|iBerkshires Awarded Facebook COVID-19 Grant|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
12:05PM / Thursday, May 07, 2020
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — iBerkshires.com has been awarded a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project to aid us in our coverage of COVID-19's impact on our community.
"We are very thankful to receive this grant from the Facebook Journalism Project," said Boxcar Media Publisher Osmin Alvarez. "Since March we have seen our advertising revenue drop quite a bit while our page views have grown significantly.
"This is great recognition for our editorial team who have always and continue to do a fabulous job of covering our community. Facebook recognized how important iBerkshires is to providing our community with vital news during this trying time."
The grant of $65,404 will help iBerkshires keep its staff together and provide us with funding for equipment and other techology to help us navigate this "new normal."
iBerkshires.com is one of the oldest online-only news sources in the nation and has provided local coverage of the Berkshires region for 20 years.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has put large and small news sites and papers under unexpected economic stress. An estimated 36,000 journalists and support staff have been furloughed or laid off since the crisis began. A number of publications have folded or suspended operations, including the Berkshire Record in Great Barrington.
These layoffs and closures come at a time when our community needs us most to help them understand what is happening now, the efforts underway to help us recover and the long-term effects this health disaster will have on our communities, economy and health-care system.
iBerkshires has not been immune to this ongoing crisis: It's hit our bottom line hard. We're working with our advertisers to help them navigate this new world of remote commerce and let our readers know local business is still there for them.
Our small team has done its best to adjust to this changing environment. We should be taking prom pictures and preparing graduation schedules; instead, we're trying to figure out how to celebrate a class of 2020 that will be getting their diplomas at home. We're not covering Western Mass playoffs but rather how so many leagues are postponing seasons.
"We know how much our community relies on us," said iBerkshires Editor Tammy Daniels. "We can see it in the number of visits to our websites on a daily basis but, more importantly, it's apparent in the interactions with our readers both online and in person.
"We thank you for your tips, your messages of support and, yes, your criticism, because it helps us do our job better."
Daniels said the grant will go toward maintaining staff and adding more reporters where possible for more in-depth coverage of the COVID-19 impact. It will also fund technology such as cameras, phones, laptops and audio equipment to improve our ability to work remotely — and from 6 feet away.
"We are so used to being within the community — at meetings, activities and social events — that getting the pulse of our towns is so much harder from a distance," she said. "We're considering how we might use this opportunity to improve our newsgathering and we welcome any suggestions from our readers."
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