Seven Grants Awarded to Start-Up News Sites

The NJ News Commons at Montclair State University has awarded $28,000 in seed money to incubate seven news sites throughout the state.

The micro-grants of $4,000 each were awarded through NJ News Commons’ “Grow and Strengthen” micro-grant program financed by the NJ Recovery Fund. Recipients represent all regions of New Jersey — from Salem County in the rural south, to the western roads of Princeton, the eastern beaches of the Jersey Shore, the central Pinelands, and the urban streets of East Orange in North Jersey. Other sites are topic based, with one covering issues of aging and another seeking to explain all things Obamacare in the state.

A goal of the program is to grow and strengthen the New Jersey news ecosystem by bringing news coverage to underserved regions and populations.

In addition to the grant, the winners will receive training in entrepreneurial journalism, the option to get a turnkey website, and four months of support from a business coach.

“We originally intended to award six grants, but the quality of the applicants and the demonstrated need convinced the judges to go to seven,” said Debbie Galant, director of the NJ News Commons.

Winners of start-up micro-grants are:

·      Zachary Ahl and Pam Williams of Alloway, NJ, for, a hyperlocal for Salem County.

·      Adriane Berg of Lebanon for, a news site for boomers, older adults and family caregivers.

·      Catherine Galioto of Toms River, NJ, for Jersey Shore Piney, a site dedicated to the Jersey Shore and Pinelands.

·      Rev. Milton Hobbs of East Orange, NJ, for The Alternative Press of East Orange, serving the city of East Orange.

·      Shaodi Huang, Chase Brush and Joe Amditis of New Brunswick, NJ, for Muckgers, investigating Rutgers University and New Brunswick issues

·      Krystal Knapp of Princeton, NJ, for Planet Trenton, serving the city of Trenton. (Knapp already publishes

·      Bill Bowman of Franklin, NJ, for Franklin Reporter & Advocate.


A panel of distinguished journalists and educators made the selections from a field of 14 applicants.  The judges are:

Merrill Brown,  Director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State and founding editor of

Linda Grist Cunningham, editor of KeyWest Watch, Pulitzer judge, and veteran of the Daily Record and Trenton Times in NJ and Rockford, (IL) Register-Star

Mark DiIonno, Star-Ledger columnist, Pulitzer finalist and novelist

Jeff Jarvis, Professor and Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism  and blogger at Buzzmachine 

Dan Kennedy, assistant professor at Northeastern University, Media Nation blogger, author “The Wired City, Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post Newspaper Age”

Polly Kreisman, editor of, Emmy winning TV journalist and reporter for NY1 TVNews.

Shaodi Huang celebrates Muckgers' award of a grant from NJ News Commons. Huang co-founded Muckgers with Chase Brush and Joe Amditis. Credit: Debbie Galant.

Shaodi Huang celebrates Muckgers’ award of a grant from NJ News Commons. Huang co-founded Muckgers with Chase Brush and Joe Amditis. Credit: Debbie Galant.

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