As the coronavirus continues to take its toll on the media industry, Google has announced the creation of a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to support local newsrooms around the world.

In a blog post, Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, noted that local news has become even more vital amid the widespread lockdowns aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. Local news organizations have seen their traffic soar during the outbreak as readers seek relevant information, but advertising has been gutted.

And with many consumers struggling during the economic downturn, subscription-based models are also taking a hit. As a result, newsrooms of all sizes are faced with making massive staffing cuts or perhaps even closing. But a collapse of local news risks widening an information void that is already being filled with disinformation campaigns seeking to sow division.

“The Google News Initiative wants to help by launching a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium, and local news publishers globally,” Gingras wrote. “The funding is open to news organizations producing original news for local communities during this time of crisis and will range from the low thousands of dollars for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms, with variations per region.”

Google did not announce the size of the fund, but it follows the creation of a similar program by Facebook, which pledged $100 million.

Gingras set an April 29 deadline for publishers to apply to the relief program by filling out a form. Google will announce the recipients after the applications close.

In addition, Google.org will donate $1 million to the International Center for Journalists, which provides reporting resources, and the Columbia Journalism School’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which offers support to journalists who are suffering from their coverage of traumatic events.


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