REGION – More than 200 newsrooms across the United States and Canada, including the Los Angeles Times and Voice of San Diego, were awarded nearly $16 million in grants from Facebook’s Journalism Project in the wake of COVID-19.
After receiving more than 2,000 applications, Facebook’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program handed out $10.3 million to 144 U.S. news organizations, providing much-need financial support to publishers negatively impacted by the ongoing health crisis.
Individual grant awards ranged from $25,000 to $100,000.
Additionally, participants in the Facebook Local News Accelerator program, which focuses on memberships and subscriptions, were eligible to receive $5.4 million.
Each of these initiatives is part of the social media company’s broader $100 million global investment in news organizations.
The company’s journalism campaign launched in January, after the social media behemoth vowed to fight misinformation and “fake news” on its platform. Facebook came under fire by lawmakers after Russian groups used the site to purchase ads to spread misinformation and discord during the 2016 presidential election.
The grant program comes at a critical time for struggling news agencies who have lost valuable advertising revenue due to closures of non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders.
On May 1, The Los Angeles Times, which received a total award of $225,000 from both Facebook grant programs, announced it had reached an agreement with its newsroom guild, Media Guild of the West, to cut both hours and wages from nearly 440 journalists for three months.
California Times, the parent company of The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, permanently closed three of its weekly newspapers — Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun — and laid off 14 staff members, citing significant losses in advertising revenue. All three newspapers were later purchased by Charlie Plowman.
Starting April 3, the Union-Tribune and its nine community newspapers began downsizing staff by offering buyout options to allow some employees an opportunity to leave on their own terms, according to a Times of San Diego article.
Voice of San Diego, a donation-based digital news source, also received $96,250 from Facebook’s COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant program.
Other news outlets receiving grants include the San Francisco Chronicle ($150,000) and Denver Post ($150,000).
The Coast News submitted an application for a grant but did not receive funding.