New Jersey Arts News (NJAN) will bring community members, scholars, and media professionals together for an exploration of cultural issues with its “Public Forum: Civics, Humanities and News Media in NJ,” Thursday, September 27, at the Arts Council of Princeton.

“The aim is to spur a different conversation about ‘news’ that considers the citizenry as a whole, and what forms of stories information we need — as citizens — for a thriving democracy and healthy communities,” says coordinator Susan Haig.

Founded by Haig in 2009, the Summit-based nonprofit works to accomplish that vision through several initiatives, one being to engage audiences and professionals who deal with the arts and media in ways “to foster a creatively engaged citizenry.”

The Princeton event will ask a panel of scholars and news professionals to examine the “news in relation to citizenship and the human story,” organizers say.

That panel includes WBGO radio news director Doug Doyle, New Jersey Council on the Humanities executive director Sharon Ann Holt, NJTV producer Bob Malees, WHYY vice president Chris Satullo, New Jersey Public Radio managing editor Nancy Solomon, publisher Michael Shapiro, New York Times health and science writer Gina Kolata, Princeton University news service director Daniel Day, and Princeton professor Stanley Katz.

“It’s not going to be a standard moderated discussion. We want to get the speakers telling their stories rapidly. The main thing is to provide a space for a different kind of discussion, one based on the idea that citizens are responsible and creative. That understanding is essential to democracy,” says Haig.

In addition to public forums, NJAN also meets its objectives by producing and making available to broadcasters videos that highlight the “transforming power” of the arts and humanities.

Since the organization started, 23 NJAN segments have been aired on nonprofit media venues, such as NJTV, WHYY’s, WBGO Journal, Princeton Community TV, and other Jersey Access Group stations. Segments have also been broadcast on commercial stations, such as My 9 TV (Fox), and are available for viewing on YouTube.

Broadcast features have included Nathan Laube performing on the famed symphonic-styled organ in Ocean Grove, the reunion of Bell Lab scientists on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Telstar, and a staging of Prokofiev’s “Eugene Onegin” at Richardson Auditorium.

In addition to short segments for brief news features, Haig says that the organization is planning a half-hour TV series called “HEArt of the News” (the letters representing health, education, and art). It’s being planned for potential airing on NJTV and other PBS stations.

The organization also hopes to convene a culture and media forum in Trenton in late February, 2013.

Haig is a Summit native and a Princeton University graduate. With master’s and doctoral degrees in piano and conducting from Stony Brook University, she has performed solo and chamber music as a pianist, violist, and vocalist. Other professional experiences include orchestral and opera conducting, coaching, producing, and broadcasting.

The coordinator says that after “19 years of work as a conductor and music director of symphony orchestras in Canada and the U.S., I noticed a gap between TV news and what was going on — culturally and creatively — and became convinced of a need to provide a service to news broadcasters like an ‘AP’ but for TV and focused on culture and the civic side of arts. New Jersey seemed to be a great place to try this idea. It’s very rich culturally, but that richness is under represented on regional television news.”

Segments are produced on speculation with a production team comprising a video photographer and editor. A partnership with an independent commercial production company assists in the release of video segments to broadcasters. Program support comes from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, and individuals.

Noting that everything that NJAN is doing is new, Haig says that the organization is “in an early phase of development,” a process that she hopes will continue September 27.

–– Dan Aubrey

Civics, Humanities & News Media, Solley Theater, Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Thursday, September 27, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Free. Register.

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