CUNY’s Newmark J-School Launches J-Corps, A Professional News Service

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Newmark J-School graduate students and instructors will fill coverage and engagement gaps for local outlets stretched thin by COVID-19.

Just as local reporting is proving to be critical in New York and across the nation, the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY is launching an innovative summer news service that will be staffed by the Class of 2020 and showcase professionally edited coverage for underserved communities.

“Newmark J-Corps” will report locally for New York — now Ground Zero for the pandemic in the U.S. — and for communities, many in news deserts, across the country. Up to 70 current students will be deployed to listen to and connect with communities on public health and economic topics, pointing out gaps in resources — and tackling the most essential reporting.

The school will provide each participating student the living stipend given to students whose required summer news internships are unpaid. The stipend was increased by $1,000 this year to $4,000.

The program will provide a powerful tool in combating the pandemic —  accurate, factual information, Dean Sarah Bartlett noted Monday in announcing this first-of-its-kind virtual newsroom.

“If we were nurses, we would rush to emergency rooms,” Bartlett said. “Our skill set is different yet still needed. Reliable information is a crucial tool for curbing the pandemic neighborhood by neighborhood. We will follow rigorous guidelines of distance reporting for the health and safety of our students. But they’re a well-trained and committed group. And they’re poised to connect with communities across the city and around the country to identify crucial information.” 

From June to August, this virtual newsroom will unleash state-of-the-industry engagement techniques and multimedia reporting to support news outlets that are stretched thin by the coronavirus crisis and may no longer be able to support internships. Dozens of local digital sites and weeklies are eager for vital stories. 

In partnerships developed through the school’s Center for Community Media (CCM), J-Corps will utilize digital tools to transcend geographic boundaries and give reporters innovative  ways to understand and spotlight local information needs. (CCM has supported more than 200 local news outlets across New York City serving communities of color and immigrants. It recently expanded nationally, from Los Angeles to El Paso and Chicago.) 

The J-Corps newsroom will be led by John Mancini, the school’s director of editorial projects. He has served as the global news editor of Quartz, editor of Newsday, and in leadership roles at NBC News, the Associated Press, and the New York Post. He also has worked  as an on-air NY1 News reporter.

The newsroom also will be supervised by Newmark J-School instructors with rich experience in reporting, visuals, audio, interactives, and research. The newsroom will be organized as a multimedia hub, with designated beats important to the communities of partner news outlets. Interns will  demonstrate in their work the specialized expertise in health and science, business and economics, arts and culture, and urban reporting that they have developed in 10 months of graduate studies. 

The interns  based on work done in the school’s Social Journalism degree program, the nation’s first will engage with underserved communities to learn their needs, answer their questions, and help newsrooms learn new ways to serve and build trust. “In Social Journalism, we teach that journalism is a service,” said Dr. Carrie Brown, the program’s director. “Now, more than ever, we in journalism must reach out and listen to communities that have not always been well-served by the media.”

During  the eight-week program, interns will deliver text, video, photos, audio, and interactives through the J-Corps site, as well as in text messages and via social media. They will use platforms like WhatsApp to interact with communities and collect key information — and to ensure it is delivered in ways that will reach these audiences.

Coverage will be available as a news feed to partners and others who wish to republish J-Corps stories, serving both English- and Spanish-language audiences

“The DNA of this school from the day we opened was to reinvent journalism to serve where the needs are greatest,” Mancini said. “This is a moment our students are well-equipped for. As our motto says, ‘Newmark is the place for the curious and brave.’ The city and the country need what our students can offer.” 

In addition to J-Corps, students will intern at international, national, and local news organizations. Since the school started in 2006, a core of the program has been the requirement that every student complete a summer news internship. The J-School has been the only graduate school in the country to provide a living stipend if internships were unpaid. The school has made up the difference for those paid less than that amount.

Newmark J-School has also developed exclusive internship agreements with a range of media partners, from those with global reach such as The Associated Press, CNN, and NBC News, to local outlets like Bklynr, The CITY, and the Haitian Times.