Grimes, McGovern & Associates’ (Newspaper/Publishing Group) represented NJ Hills Media Group (Hills Group), a leading independent weekly newspaper in the sale of its assets, to a Nonprofit Corporation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NONPROFIT CORPORATION FOR NEW JERSEY LOCAL MEDIA
TAKES THE REINS OF NJ’S LARGEST INDEPENDENT WEEKLY
New Jersey, April 7, 2022 – On March 31, 2022, the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media (CNJLM), a nonprofit organization founded in 2020 to build strong communities through journalism and civic engagement, took over the operations of the New Jersey Hills Media Group (Hills Group), the largest independent weekly newspaper group in New Jersey.
This ownership transition marks the culmination of a year-long process to convert the Hills Group to nonprofit ownership to preserve the group’s legacy of quality, community-focused journalism and to expand the reach and strength of local news.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to be leading this transition for the New Jersey Hills Media Group,” said Amanda Richardson, executive director of CNJLM. “This group, with its 14 weekly newspapers in Morris, Somerset, Essex, and Hunterdon counties, represents a significant resource for our communities, and we are honored to be part of ensuring its legacy continues long into the future.”
Outgoing co-owners Liz Parker and Steve Parker have long been open about their desire to preserve their family’s legacy of public-minded ownership and ensure the future of their papers in an era where local news is increasingly under threat from corporate interests looking to purchase and strip newspapers.
“The hedge funds and giant news corporations that have been buying up newspapers across the country come in and gut the news operation, fire editors and reporters, extract as much profit as they can and leave an empty shell,” said Liz Parker, who will continue to serve as the papers’ executive editor during and after the transition. “We didn’t want that to happen. Our family has served as stewards of these newspapers for 65 years. Converting to nonprofit community ownership under the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media was the clear solution.”
Steve Parker, who will remain as business manager, agrees that the nonprofit news model is a viable one. “Nonprofit newspapers as large as the Philadelphia Inquirer and as small as Montclair Local have demonstrated the benefits of a nonprofit model,” said Parker. “This novel structure enables us to supplement traditional newspaper advertising and subscription revenue with grants, events, and charitable contributions to fund robust local journalism that enhances civic engagement and builds stronger communities.”
Parker also emphasized that one of the goals of the transition is to provide continuity for staff and readers: “While the corporate structure will be changing, our staff will not. Many of our marketing and customer service colleagues have been with us for years, and all of them bring to our newspapers and websites a unique institutional knowledge of the area, an understanding of their clients’ needs, and a long-standing commitment to subscriber service.”
The Hills Group’s transition nonprofit ownership began in January 2021 when CNJLM announced a groundbreaking agreement with the Parkers to acquire the 14 local weeklies. The acquisition was made possible through a fundraising campaign that was supported by numerous members of the communities the papers serve. James McDonald, Senior Associate with Grimes, McGovern and Associates, exclusively represented the New Jersey Hills Media Group in the transaction.
“We are thankful to the many donors, large and small, who have already contributed to the community fundraising drive that is making this transition possible, and we are proud to be part of the national movement to nonprofit news ownership that is playing such a vital role in the preservation of local journalism that is so critical to civic knowledge and engagement in our democracy,” said Nicolas W. Platt, CNJLM’s Founding Chair who led the fund-raising effort.
The Corporation for New Jersey Local Media was founded in 2020 as a “team of rivals” effort by Executive Director Amanda Richardson, the Harding Township Democratic chair, and Platt, a Harding Township Republican Committee member, who ran against each other for Township Committee in November 2019 in a race marked by its civility.
“Amanda and I may have disagreed on various issues, but we were always in agreement that local news is of paramount importance to a healthy democracy and a strong society,” said Platt, who ultimately won the 2020 race and led fundraising efforts for the Hills Group transition.
In addition to Platt, CNJLM’s governing board includes Vice Chair Linda Stamato, Policy Fellow and Co-Director of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy; Secretary Fruqan Mouzon, partner at Fox Rothschild, LLP, who served as CNJLM’s counsel on the transaction; and Dr. Lisa Bhimani, who serves as CNJLM’s treasurer.
Advisory Board members have included Senate Republican Budget Officer Steve Oroho (R-Sussex/Morris/Warren); John Mooney, Founding CEO of New Jersey Spotlight; Stefanie Murray, Director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University; and Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of Rutgers University’s Bloustein Local Government Services Center. Nonprofit expert Tamara Pompey serves as CNJLM’s chief of marketing and philanthropy.
In addition to these organizational boards, a separate New Jersey Hills Media Group Community Advisory Board will be set up this spring. The advisory board, made up of residents from each of the 14 weekly newspapers, will serve to enhance community engagement by providing guidance, ideas, and feedback.
Corporation for New Jersey Local Media builds strong communities through journalism and civic engagement. The organization seeks to enhance civic engagement by promoting professional community journalism, fostering public discussion of critical issues, and expanding access to educational programs. Learn more at www.newsweneed.org
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