Every day we review dozens of sources of local information to put the Bloomfield news you need to know in one place: your inbox.

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What does an informed community look like to you? 

I see a place where voter turnout in elections is high and incumbents never go unchallenged. It’s a place where information about food pantries and school meal programs reaches everyone who needs it. I imagine a community where neighbors know each other, problems are shared, and solutions are home-grown.

And all that takes more than writing news articles.

Gardens need more than water. They need soil; nutrients; sunlight. And at the Bloomfield Information Project – we’re imagining more holistic approaches to local public service journalism.

Here’s what we’ve been up to and what we’re planning next. (Short version: We need your help setting our agenda.)

COVID-19 community dashboard

We launched just as the pandemic reached Bloomfield. So our first initiative was organizing COVID-19 news and information relevant to our community into a dashboard.

As new rules and regulations came into effect, we provided a single place to go for the latest news and information on how COVID-19 was impacting Bloomfield.

We tracked the operating status of local governments, businesses, and public service organizations. We maintained lists of testing centers, compiled resources, and tracked daily changes in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The dashboard remains available and is updated as significant changes occur.

“News harvest” daily bulletin

We’re producing a daily local newsletter for and about Bloomfield to make sure information reaches people that need it. (You can sign up here.) 

We launched it alongside our COVID-19 dashboard so that we could directly reach members of the community. From March to mid-June, we provided daily case counts and rundowns of the latest developments affecting Bloomfield and the people in it. The newsletter has now transitioned to covering a broader range of local topics.

The way we produce it is through a process we’re calling a news harvest. Every morning, we review dozens of sources like local governments, community associations, businesses, individuals, and social media groups. We identify relevant news and share it in our Daily Bulletin to make it easier for people stay informed about what’s happening in and around Bloomfield.

Amplifying important information

When a new bar planned to open in downtown Bloomfield, they posted about it on their Facebook page. And unless that post got lucky enough to be noticed by people or the platform’s algorithm, that’s where that information would have stayed.

But our news harvest helps us identify this sort of information and amplify it through our website, newsletter, Twitter, and other channels. This way we help useful local information proliferate and make it more accessible through search engines like Google. We also have Instagram, SMS, and Spanish-language products in the works.

Similarly, we’re experimenting with the way local government information is presented and made available in Bloomfield through our public meeting transcription service.

Collaborations that serve the community

Sharing our skills and resources is among the commitments we’ve made to our community at the Bloomfield Information Project. Here’s how we’ve done it so far.

  1. Early on in the pandemic, Google and Yelp had not yet begun including pandemic-closure information in business listings. We worked with the Bloomfield Center Alliance to design and launch a live, searchable directory of locally sourced opening information.
  2. We’ve sourced and distributed approximately 1,600 cloth masks in coordination with Bloomfield Health and Human Services, Toni’s Kitchen and Park United Methodist Church food pantries, and the South Orange-Maplewood volunteer sewing network. Through this, we’ve tested and are prepared to deploy an SMS notification service for aid distributions in Bloomfield.
  3. Our pandemic obituary service and memorial aims to remember and celebrate those we’ve lost to COVID-19. The lives we’re learning about will inform a remembrance ceremony planned by Bloomfield High School teachers. And the obituaries we write will join others across the state through Loved and Lost, a statewide collaboration to name and celebrate the life of every New Jersey resident lost to the virus.

What’s next

Next, we want to hear from you.

Our goal is to hear from 1,000 people about what news and information they need to live their best lives in Bloomfield. You can help us by completing and sharing this survey. It shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. (And there’s an opportunity to earn $40, too!)

We are also actively identifying ways to sustain our service. Philanthropic support helped us get started and we’ll continue to seek it. But aligning our financial interest with the interest of the people we serve is vital. 

We’ll accomplish this by launching donor and member programs in the near future. We’re also exploring partnerships, digital agency services, and niche news products to sustain our work, too.