DataSourceNJ Strengthens Democracy

U.S. thought leaders have sounded the alarm that the decline of local journalism is threatening our democracy. Analyses by leading U.S. universities and research organizations have linked the decline of local journalism to poor government performance, citizen disengagement, and more polarized, struggling communities. The absence of trusted local news outlets makes news consumers more susceptible to misinformation, partisan perspectives and few points-of-view. Citizens are consequently less familiar with local issues and the performance of local representatives in addressing those matters, all disincentives to voting, running for office, and joining local civic organizations. Local public health and environmental degradation, Inter-group tensions, and concentration of political power result.

With few exceptions, New Jersey’s local media has been similarly and adversely affected by the current business climate. Dominant online companies have captured the bulk of U.S. advertising spending, leaving little for local media. Consequently, New Jersey has, over the past 15 years, lost more than a third of its local newspapers.

Many of the remaining newspapers have been acquired by out-of-state companies lacking a commitment to improving the communities that the newspapers serve. Furthermore, local newspapers and online news outlets have reduced or eliminated investigative coverage of local government and politics, in part to save money. Instead, many offer generic, syndicated stories and press release content.

By leveraging software technology and expertise in local issues, DataSourceNJ will lower costs, both in time and money, for investigative journalism at the local level. DataSourceNJ will serve as another reporting tool for journalists by providing powerful, sophisticated technology and issue expertise to aid in identifying stories, conducting research, and validating the story. Journalists can use our work to produce stories that speak directly to citizens in the communities they cover.

DataSourceNJ does not seek to solve all that ails local media. Rather, we hope to be an important ingredient in the new recipe for a thriving and essential journalistic stew.