About Voting Block
FOSTERING CIVIC DIALOGUE AND COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS
THROUGH A SERIES OF POLITICAL POTLUCKS ACROSS NEW JERSEY.
About the Voting Block project
In 2017, New Jersey chose a governor without an incumbent in the race — the first time in 12 years. It was a critical moment for the future of the state, and it came at a time when conversations across the political divide were increasingly difficult.
That’s why we launched Voting Block, a New Jersey collaborative reporting effort, and why we’re eager to continue the project in 2019. Voting Block involves several major news organizations in the state who will explore the gubernatorial election — and political divisions — through the eyes of one neighborhood at a time. Each news outlet will follow a group of neighbors throughout the summer and fall as the race develops, holding events and online discussion groups.
Reporting partners for the 2017 iteration of this project included WNYC, WHYY, WBGO, NJ Spotlight, The Record of the USA Today Network and New America Media, along with more than two dozen local and hyperlocal partners from across New Jersey. Editorial components of the project are being coordinated by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, and audience engagement is being coordinated by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
In 2019, Voting Block became a dialogue journalism project to amplify the voices, concerns and opinions of residents regarding political issues in three New Jersey cities: Camden, Newark, and Paterson.
We recruited 10 people in each city to have dinner. We hosted the first dinner in Paterson in fall 2019, while the dinners in Newark, and Camden took place during the novel coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020. Each dinner served as an opportunity to discuss politics in a civil setting and to speak directly to legislators who make decisions that impact lives. Local media partnered with each dinner group to tell their stories.
We encouraged our participants to record videos after each dinner documenting their reactions to the conversation. After the third dinner, we worked with participants to compile a People’s Agenda based on the needs identified by residents during the dinners. We then sent those agendas to local legislators.
Voting Block is supported by a grant from the New Jersey Community News + Information Fund of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.