Google Invests $5.9M In Local News Diversity Projects

Google has announced the recipients of the second round of the 2020 GNI Innovation Challenge for North America. The 33 projects tackle diversity, equity and inclusion in local news. 

Google is investing $5.9 million in the initiatives. 

The challenges “are meant to encourage a spirit of experimenting, and quite simply, trying new things,” writes LaToya Drake, Google’s head of media representation, in a blog post announcing the winners.

“It is especially important this year to tackle innovative ideas.”



The team selected Ryerson University in Canada for JeRI: The Journalism Representation Index, an AI-powered tool that assesses the quality of sources cited in news stories. 

The Houston Defender, a weekly Black newspaper, was chosen for its efforts in business transformation. Sonny Messiah-Jiles, the Defender’s CEO, says the Innovation Challenge “opens the doors of opportunity for us to combat undercapitalization, limited access to new technology and resources and expand our training of our staff.”

The Educational Video Center in New York wants to develop the infrastructure to distribute and monetize youth-produced documentary films from its digital archive of over 200 short films. 

“Youth voices are underrepresented in mainstream media and important news stories are not being told,” stated Ambreen Quresh, the group’s executive director. 

Other recipients include Vox Media, which is creating an inclusive, open-sourced style guide and editing resources.

Vox will launch “Language, Please: A Guide for Catalyzing Inclusivity in Newsrooms” in 2021. Its aim is to recognize and impede bias in how journalists, storytellers and creators select, report and publish stories on topics, including (but not limited to) race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, disability and intersectionality. 

The resources will be used across Vox’s 13 newsrooms. They are also intended for free, public use by the industry, particularly local newsrooms.

The Local Media Foundation is creating Word in Black, a national news collaborative powered by 10 Black publishers. 

Save the Black Press, a project from Black Voice News in California, will create a data hub and content sharing platform for generating revenue and collaborating on innovation at Black news organizations.

The Innovation Challenge received 215 applications from the U.S. and Canada. The challenge, part of the Google News Initiative, which funds innovative projects in the news industry, was first announced in November 2018. Funding enables recipients to develop better business models in the industry by diversifying revenue streams, as well as increasing audience engagement.

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