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Facebook says it is stepping into the breach, dedicating $100 million to prop up news organizations pummeled by the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, this is a short-term boost for an industry facing a longtime threat.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Funny story - two weeks ago, a Facebook spokeswoman sent word that the social media giant would devote $1 million to aid local newsrooms in the U.S. and Canada covering the coronavirus crisis. That's $1 million, as "Austin Powers'" Dr. Evil might say. I suggested the mighty Facebook should envision something far bigger if a real social impact were desired. Turns out, Facebook was already thinking about what it might look like.
CAMPBELL BROWN: All these journalists are working around the clock under very difficult circumstances to try to keep us all informed. And at the same time, their news organizations are struggling because of the economic fallout from the outbreak.
FOLKENFLIK: Campbell Brown is vice president at Facebook and a former anchor for CNN and NBC News.
BROWN: And we are going to try to ensure that the dollars keep flowing to those news organizations that are hardest hit in a moment when we so desperately need them.
FOLKENFLIK: The local news industry has already declined in no small part because digital giants, like Facebook and Google, have peeled away its readers and advertisers. During the pandemic, remaining advertisers are falling away. A quarter of the Facebook money, $25 million, is to help smaller U.S. newsrooms cover coronavirus, whether by adding reporters, dropping paywalls, acquiring new equipment for working remotely. Another 75 million will be poured into ads and publications in the U.S. and other pandemic hotspots, like Italy and Spain in Europe. And then, Brown says, Facebook should focus on what happens next - after this.
BROWN: What we need to do as Facebook, to be a better partner to news for the long term, to developing those sustainable business models that keep news organizations in a place where they - they're not trying to figure out, you know, what their future looks like, if they have a future.
FOLKENFLIK: Facebook has spent money in the past on news initiatives, yet it's not typically routed a lot directly to newsrooms given all the traffic and revenue it's diverted from them. Thing is, news is not usually a huge part of Facebook's volume, except in times of crisis, like this, when it is.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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