Informed NJ

NJCH believes that an informed New Jersey equals a stronger New Jersey! Understanding how and why people learn about the issues that matter most to them—from school board elections and town voting sites to environmental regulations and racial and economic justice—is vital to promoting civic engagement.

That’s why we are committed to funding, creating, and amplifying humanities-grounded programming that raises media literacy and expands support for local journalism—particularly in communities and places that are seldom covered by traditional media outlets. Helping New Jerseyans create and consume local news in new and groundbreaking ways helps to ensure the future health of our state and its democracy.

Learn more about our current Informed New Jersey initiatives below.

Featured Program
Podcaster at Microphone

Fueling Grassroots Journalism in NJ Community Colleges

NJCH and Journalism + Design at the New School are partnering with a set of community colleges around the state in 2023-24 to create and deliver tuition-free noncredit certificate programs, to offer journalism, storytelling, and media literacy trainings to new populations around the Garden State. Learn More »

Informed NJ Programs

Democracy and the Informed Citizen graphic

Democracy and the Informed Citizen

We’re training and supporting "Community Scribes" from six South Jersey towns in partnership with community-engaged reporting experts.

Learn more »

Stories Invincible

Stories Invincible

NJCH is a proud sponsor of Stories Invincible, a Camden-based restorative narrative initiative supporting reporting by and for communities of color in South Jersey.

Learn more »

Fueling Grassroots Journalism in NJ Community Colleges

NJCH and The New School will deliver tuition-free certificate programs and journalism, storytelling, and media literacy trainings to new populations.

Learn more »

Democracy & the Informed Citizen Graphic

Democracy and the Informed Citizen

This grassroots initiative explores the essential role that the humanities and journalism play in creating an informed citizenry—and in turn, a healthy democracy.

NJCH is partnering with the Community Foundation of South Jersey and Journalism + Design at The New School to give more New Jerseyans the tools to effectively tell and share stories from and with their communities. Our 2022-23 work is focused upon South Jersey, a region that is all-too-often underrepresented in media coverage about the Garden State. The program includes training, hands-on project support, and network-building for community participants and members of the media.

The initiative is funded by the Mellon Foundation with support from the State Federation of Humanities Councils.

Journalism + Design at the New School

Trainings

Throughout spring 2022, NJCH organized a free “community scribe” training series in six South Jersey communities from CFSJ’s Transform South Jersey initiative: Downe, Hammonton, Salem, Willingboro, Winslow, and Woodbury.

More than 15 residents from these towns participated in sessions led and designed by community-engaged reporting experts from Journalism + Design at the New School. Participants learned how to:

  • Identify and share important stories in their communities
  • Use design thinking, a process for creative problem solving, to develop a community-centered storytelling project
  • Conduct empathetic interviews and find credible information
  • Produce stories from their communities in a variety of formats
Journalism + Design at the New School
Participants at networking mixer

Network-building

Our South Jersey community scribe cohort is tight-knit—and we want to keep it that way! NJCH continues to support our scribes by regularly sharing opportunities and news from the local media landscape in New Jersey, and by hosting virtual and in-person events to connect them with the journalists and mediamakers who cover their communities.

Our networking events have featured professional and citizen journalists from outlets and projects including Bloomfield Info Project, The Courier Post, Free Press, Front Runner NJ, Newark News & Story Collaborative, The Philadelphia Inquirer, South Jersey Information Equity Project, Stories of Atlantic City, and WHYY, among others.

Participants at networking mixer

2022 Community Scribes

Not pictured: Meghan Wren (Downe Township), Shoanne Seijas (Downe Township), Denise Mazzio (Hammonton), Barry Stevenson (Salem), Joe Thomas (Winslow Township), Lisaraye Horne (Winslow Township), Christy Phillips Renzulli (Winslow Township), Renee Giustino (Woodbury)

The New Jersey Council for the Humanities wishes to thank the Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Community Foundation of South Jersey and Journalism + Design at The New School for their partnership.

Stories Invincible

Stories Invincible

NJCH is proud to be a sponsor of Stories Invincible, a Camden-based restorative narrative initiative that aims to support reporting by and for communities of color in South Jersey.

A cohort of 10 remarkable reporting fellows from the area—including students, curators, organizers, public historians, instructors, and artists—will be producing restorative narrative- and solutions journalism-based storytelling projects through the end of 2022.

NJCH’s sponsorship supports the work of two fellowship project aides, Camden-area multimedia creator Myles Cream and WHYY reporter/Black In Jersey creator Tennyson Donyéa, as well as an in-person community convening in Camden at the conclusion of the fellowships. To learn more about Stories Invincible and to meet the fellows, visit: https://storiesinvincible.org/.

Meet Stories Invincible

Stories Invincible Launch Event

Center for Cooperative Media

Stories Invincible is a program of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. The Center was founded in 2012 in response to the downsizing of New Jersey news organizations and the changes in the ownership of regional public media.

