New Community News Website Hits 100 Subscribers

By Norris Hite Jr., Editor

New Community News Website Hits 100 Subscribers

ATLANTIC CITY—Veteran musician Eddie T. Morgan, of the Eddie Morgan Trio, recently became the 1ooth subscriber to Atlantic City Focus.

Atlantic City Focus provides a safe space where residents and natives can tell their own stories in their own way. The publication strives to enlighten, inform, and entertain as it celebrates African-American culture, history, and traditions. Atlantic City Focus also promotes civic engagement.

“I feel honored,” said  Morgan. “Media is important to what I do so I celebrate it.”

Morgan’s band is often included in the Atlantic City Focus Weekend Guide. The Eddie Morgan Trio plays every first Friday at Rhythm and Spirits on Tennessee Avenue.  The group, featuring Jeff Burnside on drums and Daryl Robinson on keyboard, also plays each second Friday at Kelsey’s Atlantic City.

Morgan, a talented trumpet player, has long been a supporter of brothers Mark and Raymond Tyler. Mark is the founder and publisher of Atlantic City Focus, and Raymond is the publication's Executive Editor. The brothers have for more than 30 years promoted events aimed at bringing more arts and culture to the resort community.

“But of course, I’ve always supported,” Morgan said.

Mark said reaching the milestone is a testament to the strength and commitment of many in the community. Shermaine Gunter-Gary, of Empowerment Tools Coalition, is the community engagement specialist. Subrata Chowdery covers the multicultural community. Jamal Powell, one of Mark's mentees, has written about housing issues. Paula Goddard and several others were instrumental in helping pull together the Atlantic City Focus Civic Engagement Guide: Your Guide to Atlantic City Resources. Veteran photojournalists Edward B. Lea and Craig Matthews have shot events from a perspective that only a photographer's eye could capture. "Theresa Veronica Kennedy is an amazing new writer and we're proud to say she was first published in Atlantic City Focus," Mark said. "Veteran news editor Norris Hite Jr. is a pleasure from which to learn. Everyone involved makes us better."

And thanks to the  2024 South Jersey Information Equity Project, the publication will have two new fellows joining the Atlantic City Focus family; Taja Johnson and Queena Bergen.

Taja is a dedicated wife, mother, and graduate of Rowan University. She has five years of experience in journalism and excels in interviewing a diverse range of individuals, including business owners, celebrities, and politicians.

"Taja’s expertise extends to news writing, and she is excited to apply her skills at SJIEP, contributing to impactful storytelling. Taja will cover stories in Atlantic and Gloucester counties," said Cassandra Etienne of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair University who made the announcement about the 2024 SJIEP fellowship program.

Queena is an award-winning international performance artist and Creative Swiss Army Knife. Currently serving as a cultural ambassador to the United States Embassy, Queena’s impactful contributions extend to renowned institutions like the U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, and CBS, including the Emmy Award-winning Public Service Campaign, “Black History is Our History.” Queena will produce reports focusing on Atlantic and Cumberland counties.

"Some of her accolades include the Governor’s Award in Arts Education, the Presidential and Congressional Service Awards, and recognition as an AT&T Black Future Maker," Etienne said.

Mark said the organization also plans to bring on new podcasts and other special sections this year to give the community more access to information and grow the publication's audience

"Mayor Marty Small, Sr., was one of the first people with whom I shared the idea and he immediately told me about learning and potential funding opportunities," Mark said. "I wasn't poised to take advantage of the opportunities at that point, but it makes you feel good when people understand your vision and point you in the right direction to achieve your goals."

Local businessmen Derek Brock and Darren Palmer along with entrepreneur Pam Fields have each tried for years to bring more business opportunities to the area. James Whitehead, executive director of the Atlantic City RX5 Cyber Envision Center, was one of the first donors. Hairlosscenternj.com was the first advertiser. Mark said the only problem with naming names is always forgetting people who have been instrumental.

"For every person I've named, there are 20 more people behind the scenes nationwide who have been encouraging me to move forward, and offering moral or financial support," Mark said. "So, if you believe your name should have been called, you're right, but please forgive me. We are busy growing."

Many in the journalism community, who have assisted Atlantic City Focus from its inception, applauded the accomplishment.

 "It's no small feat to build a new organization to meet news and information needs in a community. It takes a lot of time, care, consideration, and consistent effort in building relationships. Atlantic City Focus's first 100 subscribers are part of something special," said Heather Bryant, co-founder of the Tiny News Collective. TNC was started to help founders create new local news organizations in places unserved, underserved or historically harmed by legacy media. The Collective focuses on making journalism entrepreneurship more equitable and accessible for people from a greater spectrum of identities and lived experiences than is currently represented in media ownership.

Jeremy Caplan, director of teaching and learning and director of the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creator’s Program at CUNY, the City University of New York, agreed. "Reaching 100 subscribers is significant for any publication. It means readers care enough about what you're creating to welcome your work into their inboxes,” said Caplan.  “It means you've made an offer that resonates with people. Achieving that milestone puts you in a position to have a positive impact on the news ecosystem. As a teacher, I'm always excited when I see a student do meaningful work that connects with a community."

Mark graduated from CUNY's 100-day EJCP course in June just before launching the publication.

Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media, School of Communication and Media, at Montclair State University, offered even more perspective. “Building an audience is a tough hill for any new news organization to climb, especially one that prioritizes authentic connections with its community. Hitting that first milestone of 100 subscribers is an important mark!” Murray said. “The goal of the Center for Cooperative Media is to do everything it can to help ensure the success of local journalists across the state, so it's incredibly gratifying to see one of our partners hit a milestone like this! And we hope that Atlantic City Focus only keeps growing from here.”

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