Tears welled in longtime journalist Michael Aron’s eyes as he and colleague Jim Hooker said their goodbye on New Jersey Network’s final evening newscast from Trenton.The broadcast cut to a small room of empty cubicles. The lights turned off, and a small, blue NJN sign glowed on the back wall. The screen faded to black. “New Jersey Network. April 5, 1971 – June 30, 2011.”
For 40 years New Jersey has justified having its own public broadcasting network by pointing to the limited reporting on its area by the Philadelphia and New York media. Now the state is moving to dismantle the New Jersey Network and entrust that reporting and its broadcast channels to public TV and radio stations in those two adjoining cities.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that paves the way for the transition of the state-run New Jersey Network into a private independent entity. The governor suspended the planned layoffs of 130 NJN staffers, saying the actions will allow for “New Jersey-focused programming to continue uninterrupted” as a transition is completed.
Public broadcasting heavy-hitters WNET New York, WHYY Philadelphia and WNYC radio in New York are among the candidates being considered for prominent roles in a newly configured public broadcasting service that would replace the New Jersey Network.
If the governor’s office and state legislature don’t act before Jan. 1, when NJN stops receiving state funding, the four stations would go dark