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History of NJPA

- Legal Advertising Hike - Executive Order 123
- First Shield Law - Fair Trial and Free Press
- First Executive Secretary - Newsracks Placement
- Better Newspaper Contest - Auto Advertising, Recycling
- World War II - Legislative Battles, Fought and Won
- First Press Seminar - Bell/BRC agreement
- NJPA Scholarship Fund - Free Newspapers Admitted
- Move to Trenton - Legislative and Court Victories


The New Jersey Press Association celebrated its 140th anniversary in 1997. It was founded in February 25, 1857, when 28 editors from 26 NJ newspapers formed an organization for the "brethren of the press of New Jersey" to advance the interests of newspapers and to increase the benefits of newspaper readership.

We are still at work to safeguard the right of New Jersey newspapers to print what the public needs to know, and to charge enough to stay in business.

Legal Advertising Hike
Less than a month after its organization, the association scored a victory in the Legislature, pushing through a bill permitting a higher rate for legal advertising. The struggle for equitable legal rates is still continuing.

The need for more intensive study of the problems of the press led to the first New Jersey Newspaper Institute, held in affiliation with Rutgers University in 1922. These ties also led to the establishment of journalism instruction at Rutgers in 1925.

The first libel law was enacted in 1928 after 21 years of struggle.

First Shield Law
The first shield law in the U.S., giving a reporter immunity from arrest, went on the books in 1933. The law was first proposed by the NJPA in 1930 and became the model for other states.

In 1934, two more important NJPA-sponsored measures became law, one requiring all actions for libel against a newspaper to be filed within one year after publication (instead of two years) and the second making it a misdemeanor for anyone to interfere with or assault reporters or photographers.

First Executive Secretary
NJPA's first executive secretary was named in 1935 and also directed the Rutgers Journalism Department. A central office was opened at Rutgers and a monthly publication started in November 1935. Clinics and roundtable discussions were held for all departments. An Advertising Division was also established.

Better Newspaper Contest
In 1940, the positions of executive secretary and journalism director were separated and the Competitive News Photo Contest was added to the Institute. The name of the newspaper contest was changed to the "NJPA Better Newspaper Contest." 1988 saw the first writing contests sponsored by the NJPA for college and high school newspapers. In 1989, the first circulation promotion contest was added.

World War II
World War II saw every eligible daily in the state as an NJPA member. Carrier boys sold war stamps and the association's newspaper missed the December 1944 issue "because of a paper shortage." The 1945 annual meeting was cancelled by the board of directors at the request of the War Mobilization Director. In 1946, having accepted a form of subsidy from Rutgers University for 11 years, the association severed its academic ties. The executive secretary and his office assistant became full-time employees of the association. The only connection with the university that continued was the use of office space.

First Press Seminar
The first of the press seminars sponsored jointly by Rutgers and NJPA was held in 1952 and the Associate Membership Division began in 1953. Legislation during the early 1950s included legal advertising rates and publication of special matters. A court ruling prevented municipalities from imposing license fees on newspapers.

As the association geared for its centennial, a new legal rate bill supported by the NJPA was signed into law. The legislation ended the distinctions based on the class of city or county in which the newspaper was located and set the rate solely on the basis of circulation.

NJPA Scholarship Fund
The early 1960s saw what began as a $100 scholarship to a Rutgers journalism student develop into the NJPA Scholarship Fund, Inc. From 1977 through 1991, more than $400,000 was raised for the New Jersey Press Foundation from an annual pre-season football game between the New York Giants and other National Football League teams to provide in-service training to journalists, students and college professors, and to fund educational programs, including the Rutgers University Journalism Resources Institute and the Newspaper in Education Program. In March, 1999, Thomas E. Engleman, former executive director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, Inc., was appointed to the part-time position of director of the Foundation.

Move to Trenton
In 1978, the association moved its offices from Rutgers University to the heart of the historic State House district. NJPA purchased a 100-year-old building, 206 West State Street, Trenton, a short walk from the State Capitol, where it remained for 17 years. In December, 1995, NJPA moved its headquarters out of downtown Trenton to Mountainview Office Park, close to Interstate 95 in West Trenton. Unlimited parking and a spacious conference room then gave the Association the ability to host seminars and other meetings.

Legislative and Court Victories
A victory over lowering the age of news carriers was narrowly won in 1982, as legislation changing the age of carriers from 12 to 11 years of age was signed into law. NJPA victories were also won in the courts in the spring of 1982.

A primary focus of the NJPA during 1983 and the first few months of 1984 was the battle for access to court hearings, court and police records and public meetings.

