These 33 projects tackle diversity in local news

Today we are announcing an important list of projects selected for the second round of the Google News Initiative’s North American Innovation Challenge. The challenges are meant to encourage a spirit of experimenting, and quite simply, trying new things. It is especially important this year to tackle innovative ideas, and the 33 projects we’re funding look at diversity, equity and inclusion through many different lenses, all focused around the communities they serve.

The Innovation Challenge received 215 applications from the US and Canada, and will fund 33 projects totaling $5.9 million.

We selected Ryerson University in Canada for JeRI: The Journalism Representation Index, an AI-powered tool that scores the institutional power of sources cited in news stories. “In this time of great change it’s really important as journalists that we ensure the stories we report on reflect a diversity of voices,” says Asmaa Malik, Associate professor at Ryerson University. “With JERI our hope is that we can rebuild trust with readers and offer them transparency into the process.” 

Our team selected The Houston Defender for their 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. We’re striving to make sure we arrive where our audience wants us to be.” 

The Educational Video Center in New York pitched an idea to develop the infrastructure to distribute and monetize youth-produced documentary films from EVC’s digitized archive of over 200 short films. “Youth voices are underrepresented in mainstream media and important news stories are not being told,” says Ambreen Quresh, the group’s executive director. “To address this EVC will create the first of its kind B2B video licensing platform for mainstream media to acquire youth-produced documentary shorts and clips.”

Other recipients include Vox Media, which is creating a comprehensive, inclusive open-sourced style guide and editing resources designed to recognize bias in storytelling. The Local Media Foundation is creating Word in Black, a national news collaborative that is powered by 10 of the leading Black publishers. Save the Black Press, a project from Black Voice News in California, will create a data access portal, content discovery platform and resource support model for generating revenue and innovating content at black news organizations.

215 applications, 33 projects selected, $5.9 million in funding

Industry leaders joined Google in selecting winners. “As one of four external participants on the jury, I appreciated the emphasis on local media outlets that can easily be overlooked nationally but who are vital in serving local communities and truly know the landscape and are invested in solutions,” says Donna Ladd, editor and co-founder of the Mississippi Free Press andJackson Free Press

You can read the full list of the successful recipients on our website. We extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who took the time to apply to this challenge.