WNET takes over NJ Spotlight for collaboration with NJTV

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New York’s WNET has acquired online public policy newsroom NJ Spotlight.

Reporters for NJ Spotlight and NJTV, the public TV network operated by WNET in the state, will collaborate on broadcast and online content as part of the deal, finalized Monday.

WNET takes over NJ Spotlight from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, which was also one of the site’s seed funders at its launch in 2010.

NJ Spotlight will retain its brand and website and “will operate in tandem” with the staff of NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams, according to an announcement Tuesday. The weeknight news show’s journalists previously worked with NJ Spotlight staffers on projects including 2018 congressional debates.

Nine NJ Spotlight employees who previously worked out of their homes will eventually work out of NJTV’s studio in Newark, said NJTV spokesperson Debra Falk.

Falk told Current that NJTV approached NJ Spotlight “a couple of years ago with the idea of working more closely together.” Conversations since then among the networks and Community Foundation of New Jersey President Hans Dekker led to the acquisition, she said.

The partners are not disclosing financials of the transaction.

“At a time of shrinking state and local news coverage nationwide, the combination will create one of the largest and most comprehensive news and public affairs organizations in the state,” according to the announcement.

“This acquisition is an important step into the digital future for public broadcasting and provides New Jersey with a comprehensive, multi-platform local news source,” said WNET President Neal Shapiro.

NJTV GM John Servidio, WNET’s VP of subsidiary stations, will be GM of the Spotlight news team. “These two successful and respected news entities are joining forces to create a far greater whole,” he said.

Mike Rispoli of Free Press agreed. Rispoli spearheaded the media-advocacy nonprofit’s successful campaign for a $5 million Civic Information Consortium to bolster local news in the state.

“Both NJTV and NJ Spotlight produce quality journalism with a mission,” Rispoli told Current. “And both have served residents very well. We’re hopeful this deal will result in even more robust coverage of state issues that people care deeply about, across even more platforms.”

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