By Shereen Siewert

Wausau Pilot & Review has been selected out of a pool of more than 2,000 applicants to receive grant funding supporting independent reporting efforts in central Wisconsin.

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Overall, more than 200 news organizations will receive nearly $16 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news. A formal announcement was made Thursday.

These grants stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in news. It includes:

  • $10.3 million being awarded to 144 US 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: nearly 80 percent of recipients are family- or independently owned and more than half are published by or for communities of color.
  • $5.4 million being awarded to 59 North American newsrooms that participated in Facebook Local News Accelerator programs focused on subscriptions and memberships.

Remaining funds will be used throughout 2020 to support projects focused on longer-term sustainability in local journalism.

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

COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program

Grants ranging from $25,000-$100,000 will help publishers continue serving communities during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

Grant recipients were selected through a process led 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).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role local news plays in our communities, while simultaneously threatening their very existence. 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,” said Jonathan Kealing, INN’s chief network officer. “I’m excited to see new news products and more critical original reporting in these communities, thanks to Facebook’s support.”

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. 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,” said Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships at Facebook.

The COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program was designed to provide support for US local news organizations serving a critical role for communities impacted by COVID-19. Funding is intended to a) respond to immediate community needs and/or b) offset some revenue shortfalls to help publishers maintain long-term sustainability during this crisis.