than generating an original idea, will not penalize a submission.

We are looking for stories that are specific, well-reported and which break new ground on telling the story of New Jersey’s toxic legacy.

Grand Prize:   $650
Second Prize: $300
Third Prize:     $150

Winners will be announced at a public event at Rutgers University on December 9, 2015.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at a New Jersey university or college, including community colleges.
  • Written stories should be no longer than 2,500 words.
  • Video and audio submissions should be no longer than five minutes.

Please send us your submissions using this Google form. Submissions are due on April 1, 2016.

For more information contact Todd Wolfson at or Joe Amditis at

The judging panel will include Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, George Rodrigue, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Victor Pickard, associate professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, Andaiye Taylor ofBrick City Live, and Ju-Don Marshall Roberts of LifePosts, Inc.

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Who says venture capitalists run the world?

Friday Sep 18, 2015  |  0 comments


The debate about whether local news can scale has been going on for years. In many ways, it’s been the Holy Grail. Remember Backfence? Patch? (Yes, it’s still there, but more a network of Potemkin Villages operated by a skeleton crew). Now, Carll Tucker’s Daily Voice, which started as Main Street Connect, has risen from bankruptcy and begun an ambitious new network of 22 new digital news sites in North Jersey. That effort is being helmed by longterm Jersey newsman Jerry DeMarco, who is still running his own indie hyperlocal Cliffview Pilot, focused on breaking cop news. Since DeMarco is the Energizer Bunny of local journalism, we’ll hold back on our usual cynicism.

Proof That No News Is Not Good News

Friday Aug 21, 2015  |  0 comments

By Mike Rispoli – Free Press

One of the main goals of our News Voices: New Jersey project is to elevate the role of communities at their local media outlets.

To that end, we asked our Garden State members to tell us how they consume news, what issues they care about, and how well they feel local media reflect their communities. More than 300 people responded — and their answers were informative.

Over half of the respondents said their communities don’t get enough local coverage. This result reflects what previous research has revealed: In a state with 565 municipalities, there simply isn’t enough local, regional and statewide news coverage of New Jersey communities.

Newsrooms in the Garden State have seen dramatic staffing cuts in recent years, a fact our members noted. Meanwhile, half of all survey respondents said that the New York City–Philadelphia broadcast stations that dominate the airwaves in New Jersey also overlook their communities.

Runaway media consolidation has had a dramatic impact in New Jersey, said a survey respondent from Rumson. “The past two decades have seen local newspapers bought out and either eventually closed down, absorbed or just hanging on with little local coverage,” he said. “The loss of local news has a great effect on community well being.”

A quarter of respondents feel that local media outlets present an inaccurate view of their communities. “I’m a person of color,” said a respondent from Asbury Park, “and the media only talks about my community when some crime takes place, but [ignores] the day-to-day events and struggles of the people.”

A respondent from Jersey City echoed this sentiment. “The crime rate in my area is high, and that fact always overshadows all of the good parts about my community.”

Here’s a sampling of other survey responses:

“New York City and/or Philadelphia-based news [outlets] seem to mostly tell stories of everything that’s wrong with New Jersey and very little of what we’re doing right,” said a respondent from Mendham. “There are over 8.9 million people living in the Garden State and yet ‘the news’ is only focused on Chris Christie.”“It’s difficult to make decisions about the local government,” a respondent from Milltown said, “when there’s little to no information about the candidates.”“As with most states,” said a respondent from Westfield, “the New Jersey statehouse corps has been significantly reduced and all reporters are overworked, lacking resources for investigative journalism.”A respondent from Sparta captured what so many people across the state feel: “Our community is ignored.”

Indeed, the most dramatic survey result is this one: A resounding 84 percent of respondents said they want the media to cover local issues. This response is in sync with national data from the Pew Research Center, which recently found that nearly 9 out of 10 residents follow local news and say it plays an important role in their lives (admittedly, our survey was far less scientifically rigorous than Pew’s*).

The amazing responses from our members reinforce News Voices’ plans to bring communities into the debate on the future of journalism. It backs up what we’ve been hearing from both newsrooms and residents across the state: We need to collaborate to strengthen local journalism and bring more perspectives into the news.

We hope to create a network of newsrooms and residents in New Jersey to benefit both groups. We aim to build the capacity of journalists who are being asked to do more with less, and we hope to encourage those same journalists to better represent and respond to the needs of local audiences.

Scroll through the data below for our complete survey results. And to get involved in the News Voices: New Jersey project, email me at

On a scale from 1 (awful) to 5 (excellent), how would you rate your local news outlets?

1:  20%

2: 28%

3: 30%

4: 17%

5: 5%

Which subjects do you wish local news outlets would do a better job of covering? (Check all that apply.)

Local government (municipal, county, etc.): 84%

State government: 57%

Civic institutions (community nonprofits, arts organizations, social services, etc.): 49%

Economic development: 51%

Environment and planning: 63%

Transportation: 41%

Education and local schools: 51%

Health: 35%

Communities of color: 30%

The LGBTQ community: 25%

Emergencies and safety risks: 36%

Where can you find news and information about your community? (Check all that apply.)

Daily newspaper: 40%

Weekly newspaper: 42%

Radio station: 51%

TV station: 53%

Website run by a newspaper, radio station or TV station: 42%

Online-only news outlet: 35%

Campus newspaper: 4%

Black, Spanish-language or other ethnic media: 2%

Social media: 37%

I can’t find news and information about my community: 11%

How well does local media coverage reflect your community? (Check all that apply.)

My community gets enough local news coverage: 21%

My community doesn’t get enough local news coverage: 52%

Local media outlets provide an accurate view of my community: 20%

Local media outlets provide an inaccurate view of my community: 25%

New York City and/or Philadelphia-based news outlets cover my community: 19%

New York City and/or Philadelphia-based news outlets ignore my community: 50%

New York City and/or Philadelphia-based news outlets provide an accurate view of my community: 5%

New York City and/or Philadelphia-based news outlets provide an inaccurate view of my community: 21%

*Free Press invited our members and others who live in New Jersey to take this survey so we could get a better sense of their perspectives on local media. We promoted the survey through email outreach and social media, making the link available to anyone who wanted to take part. Our goal was member engagement rather than social science research, and the results should be viewed with that in mind.

Original photo by Flickr user Hermits Moores

This story was originally published on

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