April 8, 2020

Several newsrooms in Philadelphia will get funds to help them cover the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund will put $2.5 million into newsrooms in the city “to ensure that communities in the Philadelphia area have access to reliable news and information throughout and after the coronavirus pandemic,” according to a Wednesday press release.

“We have worked for the past several years in Philadelphia to build a collaborative local news ecosystem, and never before has this collaboration been more vital,” Jim Friedlich, Lenfest Institute executive director and CEO, told Poynter. “COVID-19 is not only a 24/7 news story but an information crisis for diverse communities in need. The virus knows no borders, and neither should we.”

The fund is supported by a number of funders, including The Independence Public Media Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund. (Disclosure: My work covering local news is funded in part by the Knight Foundation.)

The money comes at a time when local newsrooms around the country are closing, laying off employees and instituting furloughs because of economic damage caused by the coronavirus, including some in Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is a public benefit corporation and the largest newspaper in the U.S owned by a nonprofit, Lenfest.

$750,000 will go out through grants. A separate call for applications will be announced soon, according to the press release. Here’s where another $1.75 million of that money will go:

  • $1 million will go to Resolve Philly, “which leads a collaborative of 24 Philadelphia-area news organizations, will serve as the backbone for a coordinated, city-wide crisis response plan that provides vital news and information access and is powered by its partners and other local organizations and institutions. … From this grant, Resolve will also help distribute funding to key partners through public service advertising, sponsored content, and other means.”
  • $350,000 will go to the public radio station WHYY, which will launch The News and Information Community Exchange, “a partnership of community news organizations and civic leaders to enable two-way information sharing and continual engagement with underserved communities in Philadelphia.”
  • $250,000 will go to the Inquirer, which will create “The Inquirer Community News Service, supporting several initiatives including: El Inquirer, original Spanish-language journalism; Curious Philly, the Inquirer’s community Q&A platform; and ‘From the Frontlines,’ coverage of workers and communities dealing with COVID-19.”
  • And $170,000 will go to WURD Radio, an AM station, to launch Lively-HOOD, with “radio, digital, and event programming focused on employment opportunities, access to career assistance, and economic recovery.”

“It is gratifying to see such a broad array of partners working together on a single mission,” Friedlich said. “It’s been said that ‘it takes a village.’ In this case it takes a city.”

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org and writes a weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here. Kristen can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.


Correction: An earlier version of this story got the numbers in one of the grants wrong. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error. 

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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