U.S. newsrooms share impact of Facebook’s $10 million COVID-19 grants


By Emilie Lutostanski, Lindsey Leisher Estes and Camryn AllenLocal Media Association

When the Facebook Journalism Project awarded $10.3 million to 144 local U.S. newsrooms in May as part of its Covid-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program, the project set out to ensure long-term sustainability and business transformation for local news organizations, including many of those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll. Here’s how the funding enabled publishers to maintain or add jobs, expand or improve news coverage for specific communities, and grow audience and technological capabilities.

82 percent of newsrooms used the grants to expand local reporting in some way

  • 29 percent brought more COVID-19 information to their communities
  • 20 percent improved local journalism offerings in a time of need
  • 13 percent expanded coverage to non-COVID topics.

One success story: Unique visitors to Kentucky’s WFPL.org have grown 230 percent over the previous year due to Louisville Public Media’s expanded coverage of COVID-19 and racial justice supported by the grant.

29 percent of newsrooms used the grants for audience outreach and engagement, including free subscriptions or connecting with new demographics

  • Nearly 18 percent improved news coverage for a specific community
  • 17 percent invested in bilingual translation or implementation
  • 8 percent reported on COVID-19 for underserved and vulnerable communities

One success story: Minnesota’s Sahan Journal offset translation costs to the Hmong, Somali, and Latin communities and hired a reporter who explored the complex racial identities of young members of the East African diaspora and their activism in Black Lives Matter.

Nearly 23 percent of newsrooms said the funding outright saved their newsrooms from extinction

  • 36 percent used funds for hiring
  • 27 percent saved one or more jobs

One success story: Michigan-based Native News Online hired an award-winning Indigenous journalist as a full-time managing editor and contracted several freelance journalists to provide more extensive news coverage, including how COVID-19 has impacted Native communities.

36 percent allocated grant funds toward marketing and/or digital presence, including websites

  • 27 percent used funds for technology
  • 14 percent built new business relationships and/or provided services or events using the grant funding

Financial support greatly benefitted recipients’ current business operations and future revenue prospects. Local news publishers invested in sustainable futures with unprecedented reporting written by new and esteemed journalists. New technology is helping them reach and connect with more people in their communities.

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). Learn more about initiatives and resources from the Facebook Journalism Project.

Results provided by the publishers.