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Telvin Sign


Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey.

Brendan TevlinThe town of Livingston, NJ was struck by a horrible tragedy last week as news continued to surface about the murder of Brendan Tevlin, a 19-year-old University of Richmond student who was found dead in his car. Cynthia Cumming of TAP into West Orange first broke the story last Thursday, and the community responded with an outpouring of support and coverage from the surrounding towns.

TAP into Livingston published several stories on Tevlin’s death and memory as the community grieved, offering emotional and financial support to the victim’s family. They also published a beautiful eulogy for Tevlin written by Chuck Granata titled, “A Fragile Thread (for Brendan Tevlin).”




This post was originally featured on the Dodge Blog. The original post can be found here.

Lincoln Statue

The Abraham Lincoln Statue outside the Essex County Courthouse in Newark, NJ. Photo Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/

In just the last few days, the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank, a teenager from Livingston was gunned down in West Orange and another teenager leaving a party in Maplewood was shot multiple times in his legs.

People die by the hundreds in storms, wars and famines, but put a face to a senseless death, and make it a teenager’s, and it’s just heartbreaking.

These, at least, were all valid news stories for me to know about. The first is a story of international proportions. The latter two took place within 10 miles of my house.




Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we’ll look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. Each week we’ll look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. Sign up to get the Local Fix delivered each week.

Over on LocalNewsLab.org this week we looked at what coffee can teach us about building local news networks. We are just getting started, so feedback is welcomed and encouraged. Leave a comment to send tips and suggestions (or just to say hello). 

Here is One Good Idea: Make school budgets understandable. KPCC in LA created a good, simple resource for parents to see how their school was planning to spend the $4.6 billion LA school budget.

Beyond the Funny Pages: Engaging new audiences with graphic journalism

Everyone loves the funny pages, but today digital journalists are doing amazing work with hard hitting graphic journalism that immerses audiences in the story. Writing in Nieman Reports this month Erin Polgreen, the founder of Symbolia (an iPad magazine of illustrated reporting) argued that comics can “enhance reader engagement and bring new audiences to narrative nonfiction.” And if needed proof of that, just check out the incredible new graphic novel published by the Center for Investigative Reporting last week. The Box is based on an investigation by CIR, and tells the story of a teen in solitary confinement. ProPublica also used illustrations recently to show people how kids were being physically detained in schools and comics journalist Susie Cagle often gets huge page views for her reporting at Medium. On a lighter note, WHYY just launched a great summer comic series on their Newsworks blog.

Want to explore a graphic story for your site or just experiment with adding more illustrations to your reporting? Just reply to this email and I can connect you with a number of terrific illustrators who have worked with newsrooms large and small.


West Orange HS Graduation


Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

The arts are in full swing across New Jersey this summer. The radio series Words Matter from NJ Arts News is picking up some serious momentum in humanities councils from Maine to Oaklahoma. State of the Arts NJ just released a special feature that focuses on New Jersey as the birthplace of cinema, where the first film ever made in the United States was made. Of course, one of the most successful films to come out of Thomas Edison’s original film studio consisted of two cats fighting each other while wearing little boxing gloves. Oh how times have changed.



Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we’ll look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. Sign up to get the Local Fix delivered each week

Here is One Good Idea: A database of city contracts. The Lens in New Orleans just posted more than 5,300 government contracts and all the documents have been run through a text-recognition software so the are fully searchable. Check out the Vault at the NOLA Lens.

1) From Comments to Conversations – can local news be the place for local conversations?

On Thursday the Washington PostNew York Times and Mozilla announced a partnership to develop a new kind of comment system for news sites, designed around expanding engagement and supporting communities as contributors. The new tool, funded by the Knight Foundation, will be free for any news organization to use. Separately, Atlantic Media’s director of analytics suggests that “unmoderated comments appear to have a small, but real deleterious effect on readers’ perception of the sites” and on traffic. While some people are killing off their comment sections all together, others are experimenting with ways to make comments more useful and integral.

At the local level, there is an real opportunity make news websites central hubs for the most important debates happening in local communities. How do we get there? These two posts by Scott Rosenberg and Bora Zivkovic are a good place to start.

>>> Full Disclosure: The Knight Foundation is also a funder of the Local News Lab, which we just launched this week. The Nieman Journalism Lab has the scoop here.




Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey. 

A large crowd gathered this week at the Assumption Church for the premiere of The White Man on a Bicycle, a short documentary about the humanitarian work of local Morristown man, Tom Johnson. The film, according to Marie Pfiefer of Morristown Green, profiles Johnson’s volunteer work in Sierra Leone, where he lives for several months out of the year, with no running water or electricity, delivering medicine on a bicycle.



The Montclair State University Center for Cooperative Media is pleased to announce the launch of the Local News Lab, a collaborative initiative focused on journalism sustainability led by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, in partnership with the Center for Cooperative Media, and the City University of New York’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

The Local News Lab’s efforts mainly will focus on sustainability for six pilot sites: Brick City Live, Jersey Shore Hurricane News, Morristown Green and New Brunswick Today in New Jersey; and The Lo-Down and Sheepshead Bites in New York. The Lab will test new revenue models, strategies for community engagement and collaborative projects to strengthen the journalism ecosystem. Experiments will range from traditional and crowd-funded advertising to events, membership models and new revenue products.



Welcome to our weekly roundup of news and resources for local news. Once a week we will be curating some of the best writing on journalism sustainability and pairing it with concrete advice, tools and resources for local journalists.

One Good Idea: Over on Mashable Brian Ries customized a basic AP report using a ton of social media and user generated content. He tweeted the results as they compared to the original story. What do you think? How might local news sites augment wire copy (or even shared content from other outlets in the state) by bringing local, relevant, social content in?

1) Learning from Community Newspapers

There is a new book out by Penelope Muse Abernathy which takes a long look at how community newspapers need to transform to survive, and while the focus here is on saving longstanding print newsrooms, there are good lessons for local digital news start-ups too. In an interview with Justin Ellis at the Nieman Journalism Lab, Abernathy discusses how community news needs to diversify revenue streams and rebuild their connection to their audience. She makes interesting points about: 1) selling ads by knowing your community not just your traffic stats, 2) how people see relevant local ads as important information, and 3) creating services that meet the needs of readers and advertisers.

>>> Read more about the book in the American Journalism Review and Net New Check and, on a related note, check out this piece on community newspapers in San Francisco.


Converge Tech Coworking Space


Local Beat is NJ News Commons’ weekly roundup of the best and most topical reporting from local news sites around New Jersey.

In Newark, Ester Surden of New Jersey Tech Weekly reported that the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), Capitol One Bank, and several local tech groups have come together to create Converge, a tech coworking space that will “provide tech entrepreneurs from Newark and other nearby towns [with] a place of their own.” Converge will also host events, hold classes, and serve as a location for local tech meet-ups.

Eldridge Hawkins JrThe Superior Court of Newark recently dismissed all remaining charges against the town of West Orange after former West Orange police officer and current mayoral candidate Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. filed a series of five lawsuits against the town, its mayor, and various city employees. The lawsuits, as reported by Cynthia Cumming of TAP into West Orange, alleged that the West Orange Police Department hired officers “with prejudicial reasons to the benefit of Irish males and detriment in particular of females, African-Americans and Italians.”


Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.20.23 AM

Dozens of potential independent news publishers descended upon the Multimedia Newswoom at Montclair State University on March 11, 2014 for a day of training on “How to Start a News Site.” The event was the first of many in the NJ News Commons’ latest round of Grow and Strengthen, a project aimed at seeding and incubating local news sites across New Jersey.