Wallkill Valley Publications Inc., parent company of Times Hudson Valley Media, has been named one of six newspaper companies in New York State to receive a $5,000 grant to help offset the cost of COVID-19 pandemic coverage.
On Thursday, the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association (LMA) announced the first 50 recipients of the $1 million dollars in grants to support COVID-19 news reporting to help fill immediate gaps for resource-constrained newsrooms.
Six local newsrooms in New York were selected to receive almost $30,000 in funding - CNY Latino, Examiner Media, Niagara Frontier Publications, Spotlight Newspapers, the Watertown Daily Times and Wallkill Valley Publications Inc. publisher of the Wallkill Valley Times, Mid Hudson Times and Southern Ulster Times - with each of these recipients getting $5,000 - and with more recipients to be announced in the coming weeks.
“Journalists in local communities are working around the clock to ensure people have timely information to keep them safe,” said Campbell Brown, Vice President, Global News Partnerships, and Facebook. “Lenfest and the Local Media Association will help us quickly provide support for this critical reporting.”
The Times Community Newspapers have been covering the crisis and the response of the local community since its outset, reporting on many cancellations and precautions and covering high school basketball playoff games played in empty gymnasiums as a precaution against the spread of the virus.
“Local news enterprises have responded with superb, real-time, comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, but many newsrooms are resource-constrained just when our communities need us most,” said Jim Friedlich from the Lenfest Institute of Journalism. “The grants announced today are designed to provide rapid-response assistance for the coverage of this fast-moving news story. Our focus is on need, speed and scope- helping as many news organizations as we can, as quickly as we can.”
Carl Aiello, Times publisher, said the grant money will be invested in technology that will make remote-access reporting more viable.
“The media is deemed a provider of an essential service by the State of New York, and therefore exempt from laws that prevent employees from coming into work.
“Despite that,” Aiello explained, “we are determined to do whatever we can to keep our employees safe, including limiting the number of people coming into the office at any particular time, and now by enabling our staff to do more reporting from a safe distance.”
Compounding the challenging of publishing during the time of the pandemic, is the rapid decline of advertising revenue,a newspaper's main source of revenue and cash flow, as advertisers are forced to close up shop and cancel their ads. The lack of resources has already taken its toll in the Hudson Valley, as Ulster Publishing, publisher of weekly newspapers in Woodstock, New Paltz and Kingston announced that it would suspend its print publications at least for the duration of the crisis
“Covering coronavirus at the local level is a struggle for many small-to mid-size publishers who are already resource-challenged,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of Local Media Association. “These grants will go a long way to help them provide vital information to their communities. We are thrilled to be part of this program, and very grateful to the Facebook Journalism Project for funding this important work.”
In addition to reporting on the crisis and providing real-time updates through its websites and social media resources, the Times is also working with Creative Circle Media, its web-design partner, to launch an app for small businesses that remain open and provide essential services during this crisis. Details of the free service will be announced shortly.
The Times Community Newspapers were established in 1983 by Aiello, who launched the Wallkill Valley Times in a small office in Walden. They have won numerous editorial awards over the years, with the Mid Hudson Times being honored by the National Newspaper Association for General Excellence in 2016 and 2017.
“We are all in this together,” Aiello said, “and we will emerge together, stronger then ever.”