Editor’s Notebook: Introducing the New Jersey Monitor

July 28, 2021 7:30 am

The New Jersey Monitor staff. From left, Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, Dana DiFilippo, Terrence T. McDonald and Nikita Biryukov (Photo by Mary Iuvone for the New Jersey Monitor)

Is there a state that needs more reporters than New Jersey?

The Garden State has all the ingredients that often combine to make corrupt governance. The governor’s mansion and legislature are controlled by the same party, giving Democrats the chance to do almost anything they want. Major decisions on how state government operates are made behind closed doors by just three men. Voter turnout for races at the state level and below is abysmal, illustrating how many residents are checked out of the local political process.

New Jersey has a strong press corps that has uncovered an incalculable amount of wrongdoing. But there can never be too many eyes watching state government, and that’s where the New Jersey Monitor comes in.

We’re a small team, but between the four of us, we have covered governor’s races, corruption trials, the coronavirus pandemic, marijuana legalization, political brawls on both sides of the aisle, the disastrous unemployment system … you name it, one of us has been on the ground to report on it.

Now we will do so under the banner of States Newsroom, a nonprofit with newsrooms in 22 other states, including our neighbor to the west, Pennsylvania. The nonprofit model will allow us to deliver stories that matter, free from corporate demands for clickbait. We’ll give you the news and just the news, with no paywalls and no pop-ups.

Our mission is a clear one: We aim to hold the powerful to account regardless of their political party, explain how the policy decisions they make affect New Jerseyans’ everyday lives and shine a spotlight on the Garden State’s untold stories.

I have three incredible journalists joining me in this venture.

Nikita Biryukov comes from the New Jersey Globe, where he was tireless in his coverage of state government and politics. If the legislature is in session, you will probably find Nikita prowling the halls of the Statehouse, looking for his next scoop.

Dana DiFilippo is a longtime New Jersey resident and veteran reporter who covered Philadelphia for WHYY, the city’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, among other outlets. A former colleague described Dana as a force of nature. I’m glad to have her skills focused now on New Jersey.

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz most recently covered Trenton for As the pandemic raged, she was a vital lifeline for the state’s unemployed as they tried to navigate New Jersey’s broken unemployment system.

The Monitor will also include an array of guest columnists offering their take on New Jersey news. We want to elevate diverse voices who may not have strong representation in the media. If you’d like to be considered, email me at [email protected].

New Jersey has a long history of aggressive, robust reporting on statewide news. I’m glad we’re now part of that tradition.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Terrence T. McDonald
Terrence T. McDonald

Editor Terrence T. McDonald is a native New Jerseyan who has worked for newspapers in the Garden State for more than 15 years. He has covered everything from Trenton politics to the smallest of municipal squabbles, exposing public corruption and general malfeasance at every level of government. Terrence won 23 New Jersey Press Association awards and two Tim O’Brien Awards for Investigative Journalism using the Open Public Records Act from the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. One politician forced to resign in disgrace because of Terrence’s reporting called him a "political poison pen journalist.”