Facebook shares some of $2m among Australia's independents

Seventeen Australian recipients are to share part of $2 million from Facebook's Journalism Project Relief Fund, administered by the Walkley Foundation.

Regional director of news partnerships Anjali Kapoor says the funding will support newsrooms in projects that build the publishers' long-term financial sustainability.

Recipients are: Central Coast Newspapers; Echo Publications; Fassifern Guardian; Geelong Independent; Gippsland Times; InQueensland; Latrobe Valley Express; Naracoorte News; Noosa Today and Southern Free Times; North East Media; North Western Courier (The Courier); Star News Group; Sunraysia Publishing Company; Tennant District Times; The Hilltops Phoenix; The Phoenix Group of Newspapers (The Canowindra Phoenix, The Forbes Phoenix and The Parkes Phoenix); and The Shepparton Adviser.

"Judges selected the projects on the basis of organisational need, public interest and impact," she says. "Many of the winning submissions include long-term opportunities for increasing the reach and distribution of regional journalism and new ways to open up advertising and subscriber revenue.

Among recipients, Wanda and Ian Dunnet of the Narrabri Courier plan to use the grant to enhance digital delivery of local news; the Sunraysia Daily's Jamie Lanyon is "ecstatic" at the grant - coming after an "extremely difficult" three months - which it will put towards journalist hours and researching the newspaper's Centenary Edition.

Paul Thomas, whose Star News Group is a recipient both for itself and its Noosa Today and Southern Free Times operations, says the grant will provide funds to enable "projects directly linked to providing quality journalism to local communities at a time when it is needed most"; while Edwards Higgins says North East Media's grant will support the introduction of video journalism; Michael Waite of the new Naracoorte News thanks Facebook and the Walkley Foundation for an "incredible investment in journalism, storytelling, and our community"; and Debra Clarke of The Hilltops Phoenix plans to employ three new staff members "to reach more people in regional communities via an increased presence through both print and digital mediums, and to introduce a daily podcast news hour".

In addition, the Walkley Foundation distributed Facebook COVID-19 News Relief Funds to publishers who participated in the Facebook Journalism Project's Local News Accelerator programme across Australia and New Zealand.

The Accelerator provided platform-agnostic training, coaching and project funding for news organisations to connect with and monetise their audiences "on and off Facebook". Participating publishers include News Regional Media, Australian Community Media, The Guardian, The Conversation, Crikey, The West Australian, Solstice Media, Schwartz Media, The New Zealand Herald, The Spinoff, and Newsroom.

Judging committee members were Cathie Schnitzerling of ABC's Landline, former editor of the Courier-Mail David Fagan, former Queensland Newspapers managing director Jerry Harris, ABC product development specialist Rae Allen, and Simon Crerar, former founding editor of BuzzFeed Australia.

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