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Facebook Pledges $300 Million to Support Local News Outlets

Facebook users ”want more local news,“ says Campbell Brown, the social network’s head of news partnerships

Facebook is committing $300 million to help local news outlets invest in their newsrooms and “build sustainable business models,” the company announced on Tuesday.

The investment includes a $5 million endowment to start a Pulitzer Center grant program and $2 million for Report for America, a nonprofit organization, to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms within the next five years. Facebook is also putting $20 million into its Accelerator pilot, a program established last year to help outlets create subscription and membership programs, in 2019. The $300 million will be dispersed in the next three years.

“News is a key part of Facebook’s mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” Campbell Brown, vice president of global news partnerships at Facebook, said in a company blog post. “We’re going to continue fighting fake news, misinformation and low quality news on Facebook. But we also have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to help local news organizations grow and thrive. We know we can’t do it alone, but there is more we can and will do to help.”

The major funding comes as many legacy publications and local newspapers have struggled to adjust to a digital-first landscape. Earlier this month, the Dallas Morning News laid off 43 employees, including 20 writers, editors and photographers, due to declining revenue. Facebook has been criticized by many in the media in recent years for not only acting slowly to combat Russian fake news campaigns but for also pulling online ad dollars away from news outlets.

Facebook, Brown said on Tuesday, has consistently heard “people want more local news” in the last year, leading to its investment.

“We want publishers to find success whether on Facebook or a different platform or wherever it may be,” Brown said in an interview with the Nieman Lab on Tuesday. “That’s why I think we should approach this work holistically and look at different areas of focus.”