Facebook said Monday that it will invest $100 million to help support the news industry during the coronavirus pandemic: $25 million in emergency grant funding for local news via its Facebook Journalism Project, and $75 million in additional market spending to help move money to news organizations globally.
Vice president of global news partnerships Campbell Brown said in a blog post, “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.”
Brown said the funding will go toward heling journalists cover important stories, with some of the funds earmarked for the countries that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus, adding that the first round of grants went to 50 local newsrooms across the U.S. and Canada.
She also provided specific examples of how this funding is being used.
The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., took down its paywall for stories related to the coronavirus, and it is using the grant money to cover travel costs and remote work capabilities so that it can extend its coverage to rural, “news desert” portions of South Carolina.
The Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is publishing email newsletters spotlighting its Covid-19 coverage and using its funds to bolster remote work technology and develop contingency plans for reaching older readers if print distribution is disrupted.
Local online news organization El Paso Matters, started up earlier this year by former El Paso Times editor Bob Moore, will hire freelance reporters and translators to expand its coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on El Paso, Texas, and across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Local Media Association CEO Nancy Lane said in the Newsroom post, “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.”
The Atlanta Voice publisher Janis Ware added, “Local news organizations—especially hyperlocal 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.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also posted about the investments, writing in part, “This new emergency program is in addition to the $300 million we’ve committed to supporting news, and local news in particular, over the next few years. We’re hoping that this will support many journalists through this period so that they can continue doing their critical work of keeping all of us informed.”