Skip to content

Daily Targum will join nationwide civic media program to increase coverage of local government meetings

The Daily Targum writers will participate in trainings and assignments from the New Brunswick chapter of Documenters, a nationwide initiative to empower local communities to gain access to local government proceedings. – Photo by The Climate Reality Project / Unsplash

Writers across various desks at The Daily Targum, Rutgers' independent student newspaper, will join forces with coLAB Arts as they launch the New Brunswick chapter of Documenters, a nationwide initiative working with local papers and organizations in 19 cities since 2018 to address challenges and complexities associated with access to local government proceedings.

Some of these barriers include the sheer number of meetings, limited coverage and publication of meeting minutes and occurrences and lack of adequate communication about cancellations and event settings.

They work to rectify these by creating a routinely updated database of local meetings and events. They will also provide free training and compensation for members of local communities to attend, record and take notes on what occurs during these proceedings.

Weusi Baraka, program manager for the Documenters Network and Rutgers alum, said the program fits into coLAB Arts' mission to use art as a mechanism for social change. 

"A program that pays community members to engage in the civic process, shares that information, back, with the greater community, and then explores ways to transform the documentation into art is exciting," he said. "We hope to recruit a diverse team of participants that represent the demographic variants that make New Brunswick special."

The value of these services in New Brunswick was highlighted using various examples during a launch event held at coLAB Arts for the chapter last month.

During the event, organizers provided recent screenshots from the New Brunswick City Council website demonstrating how the Council has not published any meeting minutes since 2021, as well as pictures from other local entities that still provide outdated information about board members.

Targum Head News Editor Alex Kenney shared her enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with Documenters, not only for its capacity to demonstrate the importance of local news agencies regarding government accountability, but also for its potential to build bridges between the Rutgers and New Brunswick communities.

"As one speaker from the (launch) event pointed out, it's extremely important for members of the New Brunswick community to be centralized in this work, as their familiarity with the area adds vital perspective and urgency to the organization's reporting which, at its core, is meant for them," Kenney said.

Targum News Assignments Editor Arishita Gupta echoed Kenney's and Baraka's sentiments about the opportunities associated with the Documenters program and drew insights from the first time she engaged with existing meeting frameworks in New Brunswick.

"Even as an experienced journalist, I felt ill-prepared for its length and the sense of insecurity associated with accessing the board meeting space and what was presented," Gupta said. "I deeply respect this program for working to change this reality for the people most affected by it, and I am honored the Targum has been given an opportunity to support it in any capacity."

The program welcomes anyone to register for one of its two upcoming trainings, one of which will be held online on Wednesday and another will be held in person at coLAB Arts on June 15. They emphasize the importance of members of marginalized communities, those who can speak multiple languages and anyone interested in journalism or civics, to apply.

Baraka said with the support of the program's national and state leaders, Chicago-based-non-profit City Bureau and New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, Documenters will have the ideal resources to train and assist its members as they improve the city. 

"This program is a way to engage government officials, business owners and the people in the community to participate in the democratic processes, in the effort, to make New Brunswick the best it can be," Baraka said.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe