Image: David Gray, “Drought From Above 7”

The Walkley Foundation is delighted to announce the recipients of the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) Relief Fund. The funding will support 17 Australian newsrooms in projects that build the publishers’ long-term financial sustainability.

The organisations receiving grants 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)
  • The Shepparton Adviser

The fund is part of Facebook Journalism Project’s $2 million investment in projects, coaching and training designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and maintain the long-term viability of newsrooms in the Asia Pacific.

The judges selected the projects on the basis of organisational need, public interest and impact. 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.

Andrew Hunter, News Partnerships Lead, Facebook Australia and New Zealand, said: “Local news is an essential service that is more important than ever as journalists strive to chronicle their communities’ responses to COVID-19. The coronavirus has had a devastating effect on many of the rural and local commercial enterprises that pay for news by advertising. These funds will go directly to alleviate those losses and contribute to the sustainability of some of the newsrooms across Australia that need it most.”

“The Narrabri Courier is delighted to be a recipient of the Facebook Journalism Project COVID-19 News Relief Fund. The grant will be a valuable support for the planned development of The Courier’s digital strategy to further enhance its delivery of local news and information to the Narrabri Shire community. This initiative by Facebook is a great recognition and endorsement of the importance of locally produced and disseminated journalism.” Wanda and Ian Dunnet, North Western Courier

Sunraysia Daily is ecstatic at the news it has been chosen as a recipient of the Facebook Journalism Project, which has been run in conjunction with the Walkley Foundation. Like all of us in the newspaper industry, the last three months have been extremely difficult under COVID-19, with our newsroom operating at reduced capacity. On October 16 this year, Sunraysia Daily will celebrate 100 years in publication.

“This grant provided by Facebook will aid Sunraysia Daily to increase the hours available to our journalists, so they can focus on researching and compiling stories around our 100 years and we can produce a quality Centenary Edition of our newspaper, to be published in print and online and promoted via Facebook. We are very grateful for this grant, and look forward to being able to produce a Centenary Publication that we and our community can be proud of.” Jamie Lanyon, Director, Sunraysia Daily

“The Facebook Journalism Project grant will provide Star News Group with much needed funds to enable us to run projects directly linked to providing quality journalism to local communities at a time when it is needed most. We are grateful to Facebook, and to the Walkley Foundation for their administration of the grants.” Paul Thomas, Managing Director, Star News Group

“Funding received through this program will support the introduction of video journalism across North East Media, in terms of both training and the purchase of equipment. This will help to increase our digital news offering and assist the company’s transition to being a multimedia news and information provider across North East Victoria.” Edward Higgins, CEO, North East Media

“The Naracoorte News team are very excited to receive funds to support journalism in our community. Our mission is to provide comprehensive local coverage of news, activities and sports, and these funds make that possible. The stories of our community — any community — deserve to be shared and we are grateful to Facebook and the Walkley Foundation for this incredible investment in journalism, story telling, and our community.” Michael Waite, Naracoorte News

“As a regional publisher, we are absolutely humbled and extremely grateful for the opportunities that this grant will provide for The Hilltops Phoenix and the communities that we work with. By employing three new staff members, our undertaking is 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, which will interact with local community members to share their stories and inform the region through factual reports. We are extremely excited to have been awarded this grant and for the positive impact it will have on our business, new employees and the regional communities.” Debra Clarke, The Hilltops Phoenix

Projects that will receive funding include the implementation of a unified paywall, Star News Group; the creation of an inaugural website with paywall, Tennant District Times; strategic consulting for digital transformation, Narrabri’s North Western Courier; salaries for news reporters, trainee journalists and payments for freelancers at Central Coast News, Naracoorte News and others; and, for one long-standing local newsroom, production of a centenary edition as a catalyst to revive its recently shuttered news service, Sunraysia Daily.

In addition to the funding awarded to regional newsrooms, the Walkley Foundation distributed Facebook COVID-19 News Relief Funds to publishers who participated in the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Accelerator program across Australia and New Zealand. This program helps news organisations build sustainable new business models in the evolving digital news ecosystem.

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.

“The COVID-19 relief funding has allowed us to do more to safeguard our journalism by providing investment in our consumer revenue strategy, which has become increasingly important during recent months. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support our readers have shown our publications in 2020 and the funding allows us to deepen engagement with our local communities through improvements in how we are telling and displaying stories.” Gayle Tomlinson, Head of Audience, Australian Community Media

Judging Committee

Cathie Schnitzerling, EP “Landline”, ABC TV

Cathie Schnitzerling is Executive Producer of the ABC’s national rural television program “Landline”. She was previously the ABC’s Regional Editor for Queensland, responsible for multi-platform content. She was Director of News for the Ten Network in Brisbane and Sydney and has also held a senior role in government media, marketing and communications.

David Fagan, Author and Communications Professional
David Fagan started his journalism career at Australia’s smallest daily newspaper, The Warwick Daily News, and finished it three decades later as editorial director of one of its largest publishing groups, News Queensland. He was editor of The Courier-Mail for more than a decade and has since worked in executive roles in the higher education and superannuation sectors.

Jerry Harris, Non-Executive Director, Jerry Harris Consulting Pty Ltd
Jerry Harris spent more than 30 years in publishing management in London, Sydney and Brisbane, where he was Managing Director of Queensland Newspapers. His last executive role was as Group Executive Director, Commercial and Operations of News Corp Australia. He now works as a consultant and non-executive director.

Rae Allen, Product Development Manager at Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Rae Allen is a Product Development Specialist with ABC’s Audience Facing Digital Products. Rae has spent more than 40 years in radio, television and online, working as a reporter, producer, station manager, presenter and developer. Rae is a digital media specialist currently working as a subject matter expert in the areas of emergency, weather and location.

Simon Crerar, Founder, J-Project
Simon is the former founding editor and General Manager of BuzzFeed Australia. He began his career at The Times of London, and has worked for The Sydney Morning Herald and News Corp Australia. He is currently working on a startup focused on building a sustainable business model for local news.

Media inquiries: Please contact Antonia Sanda, Head of Communications, at antoniac@fb.com.