Local news has suffered with the cutbacks in dead-tree newspapers. If you’re fortunate, your community is covered by a hyperlocal site from patch.com or some other local citizen-journalist enterprise. Hyperlocal news sites are cropping up across the state and nation. But how do these citizen-journalists, some who put in 12 to 15 hour days, do their job effectively?
The New Jersey Hyperlocal News Association’s (NJHNA) mission is to provide training and resources for those journalists to enable them to report thoroughly and accurately. The group held its second general session today on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus. The topic was reporting on the activities of local school boards.
After introductory remarks from Heather Taylor of NJHNA and Dr. John Pavlik, head of the Rutgers journalism department, the keynote address was delivered by Gene Maeroff, President of the Edison school board and a noted education writer. He described the school board budgeting process and offered some tips for those reporting on school board activities. (The entire session was videotaped and will be posted on the NJHNA web site.) Following the keynote, a panel discussion was held, with Jonathan Busch, an attorney who represents boards of education; Dr. Valerie Goger, superintendent of schools for Bernards Township; and John Mooney, founder and education writer for NJ Spotlight. All discussed the budgeting and election process from the perspective of their individual involvement.
Among the things the audience learned were the timeline for the budgeting and election process, how board of education members must not electioneer for or against the budget, and the impact of the governor’s tax caps and cuts on the education process. There were discussions on the best ways for local reporters to ferret out facts that might not always be easy to obtain.
NJHNA’s next session, scheduled to occur in about two months, will discuss how to cover municipal meeting and elections.