Facebook Awards Black Press of America Publishers $1.3 Million in Relief Grants

Facebook has announced that 15 member publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will receive $1.288 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

The social media giant said more than 200 news organizations would receive nearly $16 million in grants, which stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in the news.

The grants include $10.3 million awarded to 144 U.S local newsrooms as part of the COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program.

The fund is supporting many publishers who are hardest hit by this crisis, with nearly 80 percent of recipients being family- or independently-owned and more than half are published by or for communities of color.

The grants also include $5.4 million awarded to 59 North American newsrooms that participated in Facebook Local News Accelerator programs focused on subscriptions and memberships.

Facebook said the remaining funds would be used throughout 2020 to support projects focused on longer-term sustainability in local journalism.

That includes $2.5 million for Report for America, helping the group place 225 journalists in 160 local news organizations for their 2020 reporting corps.

Partnering with leading industry organizations like The Local Media Association (LMA) and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism to move quickly, the Facebook Journalism Project has awarded more than 600 grants across the U.S and Canada since the pandemic began, Facebook stated in a news release. Additional grant programs have been launched to support journalism around the world.

The NNPA is a trade organization that represents the Black Press of America. The following are among the NNPA member publications included in the latest round of Facebook grants:

“The Facebook Grant will help The AFRO continue its 127-plus year history of uninterrupted publishing and enable us to continue our legacy as one of the nation’s most trusted voices in the African American community,” stated Frances Murphy Draper, Publisher and fourth-generation member of The AFRO newspaper.

“Additionally, this grant will allow us to expand our human and technological resources, both of which are sorely needed to continue our award-winning coverage as well as our reach to our beloved community who is disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We are grateful for Facebook’s support and we congratulate our fellow NNPA publishers who also have received this award,” Draper said.

Sonny Messiah Jiles, the publisher of the Defender Network in Houston, rejoiced when she received news of the grant.

“To God the glory,” Jiles proclaimed. “I am grateful to Facebook for recognizing the importance and relevance of the Black Press especially considering the threat of COVID-19 on the African-American community and on our financial stability,” she stated.

Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes said the grant couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

“As the country faced a pandemic like none other and reported by The Washington Informer, we also realized our fate rested in our ability to continue to tell the story of the Black COVID experience while advertising revenues disappeared,” Rolark Barnes stated.

“This Facebook grant, along with other programs supporting newspapers and small business, is desperately needed. The grant helps us to continue telling our stories and significantly assists our efforts to innovate at the same time,” she said, adding that she’s to her fellow NNPA publishers and NNPA leadership for “bringing us all together.”

Janis Ware, the publisher of the Atlanta Voice, said many African American-owned newspapers are facing cancellations from advertisers and the closing of many community businesses.

The Facebook grant has provided an opportunity to replace some of that lost revenue.

“We are excited about the opportunity to continue our deep dive into digital transformation with the funding that was awarded to The Atlanta Voice from Facebook,” Ware stated.

“During this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which so adversely and disproportionately affects the African American community, we must double-down on our efforts to keep us informed. Our very lives depend on it,” Ware stated.

“This Facebook grant ensures that we will be able to continue to do so. It is a blessing and we are certainly grateful.”

Calvin Anderson, president of the New Tri-State Defender and the NNPA’s Region 2 President, added that the support from Facebook will position his newspaper to ramp up its ongoing coverage and interaction in the publication’s target zip code and enhance their technological capabilities.

“The Facebook grant will assist us greatly in reaching and serving our Memphis readers and enhance our digital presence,” Anderson stated.

“Prior to the pandemic, we identified the need to adjust our business and content model. The goals were to significantly increase our digital footprint while expanding the depth, variety and quality of our coverage. The COVID-19 crisis and the pandemic response forced virtual communication unto our front burner in a way that foreshadow permanent change,” he said.

Anderson continued:

“We are extremely grateful for this grant support from the Facebook Journalism Project Supporting Local News Coverage of COVID-19 Program. Our selection largely reflects the dedicated work of our boots-on-ground staffers. Performing well during the pandemic means to us conveying timely needed information for safety and security. Our team has been getting the job done for our audiences under extremely difficult circumstances.”

The money was issued after Facebook received more than 2,000 applications for the COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program from newsrooms across every state in America, all U.S territories, and Washington, D.C.

The grant recipients were selected through a process led by the LMA and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and with significant contributions from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION), Local Media Consortium (LMC), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), according to the news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role local news plays in our communities, while simultaneously threatening their very existence,” said Jonathan Kealing, INN’s chief network officer.

“Reviewing hundreds of applications on a tight timeline both illustrated the depth of need, but also highlighted the innovation that these small, independent publishers can provide for their communities when given the resources,” he said. “I’m excited to see new news products and more critical original reporting in these communities, thanks to Facebook’s support.”

Facebook noted that the pool of grant recipients is notable in several ways:

  • Nearly four in five are family- or independently owned.
  • Half are published by or for communities of color.
  • Nearly 40 percent are digitally native publishers.
  • Just over a third are non-profits.

“We’re proud to support this diverse group of publishers — many of which are family- or independently owned,” said Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships at Facebook.

“Not only are these journalists working tirelessly to serve people right now — they’re focused on transformation, building innovative local news businesses that can continue to serve communities beyond the current pandemic,” Brown stated.

The NNPA congratulates “the publishers whose applications and proposals were accepted and awarded by Facebook,” stated Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. “Last month, we informed all of our member publishers about the Facebook grant opportunity. I am hopeful that this initial round of much-needed funding will open the door for our other NNPA member publishers to also apply for this type of financial assistance. We appreciate Facebook and their partners for supporting the Black Press. The financial enhancement and support of the Black Press is critically needed amidst this terrible pandemic that continues to devastate Black America across the United States. Local media is fundamental and a vital prerequisite to an inclusive democracy and economy.”

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