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15 Leading Black Newspapers Awarded Among Facebook’s $10.3 Million in Relief Grants

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

Facebook announced recently that 15 member publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will receive $1.288 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

The social media giant said more than 200 news organizations would receive nearly $16 million in grants, which stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in the news.

The fund is supporting many publishers who are hardest hit by this crisis, with nearly 80 percent of recipients being family- or independently-owned and more than half are published by or for communities of color.

The NNPA is a trade organization that represents the Black Press of America. The following are among the NNPA member publications included in the latest round of Facebook grants:

“The Facebook Grant will help The AFRO continue its 127-plus year history of uninterrupted publishing and enable us to continue our legacy as one of the nation’s most trusted voices in the African American community,” stated Frances Murphy Draper, Publisher and fourth-generation member of The AFRO newspaper.

“Additionally, this grant will allow us to expand our human and technological resources, both of which are sorely needed to continue our award-winning coverage as well as our reach to our beloved community who is disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We are grateful for Facebook’s support and we congratulate our fellow NNPA publishers who also have received this award,” Draper said.

Sonny Messiah Jiles, the publisher of the Defender Network in Houston, rejoiced when she received news of the grant.

“To God the glory,” Jiles proclaimed. “I am grateful to Facebook for recognizing the importance and relevance of the Black Press especially considering the threat of COVID-19 on the African-American community and on our financial stability,” she stated.

Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes said the grant couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

“As the country faced a pandemic like none other and reported by The Washington Informer, we also realized our fate rested in our ability to continue to tell the story of the Black COVID experience while advertising revenues disappeared,” Rolark Barnes stated.

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“This Facebook grant, along with other programs supporting newspapers and small business, is desperately needed. The grant helps us to continue telling our stories and significantly assists our efforts to innovate at the same time,” she said.

Janis Ware, the publisher of the Atlanta Voice, said many African American-owned newspapers are facing cancellations from advertisers and the closing of many community businesses.

The Facebook grant has provided an opportunity to replace some of that lost revenue.

“We are excited about the opportunity to continue our deep dive into digital transformation with the funding that was awarded to The Atlanta Voice from Facebook,” Ware stated.

Calvin Anderson, president of the New Tri-State Defender and the NNPA’s Region 2 President, added that the support from Facebook will position his newspaper to ramp up its ongoing coverage and interaction in the publication’s target zip code and enhance their technological capabilities.

“Prior to the pandemic, we identified the need to adjust our business and content model. The goals were to significantly increase our digital footprint while expanding the depth, variety and quality of our coverage. The COVID-19 crisis and the pandemic response forced virtual communication unto our front burner in a way that foreshadow permanent change,” he said.

The money was issued after Facebook received more than 2,000 applications for the COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program from newsrooms across every state in America, all U.S territories, and Washington, D.C.

The grant recipients were selected through a process led by the 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), according to the news release.

Facebook noted that 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.

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