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COVID-19: Facebook Invests Additional US$100M To Support News Industry

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If people needed more proof that local journalism is a vital public service, they’re getting it now. And while almost all businesses are facing adverse financial effects from the coronavirus crisis, we recognize we’re in a more privileged position than most, and we want to help, writes CAMPBELL BROWN.

The news industry is working under extraordinary conditions to keep people informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when journalism is needed more than ever, ad revenues are declining due to the economic impact of the virus. Local journalists are being hit especially hard, even as people turn to them for critical information to keep their friends, families and communities safe.

Today we’re announcing an additional US$100 million investment to support the news industry— US$25 million in emergency grant funding for local news through the Facebook Journalism Project, and US$75 million in additional marketing spend to move money over to news organizations around the world.

Through the COVID-19 Community Network grant program, direct funding is helping journalists cover important stories when we all need them most. We’re building on this work and will direct a portion of these funds to publishers most in need in the hardest hit countries. The first round of these grants went to 50 local newsrooms in the US and Canada. Here are some examples of how they’ve used the funding to support their COVID-19 news coverage:

The Post and Courier, South Carolina

Took down its paywall for coronavirus stories. It will use the grant to cover travel costs and remote work capabilities to extend coverage to rural, news desert portions of the state.

Southeast Missourian, Missouri

Publishing email newsletters highlighting coronavirus coverage. The newspaper will use its grant to bolster remote work technology and on contingency plans for reaching elderly readers should print distribution be disrupted.

El Paso Matters, Texas

New local online news organization launched earlier this year by former El Paso Times editor Bob Moore. The team will use their grant to hire freelance reporters and translators to expand coverage of coronavirus in El Paso and across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

“This money will not only help keep journalists reporting right now amidst the crisis, the funding will also fuel opportunities for local media to accelerate business transformation toward a more sustainable digital footing,” said CEO of Local Media Association, Nancy Lane.

“Local news organizations, especially hyper-local news organizations including those serving black and other underserved communities, have experienced challenges with the sustainability and distribution of news and information in the current media environment. COVID-19 has exacerbated an already existing crisis and our jobs have just gotten tougher. With such a sizable infusion from Facebook, local news organizations across the country will benefit as will our readers, our viewers and our listeners,” said publisher of The Atlanta Voice, Janis Ware.

This commitment builds upon US$300 million we’ve committed already to serving journalists around the world through diverse and inclusive news programmes and partnerships, including Report for America, the Pulitzer Center, the Community News Project and the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Accelerator training programme.

If people needed more proof that local journalism is a vital public service, they’re getting it now. And while almost all businesses are facing adverse financial effects from this crisis, we recognize we’re in a more privileged position than most, and we want to help.

* Campbell Brown is VP Global News Partnerships at Facebook

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