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 565 individual municipalities in New Jersey, coverage is still uneven.

As the Center for Cooperative Media has studied New Jersey news ecosystems over the past two 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. As part of her research, Sarah 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. Her work has 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.

The next phase of this project will seek to support and elevate Black media makers specifically in Camden, Gloucester and Burlington 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 will be CCM’s Assistant Director of Membership and Programming, Cassandra Etienne and our new Project Coordinator, Adrienne Bauldock.

Many thanks to our South Jersey Information Equity Project partners and to the Independence Public Media Foundation, and The Nicholson Foundation for their funding support.