Grow and Strengthen weightlifter

The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University has selected its second group of startup grants recipients. The selected sites will become part of the Center’s Grow and Strengthen program, which provides participants with a micro-grant as well as business coaching and mentoring over a six-month period.

This year’s winning proposals include community news and information sites, arts coverage and data-driven initiatives. The program’s goal is to grow and strengthen New Jersey’s news ecosystem, with special attention given to improving coverage for underserved communities and under-reported topics. The initial Grow and Strengthen class in 2013 included seven startup sites from across the state.

In addition to each receiving a $2,500 grant, the nine winners will receive training in entrepreneurial journalism, regular meetings with their peers and six months of support from a business coach. The sites also have the option of launching their sites using a free, easy-to-deploy WordPress theme developed by Broadstreet Ads for use by the Center’s partners.

“As the news business gets tougher and newsrooms continue making layoffs, we’re excited to see entrepreneurs fill the gaps,” said Debbie Galant, associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media. “We can give them a helping hand so they have a better chance of making it through the challenging first year.”

“Grow and Strengthen is a great example of how we’re experimenting with different ways to expand and support media initiatives in New Jersey,” said Center Director Ju-Don Marshall Roberts. “The participants also are able to take advantage of all the programs we offer at the Center as well as the camaraderie and wisdom of our established media partners, and the resources of Montclair State University.”

The recipients are:

Mary Galioto – Local news coverage of Hopewell, Pennington and Lawrence in Mercer County.

Carolyn Maynard-Parisi and Mary Barr Mann – Local news coverage of Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn.

Pamela Hersh and Randall Solomon – Local coverage of Highland Park.

Heidi Heleniak – Local coverage of Dunellen and surrounding towns.

Charles Wilbanks – Statewide coverage of visual arts.

Martin Gonzalez – Statewide resource on local property tax assessments and property taxes.

Deborah Bell – Local coverage of Woodbridge and surrounding towns.

Nathan Rudy – Local coverage of North Plainfield and Green Brook.

Nathan Suberi – Database project and mobile app to connect businesses, residents and other stakeholders in Trenton.

The nine participants were selected from among 20 applications. Applications were reviewed and selected by a panel consisting of Roberts; Galant; Joe Michaud, a media consultant who will serve as business coach for the group; Denise Civiletti, founder of the Riverhead Local news site in eastern Long Island; and Jeanne Pinder, founder of Clear Health Costs, a crowdsourced resource on health care pricing.

Grow and Strengthen was initially funded by a grant from the New Jersey Recovery Fund. It is now an ongoing project of the Center for Cooperative Media and receives support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

The Center for Cooperative Media is part of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University.