ABOUT THE PROJECT
Across the United States, shifting consumer behaviors and collapsing business models have heavily eroded the journalism and news landscape.
New Jersey has been hit particularly hard.
Sandwiched between two major media markets—New York City and Philadelphia—coverage of local government, local civic life, and local business in New Jersey has diminished significantly over the last decade as news organizations have gotten smaller or closed entirely. Our state is fortunate to have a thriving network of hyperlocal news organizations, but with 564 individual municipalities in New Jersey, coverage is still uneven.
As the Center for Cooperative Media has studied New Jersey news ecosystems in recent years, we have been identifying news deserts and news oases in our state. One early finding that stands out is how underserved so much of South Jersey is. In particular, we believe communities of color in South Jersey face an acute shortage of information that is vital for healthy communities.
That is why the Center partnered with the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists to launch the South Jersey Information Equity Project in April 2020. Its goal is to address media inequity in South Jersey, specifically by seeking to improve the quality and quantity of news and information produced by and for communities of color.
In its first phase the Center hired veteran journalist and South Jersey resident Sarah Glover to assess the news landscape for Black communities and journalists. Glover is currently the Vice President of News & Civic Dialogue at WHYY. As part of her research, she interviewed a dozen Black journalists living and working in South Jersey and conducted ten community town halls to help examine how traditional and nontraditional media serve South Jersey’s Black communities. Glover’s work identified a clear need for more resources to elevate the skills and visibility of Black journalists in South Jersey, more information sharing and storytelling by and for Black communities, and more support for Black-led media ventures.
SJIEP launched its first cohort of fellows in 2022. This project aims to support and elevate Black media makers, specifically in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, and Atlantic counties — including those who identify as journalists and those who do not — and connect them with resources, funding, and platform partners to share their work.
Leading this effort is CCM’s Assistant Director of Membership and Programming, Cassandra Etienne and Project Coordinator, Adrienne Bauldock.
Many thanks to our South Jersey Information Equity Project partners and to the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Independence Public Media Foundation, the NJ Civic Information Consortium and The Nicholson Foundation for their funding support.
ABOUT THE TEAM
Cassandra Etienne is the assistant director for membership and programming at the Center for Cooperative Media and the project lead for the South Jersey Information Equity Project.
Cassandra has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has worked as a documentary producer and freelance reporter in New Jersey and her native New York City.
Contact Cassandra via email at [email protected].
Adrienne Bauldock is the coordinator of the South Jersey Information Equity Project and works with creatives across New Jersey. She studied television and digital media at Montclair State University.
She spent her time at Montclair enhancing the skills and techniques she learned in high school at the Burlington County Institute of Technology.
Adrienne can be reached at [email protected].
Velvet S. McNeil is the training coordinator for SJIEP. She is an award-winning photojournalist and educator who is preparing the next generation of journalists. She has worked as a visual journalist for The Detroit News and Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
McNeil holds an MFA in photography from Savannah College of Art and Design and an undergraduate degree in studio art and secondary art education from Marymount College in New York.
McNeil currently teaches online photography courses at Bowie State University in Maryland and visual communications courses at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].
OUR 2024 REPORTING FELLOWS
Queena Bergen is an award-winning international performance artist and Creative Swiss Army Knife. Currently serving as a cultural ambassador to the United States Embassy, Queena’s impactful contributions extend to institutions like the U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, and CBS. Some of her accolades include the Governor’s Award in Arts Education, the Presidential and Congressional Service Awards, and recognition as an AT&T Black Future Maker.
Brandon Edwards is an author, musician, entrepreneur, and founder of a nonprofit organization that runs programs to serve the community. If you ask him, a sense of community love is what the world is missing, and the media has the power to restore it.
Erika Heinrich is a published photographer and intersectional feminist. Recently graduating from The College of New Jersey, she worked as a campus photographer, a writer for the Women in Learning & Leadership Newsletter, and volunteered at Trenton Freedom Skatepark. She is currently a freelance photographer with future plans to start a women’s health nonprofit.
Taja Johnson is a dedicated wife, mother, and graduate of Rowan University. She has five years of experience in journalism and excels in interviewing a diverse range of individuals, including business owners, celebrities, and politicians. Taja’s expertise extends to news writing, and she is excited to apply her skills at SJIEP, contributing to impactful storytelling.
Ahnyah Pinckney is a South Jersey native and a member of SJIEP’s first cohort in 2022. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Rowan University. Her journey continued with an internship at WHYY as a media arts education intern, leading to a full-time position as an associate digital producer. She is eager to rejoin SJIEP to amplify the narratives of Black communities in South Jersey.
Frank Santos is a motion graphics designer and multimedia producer born and raised in Camden, NJ. After studying Psychology at Stockton University, Frank decided to pursue freelance graphic design on a full-time basis. Since 2014, his work has focused on the intersection of social media, arts, and music in Philadelphia and New York. Frank hopes to build his writing and journalism skills as an SJIEP fellow.
Emmanuel Young is a recent Graduate of Hampton University, where he studied journalism and history. He is a second-time Fellow of the SJIEP, having participated in the 2022 fellowship. Emmanuel is a photographer, activist, and videographer from Woolwich. He hopes that the SJIEP fellowship will help build upon his writing and photography skills and provide a new opportunity to highlight important issues in his community.
Shaniele Brown is a freelance writer with a passion for storytelling. She believes that being able to give the voiceless a voice is very important. She holds a BA in Journalism from Rowan University.
OUR MEDIA PARTNERS
Black in Jersey is a social media storytelling and information hub specializing in restorative narratives about communities of color.
We inform people about what’s happening around New Jersey; train citizen journalists; connect people to resources; produce entertaining multimedia content; and host events that grow New Jersey’s community news and arts ecosystem.
In 2023, Black In Jersey won two awards from the New Jersey News Commons, including “Partner of the Year.”
Front Runner New Jersey is a property of AC JosepH Media, LLC. Award-winning journalist Clyde Hughes is the president and chief executive officer of AC JosepH Media and editor-in-chief of Front Runner New Jersey.
AC JosepH Media is a multimedia company founded by award-winning journalist Clyde Hughes. AC JosepH produces blogs, web content, news and sports articles, biographies, documentaries, etc. under its own umbrella and for other outlets. AC JosepH’s public relations arm produces news releases, annual reports, social media campaigns, ghostwriting services, etc. for clients.
Reach Clyde Hughes: [email protected]
SCOOP U.S.A. published in 1960 as a weekly entertainment tabloid for Black consumers in the cities of Philadelphia and Chester, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. During this period, Philadelphia became one of the East Coast most popular entertainment cities, with nite clubs featuring top-name stars. Spearheaded by our Founding Publisher, Ricard “Sonny” Driver, Scoop was communications mechanism established to ensure equality in representation, publicity, and payment for the entertainers who came to Philly.
Community-oriented with a citywide circulation, SCOOP U.S.A. is the essential source of weekly entertainment and community news in Philadelphia. February 2023 will mark the 63rd anniversary of SCOOP U.S.A., Philadelphia’s oldest, FREE African-American weekly newspaper. Sixty-three (1960-2023) years of dedicated community service, focusing on positive news and information for the people and businesses in Delaware Valley communities.
Atlantic City Focus provides a safe space where residents and natives can tell their own stories in their own way. We enlighten, inform, and entertain as we celebrate African-American culture, history, and traditions. Everything we do is designed to encourage the community to share its voice with the world while providing news and information that can be used to address social issues that have historically plagued Atlantic City and other communities of color.
At Atlantic City Focus, we promise always to report the facts as objectively as possible and otherwise adhere to the principles of good journalism. However, we also acknowledge that true impartiality is impossible because human beings have beliefs. So, in the spirit of simple honesty, our policy is to encourage our editors, reporters, and freelancers to reveal their beliefs to the extent they feel comfortable.