S.E. Williams | Contributor

This week the Black Voice News (BVN) was named a recipient of the Facebook Journalism Project’s (FJP) Community Network grant awarded to local newsrooms in support of coronavirus reporting.

Grant recipients were awarded in 48 US states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and several provinces and territories in Canada. It will help cover unexpected costs associated with reporting on the COVID-19 crisis in their communities. 

Bergis Jules, Director of Equity Initiatives for Shift Design, Project Director for “Documenting the Now” and Co-Project Manager for Mapping Black California’s Census Lab wrote the grant on behalf of BVN.

Commenting on the grant’s value to local media groups like BVN Jules explained, “Newsrooms at this moment—especially those in ethnic media—are hurting for resources and funding.”

Bergis Jules

Small media groups like BVN who rely heavily on independent contractors—to not only work as journalists but also to distribute their papers—were already struggling from the impact of AB 5 which codified into law the landmark Supreme Court decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court and called for the transition of independent contractors to the status of employees. These news outlets, “Already combating hardships,” according to Jules, are now being further affected by the negative impact COVID-19 is having on the economy.

“It’s good Facebook is doing this,” he affirmed adding, “Many Black newspapers who are dependent on print, have had to cut down print distribution because many of the places where they normally deliver are not open due to COVID-19; so getting funding to ethnic media is critical right now.”

“BVN plans to use the grant funding to report on issues related to the coronavirus that are also disproportionately impacting African-American seniors. These are important issues people need to be informed about,” he affirmed.

Facebook is running the grant program in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association in the US and News Media Canada and The Independent News Challenge in Canada who are hopeful it will help fulfill needs such as remote work, increasing frequency of publishing, combating misinformation and serving vulnerable and at-risk groups during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This thing [COVID-19] comes about and halts the entire world,” Jules emphasized adding, “We are thinking about how to address it in the Inland Empire and Southern California. Any opportunity to get added funding to enable more detailed and accurate reporting on the virus is really important.”

“In the midst of all of this there is tons of disinformation and misinformation regarding who the virus impacts. It is also important to report on how the coronavirus may affect the 2020 Census and upcoming General Election,” he stressed.

Jules concluded, “As members of the Black Media, it is critical for trusted sources to report on what is happening and provide information to the communities they serve.”

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager...