Eugene Weekly has won significant financial funding from internet giant Google to help boost engagement with underserved readers.
The funding from Google News Initiative’s North America Innovation Challenge will help EW reach out to rural and underrepresented communities around Lane County, to find out what readers want and design ways to meet those needs, as well as how to develop financial support for the paper to provide that coverage.
The GNI Google Innovation Challenge supports news innovators looking to research how they could better understand the local communities they serve. The selection process involves a rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection effort, according to GNI’s Keyword blog, which announced the funding Nov. 16.
“We know who our readers are, who are vocal, the ones who write letters to the editor and comment online, but that’s not the bulk of our readers,” says Camilla Mortensen, EW‘s editor. “We are looking to reach people who historically don’t see themselves or historically see themselves represented positively in a newspaper.”
At the same time, the project seeks to communicate to our readership — and our advertisers — that we do cover many aspects of the community and not just the ones they think we cover. One question is if the readership would support this coverage through donations to a nonprofit arm.
EW will especially reach out to connect with BIPOC communities and people in rural areas in and around Lane County, and will investigate ways to give better access to digital news to all readers. The grant provides funding to pay underrepresented communities for their participation in the research.
A key staffer on the digital reporting portion of the project will be EW reporter and web editor Henry Houston. “I look forward to working with various communities throughout Lane County to make this newspaper a more inclusive outlet,” Houston says.
Now in its third year, the GNI Challenge program is highly competitive. One hundred-ninety publications in the U.S. and Canada applied for a share of the $3.2 million in funding in response to this challenge; EW was one of just 25 publications to receive funding.
Other funding recipients this year include such publications as Documented, a nonprofit newsroom in Brooklyn that covers news of interest to New York City’s 3.1 million immigrants; Texas Tribune, which plans to create a diversity profile of its current website audience; and Quebec’s La Converse, which will test ways to broaden its French-language offering.“This latest Challenge, part of a program designed to stimulate forward-thinking ideas focused on the news industry, was launched in June to support news innovators looking to research how they could better understand the local communities they serve,” Google said in its announcement. You can see the full list of funded projects here.