Last week, Google announced they will provide funding for more than 5,300 small and medium-sized local newsrooms around the world. Single newsrooms will receive between $5,000 and $30,000. Applications spanning multiple publications will be capped at $85,000 total. The funds will come from the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund part of the Google News Initiative. The relief fund was launched in April to provide help news organizations survive in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Local news is a vital resource for keeping people and communities connected in the best of times. Today, it plays an even greater function in reporting on local lockdowns or shelter at home orders, school and park closures, and data about how COVID-19 is affecting daily life,” said Richard Gingras, vice president of News, in the April 15 announcement.
“But that role is being challenged as the news industry deals with job cuts, furloughs and cutbacks as a result of the economic downturn prompted by COVID-19. The Google News Initiative wants to help by launching a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium and local news publishers globally. The funding is open to news organizations producing original news for local communities during this time of crisis, and will range from the low thousands of dollars for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms, with variations per region,” added Gringas.
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The relief fund was open to small and medium-sized news organizations, with 2 to 100 full-time journalists, that produce original news for their communities during the pandemic. They must have a digital presence and been operational for at least a year. Qualifying news organizations must be in one of the eligible geographic areas, have a focus on core news, and could either be for-profit or nonprofit. Government-owned entities and individuals were not eligible to apply.
The application period was opened on April 15 and extended through April 29. Within two weeks of the program’s announcement, Google received more than 12,000 applications from 140 eligible countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin America. Ninety percent of the applications came from newsrooms that had fewer than 26 journalists, and approximately 50% did not meet the eligibility requirements. Teams of more than 300 Google staff helped to review the applications, comparing the applications against established criteria for qualification.
Here is the breakdown of applications versus funded newsrooms.
Chris Jansen, head of U.S. News & Publishing for Google, said they were impressed by the number of media organizations that served their communities with fewer than 10 full-time employees. A few of those selected include The Daily Memphian (Memphis, Tennessee) that produces 20 to 30 daily stories about COVID-19 and how it is impacting poor and African American communities. Chestnut Hill Local (northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) plans to use their funding to replace their website with a platform that allows them to post stories more easily and more often.
Mark Peters, director of EMEA partnerships, said they are providing funding to more than 1,550 publishers. Bihoreanul in Romania will use its funding to provide necessary information to help readers prevent the spread of coronavirus and to share how the pandemic is affecting the area. Baraka FM in Kenya will use its funding for on-air campaigns to encourage listeners to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will also buy personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep reporters safe and provide travel stipends to reporters who must travel to cover news in outlying areas.
In Asia Pacific, Rohan Tiwary, head of media, news and entertainment partnerships, said they had more than 2,000 applications. They are funding more than 800 news organizations in 30 countries and territories. Suara Suabaya in Indonesia will allow readers to submit complaints to a public service hotline and to match those complaints up with stakeholders who can help and to use cash flow to stay afloat. The Murray Pioneer in Australia will set up two online meeting rooms to communicate with remote journalists, governments and interest groups. Advertisers will stay in touch with clients virtually to more effectively manage campaigns.
In Latin America, Camila Gomez, online partnerships group lead, said they reviewed more than 2,000 applications. They are supporting La Discusion in Chile to pay for an integrated radio-digital platform and to develop content around health, minorities, education and sports impacted by COVID-19. Google is also funding Agencia Amazonia in Brazil to support a project that investigates the socio-cultural impact that COVID-19 has had on indigenous and similar communities along the Amazon.
In addition to these relief funds, Google.org is donating $1 million to the International Center for Journalists and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School, to support journalists covering the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today’s news builds on other efforts we’ve made to support the industry and connect people to quality information at this time of need. We believe it is important to do what we can to alleviate the financial pressures on newsrooms, and will continue to look at other ways to help with more to announce soon,” said Gingras.
While Google has money to spare, this is very generous of them. This opportunity will help thousands of smaller news organizations survive during the pandemic and hundreds of thousands, possibily millions, or readers and listeners. In some cases, the money will serve as a bridge loan to help cash-strapped news organizations stay in business. In others, it will help provide tools and technology needed to continue the important work of journalists during a time of crisis. One thing we particularly love about these grants is that Google seems to be focused on funding organizations that might not otherwise qualify or receive funding. By not having to worry about cash flow, news organizations can do the important work that is needed right now.