The Center coordinates statewide and regional reporting, connecting more than 280 local news and information providers through its flagship project, the NJ News Commons.

Learn more at https://centerforcooperativemedia.org/.

Center for Cooperative Media
Stack of Newspapers

Fueling Grassroots Journalism in NJ Community Colleges

NJCH and Journalism + Design at the New School are partnering with a set of community colleges around the state in 2023-24 to create and deliver tuition-free noncredit certificate programs, to offer journalism, storytelling, and media literacy trainings to new populations around the Garden State.

These programs, unique to each school and created with input from local community partners and media organizations, will power a more engaged and informed New Jersey.

Check back here in late spring 2023, when we’ll launch our open request for proposals for interested New Jersey community colleges! Certificate programs will begin in spring 2024. Think your college might be interested in participating? Reach out to Project Directors Valerie Popp, vpopp@njhumanities.org, or Cole Goins, cole.goins@gmail.com, for more information.

Fueling Grassroots Journalism is made possible by a generous grant from the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium. The Consortium, created by the state of NJ in 2018, is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that funds initiatives to benefit the State’s civic life and meet the evolving information needs of New Jersey’s communities. Learn more about their work and other grantees at: https://njcivicinfo.org.

NJCH announced in a press release the initiation of the Fueling Grassroots Journalism program, preliminary program information, and the $339,000 grant award from the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium to fund its development.

People

Cole Goins

Cole Goins

Program Facilitator

Cole Goins is a community-focused journalist and facilitator with more than a decade of experience helping newsrooms collaborate and connect with the people they serve in new ways. He is the former director of community engagement at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, where he organized media collaborations and led public engagement initiatives. He was a senior fellow in the 2015 USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships and previously served as engagement editor for the Center for Public Integrity. He holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina.

Cole Goins
Valeria Popp, PhD

Valerie Popp, Ph.D.

Program Facilitator

NJCH’s Valerie Popp is an expert program-builder and scholar with a passion for working at the intersection of journalism and the humanities. At NJCH, she is the creator and program lead of Informed NJ, a collection of projects that promote civic engagement through journalism and media trainings, networking opportunities, and collaborations with partners such as media outlets, local journalism projects, and higher education institutions. She previously co-directed the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs at the American Council of Learned Societies; this program deepened ties between scholars and journalists working in the field of global religions through fellowships and institutional grants.

She especially enjoys fostering community college partnerships and has helped steward initiatives such as NJCH's Museum on Main Street Smithsonian exhibit tour of six NJ community colleges; an upcoming convening of humanities community college faculty with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges; and the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships, which supported the research ambitions of faculty at two-year colleges across the US.

Valeria Popp, PhD
Headshot of Mika Fields

Mika Fields

Advisory Board Member

Mika Fields was born in Philadelphia, PA, and raised in Willingboro NJ. She completed her academic years in Willingboro and graduated from Willingboro High School Class of 1994. She furthered her education by obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kean University and has been working for over 15 years in the Social Services field. She returned to Willingboro after graduation got married and is currently raising two children in Buckingham Park.

In 2020 she started a therapeutic "paint and create" company called Muse Fusion LLC. Her main focus has been helping people cope with the stresses of the pandemic by encouraging them to be inspired, and utilize the therapeutic benefits of painting. In early 2021 Mika joined the Willingboro Community Development Corporation (WCDC) as the Project Coordinator and has been a pivotal force in bringing the WCDC's vision to fruition. Mika thrives to serve her town and became a Community Scribe with New Jersey Council for Humanities to enhance her craft.

Headshot of Mika Fields
Headshot of Matthew Reed, Ph.D.

Matthew Reed, Ph.D.

Advisory Board Member

Dr. Matthew Reed is an experienced community college leader and a national voice on higher education issues.  He is the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Brookdale Community College, and is currently on a sabbatical assignment as the chief policy and academic officer at the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.  He has also worked at Holyoke Community College and the County College of Morris. 

He is the author of "Confessions of a Community College Dean" at Inside Higher Ed, providing a community college voice to the national higher ed conversation.  He has a B.A. in political science from Williams College and a Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University.

Headshot of Matthew Reed, Ph.D.
Headshot of John Soltes

John Soltes

Advisory Board Member

John Soltes, assistant professor at County College of Morris, is an award-winning journalist who teaches all of CCM's journalism courses, including Introduction to Journalism, Advanced Journalism, Editing & Publication Design, and Sports Communication & Culture. At the college, he is also a co-director of two interdisciplinary institutes: The Legacy Project, which is a celebrated speaker series that has been going strong for 10 years, and Parks Program, which teaches students and community members about the value of protected lands.

Throughout his professional career, his work has appeared in a number of publications, including The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, New Jersey Monthly and Time.com, among others. He is also the publisher of Hollywood Soapbox, an online entertainment magazine.

Headshot of John Soltes

Photos by Adeolu Eletu and ConvertKit on Unsplash