The Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism are pleased to announce the first round of Community Network grant recipients. Community Network grants provide up to $25,000 to support initiatives that connect communities with local newsrooms.

Whether an individual journalist or a larger news organization is trying to build a new business around memberships, or create a tool that helps local storytellers find and engage new audiences, Community Network grants provide both financial support and advisory assistance to help local news best serve its communities. The grants place special emphasis on the needs of news deserts and underrepresented communities.

The 23 winning projects include a fresh approach to business sustainability through community-funded journalism and expansion of successful storytelling events shown to increase reader revenue and membership.

“Tyler, Texas is the diverse, complicated, rapidly growing and changing capital of East Texas, a big stretch of Texas where fascinating, important stories too often go untold and where dusty old stereotypes hang on for too long,” wrote Tasneem Raja, publisher of Tyler Loop in their grant application. “Our grant will help fund a live storytelling event in which 10 local residents share meticulously crafted true personal narratives that reflect our region’s greatest challenges and greatest opportunities.”

Grant recipients have six months to complete their projects and have agreed to share lessons that will benefit other local newsrooms.

“What’s exciting about the Community Network is that we’re able to help local publishers, large and small, test new ideas or take existing projects to the next level,” said Josh Mabry, Local News Partnerships Lead, Facebook. “Because grant winners are sharing the results of their work, they’ll be creating a rich pool of case studies that the entire industry can learn from.”

“As news revenue models become increasingly reliant on direct support from readers, publishers have both a journalistic and business imperative to ensure that their coverage is reflective of the communities they serve,” said Jim Friedlich, Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO. “We’re pleased that the Community Network grants will help publishers experiment with new ideas to better serve their audiences.”

In addition to reviews by staff of the Facebook Journalism Project and Lenfest, applications were reviewed by a selection committee of local news professionals. Ana Mendez recently joined the Lenfest Institute to manage the grant program.

“Participating in the grant review panel gave me the opportunity to apply some of the techniques that I learned in the Facebook Accelerator program to assist other newsrooms,” said Jennie Liska, Director of Loyalty Programs, PublicSource. “I was also able to learn from my fellow panelists as we discussed the approaches that might increase newsroom community engagement.”

Grant recipients will also have the opportunity to seek project guidance from a network of Facebook Accelerator participants.

“I believe journalism changes the world for the better, but I’ve long been frustrated with a system that wouldn’t support news organizations or journalists,” said Bill Emkow, who participated in the Facebook Membership Accelerator with Bridge Magazine. “The Facebook Membership Accelerator helped shift my paradigm on how to achieve sustainability and crystalize ideas I’d been considering. I volunteered because I want other news orgs to see the same kind of success we’ve seen in such a short period of time.”

Facebook and Lenfest announced the program in May 2019. It is open to both non and for-profit news organizations as well as individual journalists. Projects do not require the use of Facebook tools or platform.

The next Community Network grant window opens July 22, 2019. Interested parties can find criteria, guidelines and links to the application at https://facebookjournalismproject.com/article/facebook-journalism-project-community-network/.

Full List of Winners: