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Posts Tagged ‘Public television’

I must confess the situation at NJN continues to both frighten and fascinate me. On the one hand, I feel like I am in an episode of  “Tyler Perry Presents: The End of My Career,” on the other hand the Reporter in me is riveted by what might happen next.

With funding due to run dry here by the first of the year, our Stockton Street Headquarters is fast becoming a morbid place to work. We have heard very little about what the plan is for this place. The Legislature jointly owns the licenses with the Executive Branch giving them equal say over how to proceed. As I have noted numerous times, that is not a system I am particularly comfortable with, but one whose rules I must obey.

Here is where we are. Contingency plans are being made to wind this place down. We have heard from both branches that no one wants to see this place “go dark.” Well, that doesn’t mean keep us around exactly either. People here have been told to pull “evergreen” shows. That means shows that are not timely and could conceivably run on a loop should we all be laid off and two or three people remain employed here to run tapes of re-runs just to keep a presence on the air.

I really wonder if the elite political class who run this state would allow the latter scenario to transpire. NJN has covered that group with intense determination and most importantly – deep respect – for almost forty years. The process of high impact decision making for New Jersey and governing this State is the people’s business and it deserves the level of coverage NJN has always provided.

The decision makers over those years have been captured in the NJN video archives. And starting this week, we have begun reaching into the vault to air some of that footage that you will literally not find anywhere else.

NJN’s old archive tapes are located at a warehouse in  West Trenton. NJN News Managing Editor and Anchor Jim Hooker has been making trips there to pull some of this historic video and film. NJN of course has been capturing New Jersey history all of these years, and that archive ( which belongs to the people btw ) is a treasure that should not be overlooked, no matter what our fate.

We will be airing nightly segments on our evening newscast through the month of December. Check it out.

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In the movie “Citizen Kane” the newspaper magnate helped drive his own sales because of a high public profile that made news. But in real life, journalists never wanna become the story.

Well, the story lately is NJN which has put me in the awkward position of covering my colleagues and myself…including the issuance of layoff notices earlier this week. ( btw – our “pink slips” weren’t actually pink. That’s fascinating )

Administration officials and others tell me that they believe the best option is a takeover by WNET, Channel 13 in New York with Steve Adubato Jr. attached to the deal who would presumably oversee the content and ensure that the New Jersey-centric mandate continues. But here is the Governor’s number one stipulation – no more state funding. That means 130 employees will need to come off the state rolls.

basically, it all comes down to money. Without a stable source of funding, it’s going to be hard to make this work. Thirteen has it’s own financial issues. In fact ( as has been reported in this space ), Thirteen gets a grant from the State of New York each year. Last year it was $8.7 million. People in New York seem to have no problem with that. And it would put New Jersey in the odd position of no longer being subsidized by the taxpayers of New Jersey, but  subsidized instead partially by the taxpayers of New York? Hmmm. that sorta undermines the whole idea of having an independent media outlet that is not dominated by New York or Philly which is why NJN was set up in the first place.

Here is the bottom line: the world has changed. When I was growing up I thought the “the future” was gonna mean flying cars and Summer homes on the Moon. In fact, the major technological leaps have been in the field of communications rather than aviation. In other words, the media landscape has shifted dramatically from what it was 40 years ago when NJN was born. We need a new model for NJN. No question about it.

So can the Thirteen thing work? I am open minded, if not necessarily confident. Montclair State University is another possibility. They have expressed an interest in taking us over. But an Administration official tells me that does not comport with the Governor’s mandate to get us outta the state system.

The dynamic is as follows: When Democrats opted not to fight to restore funding for NJN for the full fiscal year it meant the dollars drying up January 1. So that puts them in a weaker negotiating position now on NJN than the Governor.  As one Democrat told me, they fear Christie will say to them it’s either this Thirteen plan or I’ll let it go dark. The Legislators can write a supplemental to keep us alive for a few more months…but Christie can simply veto that. And the front office folks say they are not extending a lifeline without a solid plan. See where this is headed?

I hope something gets figured out. Not only for personal reasons but because the NJN brand has been loyal to New Jersey for 40 years. It’s time for New Jersey to show some loyalty right back and keep the station alive, albeit in a  different incarnation.

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