Facebook HQ building Facebook headquarters, Dublin, Ireland - 14 Sep 2018

Could Facebook be local media’s knight in shining armor?

The tech giant, which has been trying to change its public image after a series of damaging incidents, has unveiled an additional $100 million investment to support the news industry.

This includes a $25 million emergency grant fund for local news through the Facebook Journalism Project, and $75 million in additional marketing spend to move money over to news organizations around the world.

“The news industry is working under extraordinary conditions to keep people informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when journalism is needed more than ever, ad revenues are declining due to the economic impact of the virus,” Campbell Brown, vice president of global new partnerships, said in a blog post.

“Local journalists are being hit especially hard, even as people turn to them for critical information to keep their friends, families and communities safe,” she added.

Indeed, a number of alt-weeklies across the U.S. have been forced to lay off staff or suspend print editions as they struggle to tread water amid plunging advertising revenues as their biggest clients — local restaurants, bars, retail and festivals — temporarily shut up shop.

Nor is it just local media that is struggling as a surge in engagement in COVID-19 stories has not been matched with a rise in advertising revenues, which are falling off a cliff. Both BuzzFeed and American Media Inc. implemented pay cuts last week, while W Magazine has furloughed many staffers and Playboy has ceased print issues.

The $100 million comes on top of the $300 million that Facebook pledged last year to journalists through news programs and partnerships, including Report for America, the Pulitzer Center, the Community News Project and the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Accelerator training program.

Last week, it also set aside $100 million for a new grant program offering individual cash grants for small businesses that are facing serious financial hardships due to COVID-19.

“This money will not only help keep journalists reporting right now amidst the crisis, the funding will also fuel opportunities for local media to accelerate business transformation toward a more sustainable digital footing,” Nancy Lane, chief executive officer of Local Media Association, said of the $25 million earmarked for local media.

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