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Shining Light in Dark Spaces

The Citizens Campaign today announced the release of “Shining Light in Dark Spaces: A Hyperlocal Reporter's Guide to Covering Municipal Government in New Jersey” a how-to manual for citizen journalists, journalism students, and cub reporters on the ins and outs of reporting on local government and politics.  From reviewing municipal budgets to obtaining police reports to covering the local chamber of commerce – Shining Light in Dark Spaces covers it all.

Written by the award-winning Editor of The Citizens Campaign’s Joe Malinconico, Shining Light in Dark Spaces” shows reporters how to provide thorough and robust reporting of local government and politics on a limited budget and tight calendar. 

With funding from the Rita Allen Foundation, The Citizens Campaign commissioned 30 year veteran investigative reporter Malinconico, to combine what he learned in traditional and online newsrooms and write a step-by-step guide for the next generation of municipal reporters to inform citizens and hold local officials accountable.

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 “In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting. This is likely to lead to the kinds of problems that are, not surprisingly, associated with a lack of accountability—more government waste, more local corruption, less effective schools,  and other serious community problems. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk at the local level.

-Excerpt from an Federal Communications Commission Report, “The Information Needs of Communities” by Stephen Waldman June 2011.

It is the civic empowerment function of quality local journalism that The Citizens Campaign is trying to protect. The Citizens Campaign commissioned this guide so local reporters operating in today’s virtual newsrooms could still provide quality local coverage despite having less time and fewer resources.

Having quality local coverage is critical to balancing our budgets responsibly, and creating a more informed citizenry, the best protection against waste and corruption and the best source of new leaders.  Frankly speaking, we cannot afford the civic lethargy that comes with civic ignorance. It leads to career politicians and wasteful and costly government,” said The Citizens Campaign Chairman Harry Pozycki.

Jeff Jarvis, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, said “Every town in New Jersey needs to be covered by reporters. Here’s a guide that empowers any citizen to be that reporter.”

“As a journalist for the better part of three decades in NJ, I think this resource guide is tremendously insightful and useful. It’s NJ’s journalistic equivalent to the media’s grammatical and usage guide developed by Strunk and White,” said Winning Strategies Chairman, Jim McQueeny. Founder, CEO, and Publisher Michael Shapiro said, "A must-read for anyone interested in competently covering municipal government.  This 'how-to' guide provides critical information for the municipal government reporter in an understandable and straight-forward manner.”

Director of the NJ News Commons at Montclair University Debbie Galant said, “A solid, practical compendium to help any reporter shine a light on their community, and keep it there.”

Shining Light in Dark Spaces is available on The Citizens Campaign’s website for download.  Email Heather Taylor for information on obtaining print versions,

The Citizens Campaign is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that empowers citizens to build solutions and get results that make government work better and cost less. 


 Joe Malinconico has been a professional journalist for more than 25 years, including almost 13 years as the reporter at New Jersey's biggest newSpaper, The Star-Ledger. Malinconico covered Middlesex County government, state transportation issues, and the seaport of New York and New Jersey at the Ledger.  In 1999, The Ledger's editors named him recipient of the in-house Dee Murphy Award for reporting excellence.  In 2007, the New Jersey Press Association gave him the Robert P. Kelly Award for public service reporting for a package of stories about families of deceased military personnel who had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to learn about their loved ones' deaths. Malinconico is currently the Editor of, which under his leadership has received a number of awards from the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, including Best Online Independent News Organization, Best Public Service, and the Stuart Awbrey Award for Distinguished Public Service Community News.

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