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California Black newspapers win hundreds of thousands in Facebook grants

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  

Several Black-owned newspapers in California have received grants to help them weather the economic downturn the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. Facebook announced May 7 that it is awarding nearly $10.3 million to 144 local newsrooms through the company’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program. 

According to the Facebook Journalism Project, more than half of the recipients are publications operated by —  and targeted to — communities of color, and the majority are independent or family-owned. 

“We are honored to have been chosen to receive the  Facebook Journalism Project COVID-19 program Grant,” Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., Executive Editor and CEO of The Los Angeles Sentinel, told California Black Media. 

“We have been and remain committed to helping our community survive in these unprecedented challenging times, when all businesses and families are struggling, especially those within the African-American Community,” Bakewell added. 

The majority of the Black-owned California newsrooms that received over $300,000 in grants are located in Southern California around the greater Los Angeles area, including the L.A. Sentinel, the  L.A. Focus Newspaper, the Los Angeles Wave and Independent News Paper Group and Black Voice News in Riverside.  

The Oakland Post, a Black-owned paper in Northern California didn’t receive a grant but was delighted that so many Black media throughout the nation did. 

“I am pleased to see that Facebook invested in African-American and other ethnic media,” said Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post. “I am however concerned that it was concentrated in Southern California and left a huge void with the rest of the Black community statewide. I hope this opens the door for more conversations to fund those who still need support.” 

Lisa Collins, publisher of the L.A. Focus Newspaper, said the money is timely.  

“I am thrilled [the Focus] was selected to receive this grant. This will help us continue to serve our community with timely and valuable news and information on COVID-19 and better inform our community,” said Collins.  

Paulette Brown-Hinds, founder of Voice Media Ventures and publisher of Black Voice News, has big plans for the grant money. 

“This Facebook grant will allow our team to build on our current reporting on the economic impact of COVID 19 on our community, as well as expand our expertise in data journalism and data visualization and mapping.” 

“As a community focused media entity, we look forward to continuing to be a resource not simply contributing to community thought and understanding, but to community engagement and action.” 

The grant recipients were chosen from a pool of more than 2,000 applicants by the Facebook Journalism Project and its partners: The Local Media Association and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. The grants range from $25,000 to $100,000 to help publishers serve their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"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.” 

In addition, to the COVID-19 relief grants, Facebook also awarded $5.4 million in grants to North American newsrooms that have participated in Facebook’s  Local News Accelerator programs.  

Report for America, a nonprofit that embeds early-career journalists in newsrooms, received $2.5 million to help its 2020 cohort, 225 journalists, who will be placed in 160 local news organizations.

Bakewell says he appreciates the support the grant has provided. It places his publication in a stronger position to provide vital information to people in his community whose lives the pandemic has disrupted. 

“This grant will help us  to continue our mission of informing our community of the resources available to help navigate through this pandemic so that we can all come through this together —  safe, healthy with our dignity intact,” he said.

Catch up on Chris Finley's COVID-19 in Secondary Education podcast



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