Facebook announced that 15 member publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will receive $1.288 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

The social media giant said more than 200 news organizations would receive nearly $16 million in grants, which stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in the news.

The grants include $10.3 million awarded to 144 U.S local newsrooms as part of the COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program.

The NNPA is a trade organization that represents the Black Press of America. Locally, the Houston Defender and Houston Forward Times (Karen Carter Richards, publisher) were among the newspapers receiving grants.

“I am grateful to Facebook for recognizing the importance and relevance of the Black Press especially considering the threat of COVID-19 on the African-American community and on our financial stability,” said Defender Publisher Sonceria “Sonny” Messiah Jiles.

The fund is supporting many publishers who are hardest hit by this crisis, with nearly 80 percent of recipients being family- or independently-owned and more than half are published by or for communities of color.

The grants also include $5.4 million awarded to 59 North American newsrooms that participated in Facebook Local News Accelerator programs focused on subscriptions and memberships.

Facebook said the remaining funds would be used throughout 2020 to support projects focused on longer-term sustainability in local journalism. That includes $2.5 million for Report for America, helping the group place 225 journalists in 160 local news organizations for their 2020 reporting corps.

Partnering with leading industry organizations like the Local Media Association (LMA) and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to move quickly, the Facebook Journalism Project has awarded more than 600 grants across the U.S and Canada since the pandemic began. Additional grant programs have been launched to support journalism around the world.

The money was issued after Facebook received more than 2,000 applications for the COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program from newsrooms across every state in America, all U.S territories and Washington, D.C.

The grant recipients were selected through a process led by the LMA and the Lenfest Institute and with significant contributions from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), Local Independent Online News Publishers, Local Media Consortium and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role local news plays in our communities, while simultaneously threatening their very existence,” said Jonathan Kealing, INN’s chief network officer.

“Reviewing hundreds of applications on a tight timeline both illustrated the depth of need, but also highlighted the innovation that these small, independent publishers can provide for their communities when given the resources,” he said. “I’m excited to see new news products and more critical original reporting in these communities, thanks to Facebook’s support.”

Facebook noted that the pool of grant recipients is notable in several ways:

  • Nearly four in five are family- or independently owned.
  • Half are published by or for communities of color.
  • Nearly 40 percent are digitally native publishers.
  • Just over a third are non-profits.

“We’re proud to support this diverse group of publishers — many of which are family- or independently owned,” said Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships at Facebook.

“Not only are these journalists working tirelessly to serve people right now — they’re focused on transformation, building innovative local news businesses that can continue to serve communities beyond the current pandemic,” Brown said.