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MercerMe is one of nine recipients of a grant that provides funding, business coaching and mentoring over a six-month period for startup news sites across New Jersey. This year’s winning proposals include community news and information sites like MercerMe.com, arts coverage and data-driven initiatives.

“We are ecstatic to be included in this year’s grant recipient class. It is a great honor,” said Mary Galioto, MercerMe.com founder and Hopewell Editor.  “With the Center’s support and guidance, we plan to provide even more quality in depth hyperlocal coverage in Mercer County while keeping very connected with our readers.”

The grant recipients are funded by the Grow and Strengthen program at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Now in its second year, the program’s goal is to grow and strengthen New Jersey’s news ecosystem, with special attention given to improving coverage for underserved communities and under-reported topics. The initial Grow and Strengthen class in 2013 included seven startup sites from across the state.

“As the news business gets tougher and newsrooms continue making layoffs, we’re excited to see entrepreneurs fill the gaps,” said Debbie Galant, associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media. “We can give them a helping hand so they have a better chance of making it through the challenging first year.”

In addition to each receiving a $2,500 grant, the nine winners will receive training in entrepreneurial journalism, regular meetings with their peers and six months of support from a business coach. The sites also have the option of launching their sites using a free, easy-to-deploy WordPress theme developed by Broadstreet Ads for use by the Center’s partners.

In the grant application, Galioto described MercerMe’s vision as being “written by community members for community members. Our writers are the people you know — or at least the people you know your friend knows. We’re part of our community’s network and we’re down in the trenches with everyone else.”

She emphasized that people are “coming to rely on [MercerMe] for coverage of local events and political changes that the shrinking mainstream media cannot cover” such as School District races and issues, small town municipal government, short staffed nonprofits needing help to get their message out and positive news about our State’s Capital.

Galioto hopes the grant funds and mentorship will help MercerMe begin to offer online advertising to local business, expand news coverage to other areas in Mercer County and develop other sponsorship opportunities and enhance the website with a community calendar, email newsletter and social media presences.

For more information about this year’s Grow and Strengthen grant recipients, visit: http://njnewscommons.org/center-for-cooperative-media-announces-startup-grant-winners/#sthash.0oDlwuT3.dpuf

 

Image credit: Roost in Madison

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