FRESNO BEE STAFF
The technology giant Microsoft has chosen Fresno as one of four cities to launch an initiative to support local newsrooms.
The community-based pilot program — announced Wednesday morning in a blog post from Mary Snapp, Microsoft’s vice president of strategic initiatives — will focus on how technology and resources can help local news thrive in a challenging environment.
The support from Microsoft will allow local news organizations to improve coverage and to experiment with new approaches.
Financial support from Microsoft will run through the Central Valley Community Foundation and its Impact Media and Measurement Fund, which already supports local journalism efforts, including The Bee’s Education Lab and Fresnoland Lab.
In addition to Fresno, the project will support local journalism in El Paso, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; and Yakima, Wash.
“We know that to have a democracy that’s healthy, people need to be informed … and the most important way to do that is through independent journalism,” Snapp said.
Nationwide, newsroom employment has been cut in half over the past 15 years and has dropped by 11,000 jobs since January, Snapp writes in the blog post. “Digital technologies create opportunities for innovation and operational efficiencies, but they also create the risk that content can be manipulated and used to spread disinformation, undermining trust in all media.
“We’re starting with a very targeted approach. We don’t have all the answers, but we are committed to learning, and we hope our contributions and these learnings will be useful to others.”
Ashley Swearengin, chief executive officer of the Central Valley Community Foundation, said the Microsoft program will build upon the foundation’s efforts to support quality, fact-based news.
“We’re really excited about this partnership because it’ll be the first time that we’ve been able to support multiple media partners coming together and collaborating on various topics,” she said.
HOW MICROSOFT WILL SUPPORT NEWSROOMS
In addition to financial support, the plan includes discounted software products and services, and access to new technology to fight disinformation and cyberattacks. The Microsoft News website and Bing search engine also will be used to expand audience reach for local journalism.
Legal support will be offered for smaller newsrooms, including support in public records requests. And an expansion of AccountGuard will be offered to help protect journalists from cyberattacks.
It all adds up to greater firepower for local journalists to tell stories in new ways, said Joe Kieta, editor of The Bee.
“This effort will allow us to use technology to tell better and more profound stories, and that will in turn make an impact on Fresno and the central San Joaquin Valley,” he said.