The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the decline in local news as job cuts and furloughs are on the rise. Google wants to help tackle this trend with a “Journalism Emergency Relief Fund” for small to medium-sized publications.

Local news is a vital resource for keeping people and communities connected in the best of times. Today, it plays an even greater function in reporting on local lockdowns or shelter at home orders, school and park closures, and data about how COVID-19 is affecting daily life.

Noting the “greater function” that these publications serve in covering the local impacts of the coronavirus, Google wants to “deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium, and local news publishers globally.”

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 has not detailed the exact size of the fund, but earlier this month committed $6.5 million to fact-checking efforts related to COVID-19 and launched new features to highlight news across its products. The amount of funding will vary for every organization, but will be in the ballpark of “low thousands for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms.” It will be dispersed in one installment through US dollars or Euros.

Applications open today and will close April 29, with approval happening on a rolling basis. Google will ask for basic information, overall organization, and “how the funds will be spent.” It’s available for publications in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, North America, and Latin America.

At a high-level, Google requires that funding goes towards “original news for local communities during this time of crisis,” and not lifestyle, sports, etc.

Eligible applicants can include for-profit or nonprofit traditional news organizations, digital natives, radio and/or TV broadcasters.

Publications must have a digital presence that’s at least 12 months old, with staff ranging from 2-100 full-time employees. There will be some flexibility in regards to organizations with a larger staff.

Requests will be reviewed by “teams of Google staff who have knowledge and experience in digital publishing and journalism.” The company will publicly announce who has received funding and how publishers are spending the money. 

The application and more details about Google’s Global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund are available on the News Initiative homepage.

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