MCCC receives $40K N.J. Council for Humanities grant to bolster community journalism

Mercer County Community College has been named one of four community colleges statewide to receive a New Jersey Council for the Humanities grant to support the development of community journalism.

The $40,000 award from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and Journalism + Design at the New School will be used to develop curriculum and fund tuition-free, noncredit certificates in community journalism at MCCC.

Other schools receiving grants include Atlantic Cape Community College, Mays Landing; Middlesex College, Edison; and Sussex County Community College, Newton.

MCCC President Deborah Preston said the grant award speaks volumes regarding the quality of the school’s journalism courses and new media academic program, with a dedicated faculty and staff and a long list of alumni who have launched successful careers with major media organizations after graduating from Mercer.

“The track record of journalism at Mercer speaks for itself,” Preston said. “With its impressive list of awards and recognitions, you can’t speak of journalism education at the community college level without mentioning MCCC. This grant will enable us to expand that reach throughout the community.”

The College VOICE, MCCC’s student newspaper, is a frequent recipient of top honors in state and national college journalism competitions, and, this year alone, garnered 13 awards from the New Jersey Press Foundation. MCCC students received top honors in arts and entertainment reporting, investigative reporting, opinion writing, features reporting and photography.

Holly Johnson, professor of English and journalism and adviser to the College VOICE, said the NJCH grant will play a pivotal role in the expansion of journalism in the region, and may very well inspire others to consider journalism as a career.

“Trenton’s news infrastructure eroded in the early 2000s with the mass closing and downsizing of local newspapers, but, over time, grassroots efforts to build community journalism have begun to emerge. This grant will help to propel those efforts,” Johnson said. “I’m hopeful that, once people get a taste for journalism through the certificate program, it will make them want to learn more and potentially go for the journalism degree.”

According to NJCH, the certificate programs will be unique to each college and will be developed through training and support from NJCH/J+D and other local news experts. MCCC and other college grant recipients will facilitate partnerships with local media and community organizations to provide pathways for participants of the certificate programs to get involved in local news production. NJCH said the program’s aim is to establish and promote community colleges as trusted hubs for news and information, particularly in communities that lack reliable local sources.