Facebook announced on May 7 that 26 newsrooms in California, including The Rafu Shimpo, will receive over $2.2 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

In total, Facebook said that more than 200 news organizations, out of over 2,000 applicants, will receive nearly $16 million in grants that stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in local news.

Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000 to help publishers continue serving communities during the coronavirus outbreak. The Rafu Shimpo will receive $26,000.

The Rafu Shimpo is honored to have been chosen for the Facebook Journalism Project,” said Publisher Michael Komai. “This will enable the newspaper to increase our COVID-19 coverage in two areas: coronavirus-based discrimination against Asian Americans and personal stories in our community.”

The California newsrooms include Berkeleyside, Black Voice News-Riverside, Brentwood Press & Publishing, CALMatters, East County Magazine, Embarcadero Media, Entravision Communication Corp, L.A. Focus Newspaper, Little Saigon TV Network, Inc., Long Beach Post, Los Angeles Wave & Independent Newspaper Group, Nguoi Viet Daily News, Nuz Inc./The Pajaronian, Radio Bilingüe, Inc., Redheaded Blackbelt, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Spotlight, The Eastsider, The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Los Angeles Times, The Mendocino Voice, Two Rivers Tribune, Village News, Inc., Voice of OC, Voice of San Diego.

“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. I’m excited to see new news products and more critical original reporting in these communities, thanks to Facebook’s support.”

The pool of COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program recipients is notable in that 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, and just over a third are nonprofits.

“We’re proud to support this diverse group of publishers — many of which are family- or independently owned,” said Campbell B rown, vice president 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.”

These grant recipients were selected through a process lead by the Local Media Association (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).

Past Accelerator participants from the U.S. and Canada are also receiving relief grants to help safeguard the transformation they’ve achieved over the last several years and to capitalize on new opportunities. Remaining funds will be used throughout 2020 to support projects focused on longer-term sustainability in local journalism.

This week’s announcement is in addition to the previous $300 million commitment FJP made to serve journalists around the world through diverse and inclusive programs and partnerships. FJP has different program tracks they use to help fund local journalism including: the Local News Accelerator, Community Network and IG Local News Fellowship. These programs help bring news organizations together across the country to learn from one another and collaboratively develop strategies to improve their business both on and off Facebook.

In addition, CrowdTangle and Facebook’s local news partnerships team developed a local news report featuring 2,700 local news publishers’ Facebook pages during March and the first half of April. It is clear people are sharing more local content than they did before the pandemic, reinforcing the importance of local news. As an example, The Sacramento Bee’s post about a Social Distancing Scoreboard has generated more than 22,000 interactions to date.

Other key findings include:

A doubling in growth of local news pages in the second half of March (as measured by page likes);

The heightened popularity of Facebook Live compared to other types of pages posts;

A sharp increase in the second half of March in the sharing of local news content up 40%; and

The importance of neighborhood stories and community information.

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