In April 1983, as a result of NJPA arguments, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that pre-trial hearings in cases that may result in the death penalty should be open to both the press and the public. The association was also successful in amending the legislation (A-1851) prescribing New Jersey's method of execution to include guarantees of media access to death-row inmates, as well as to the execution itself.

Legislative advances in 1983 also included passage of Senate Bill S-1044 authorizing the state's newspapers to raise their rates for all official paid advertising. Passage of the bill was the culmination of a three-year effort by NJPA to increase the rates for public notice advertising.

Executive Order 123
Responding to complaints from journalists across the state that they were denied access to even the most routine police information, the NJPA and state prosecutors collaborated in 1984 and early 1985 on an executive order directing law enforcement officials to release police news. Governor Thomas Kean signed the order in November 1985. The order provides more access to police news and an immediate appeal process for the press. The appeals process places the burden on county prosecutors to give justification for denial of information to the press and the public.

Fair Trial and Free Press
In March 1985, the state Supreme Court approved a statement of fair trial and free press issues, including new guidelines covering release of information by law enforcement agencies. The new statement endorses ongoing dialogue between the media and the court and sensitivity in protecting defendants' rights to a speedy, public and fair trial. The statement replaces the 1972 "Principles and Guidelines for Reporting Criminal Procedures," which was outdated by recent constitutional decisions. The statement was developed by the NJPA's Court Press Relations Committee and the Supreme Court's Committee on Relations with the Media.

Newsracks Placement
NJPA concerns also included regulations and fees imposed on the installation and placement of vending boxes. NJPA has objected to payment of any fee because honor boxes have been found to have full constitutional protection under the First Amendment provisions of speech and the press.

NJPA fought the NJDOT in the Supreme Court over restrictive regulations limiting placement of newsracks in state highway rights of way. The case was settled in 1989.

In 1987, the Association scored a victory in the New Jersey Supreme Court. With NJPA entering the Mayo Sisler vs. The Courier-News, Bridgewater, libel case at the Supreme Court level, the court created a new public figure category that offers the press important protection. The court also overturned the $1.05 million libel judgment against the newspaper. In a second state Supreme Court decision, the court upheld the right of newspapers to evaluate products in a case involving Sentinel Publishing Co.

Auto Advertising, Recycling
New state auto advertising regulations also went into effect in 1987. The Division of Consumer Affairs revised the automobile regulations of 1987 in an effort to accommodate and protect both the consumer and the automobile dealers and new auto regulations went into effect on May 15, 1989.

In December 1989, responding to bills pending in the legislature that would mandate the use of recycled newsprint in New Jersey, NJPA adopted a newsprint recycling policy statement, passed a Board resolution and formed a Newsprint Recycling Task Force to encourage newspapers to use recycled newsprint as much as possible and to demonstrate commitment to recycling newspapers.

Legislative Battles Fought and Won
In 1990, NJPA retained a firm of professional lobbyists for the first time in the association's history.

In December, 1991, NJPA's Access to Public Records (Title 47) bill was released from committee after four years of drafting and negotiation by Association counsel, editors, publishers and others. The bill would provide a universal procedure for processing requests for public information, and place the responsibility for determining what is and what is not a public record on the agency that maintains the records. Owing to opposition from various groups, the bill did not get to the floor of either house. In 1996, the bill was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee and promptly moved into the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Association's Legal Rate Bill, A-1195, calling for a ten percent per annum increase over the next three years in the rates chargeable for public notices, was defeated in the Senate during the last session of 1993.

Bell/BRC Agreement
At the end of 1991, the Association unsuccessfully opposed a legislative move by New Jersey Bell to become deregulated and to replace its statewide copper wire network with fiber optic cable at consumer expense.

This move was part of a nationwide strategy to prepare for the entry of the Bell Regional Operating Companies into the business of providing electronic information services. In March, 1993, a Bell/NJPA agreement was reached mandating that any NJ Bell information services be run by a corporate subsidiary with separate management, staff, marketing, facilities and accounts.

New Jersey Bell would have to do business with that affiliate and any competing electronic publishers including NJPA member newspapers on the same terms. In effect, NJPA had succeeded in leveling the playing field.

Free Newspapers Admitted
After several negative votes in previous years, NJPA's membership voted in the fall of 1993 to admit free distribution newspapers to the association, and to provide a special category of membership for college newspapers.

Serving New Jersey newspapers since 1857

New Jersey Press Association (NJPA) is a non-profit membership association formed to advance the interests of newspapers and to increase awareness in the benefits of newspaper readership. The mission of NJPA is to help newspapers remain editorially strong, financially sound and free of outside influence. We will pursue these goals in every way possible, as a service both to our members and to the people of New Jersey.

New Jersey Press Association
P.O. Box 358
Titusville, NJ 08560
Phone 609-406-0600