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Northeast Wisconsin news collaborative gets started with support from Microsoft

GREEN BAY – The Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region announced the formation of the NEW News Lab (Northeast Wisconsin News Lab), a new collaborative effort providing technology support, capacity building and additional funding to boost local journalism and newsrooms.

It includes six news organizations: The Press Times, FoxValley365, The Post-Crescent, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Watch.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Journalism Department is an educational partner, and Microsoft has provided financial support to the community foundation.

“We are extremely honored to be chosen for this grant, as it will boost our ability to report on important, in-depth issues in the region,” Press Times Publisher Patrick J. Wood said. “A community is only as strong as its local newspaper, and this grant will help grow The Press Times to better meet the needs of Greater Green Bay as we are now able to report on more issues that matter. We are grateful to Microsoft for their forward approach to boosting local news.”

The Microsoft Journalism Initiative Fund recently awarded grants to the six NEW News Lab participants, which will advance four projects leading in-depth local reporting on topics such as the funding of local schools, racism as a public health crisis, lack of affordable housing or coverage of local judicial systems.

In the coming weeks, NEW News Lab members will release the first tranche of stories supported by the partnership, and to the greatest extent possible, each project will be available for free publication by other news organizations across the state and nation.

Microsoft selected Northeast Wisconsin as its fifth local news pilot in the U.S. as part of its Journalism Initiative, donating a total of $300,000 to the Microsoft Journalism Initiative Fund, established within the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, in partnership with the Fox Valley community foundation.

“Local newsrooms are the heart of their communities, and we’re glad to support this partnership as part of our Journalism Initiative,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, who grew up in Appleton said. “By supporting these newsrooms in Northeast Wisconsin and providing them tools, technology and funding, we can ensure the region has healthy journalism for generations to come.”

The region was selected in part because of a strong history of impact and collaboration by the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, local media and TitletownTech’s partnership with the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft.

As a three-year pilot effort, the community foundations are encouraging other organizations, businesses and individuals to also make supporting local journalism an important focus.

“This pilot program has the potential to transform how newsrooms collaborate to bring the community important stories that impact us all,” Dennis Buehler, president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation said. “The better our communities understand the issues we face, the better it can form responses to those challenges.”

According to a Microsoft blog post, journalism and news are facing an accelerating crisis.

Changes in digital advertising and the way in which people receive their news – news aggregators, search engines and social media – have had a significant impact on journalism and its business model.

Nationwide, newsroom employment has dropped by half and 2,100 newsrooms have closed in the past 15 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created extra stress, with 11,000 newsroom jobs cut in the U.S. over the past year.

“A flourishing, connected and engaged community results from people who care about getting involved,” Curt Detjen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, said. “Vibrant and robust news coverage is essential to call our attention to understanding issues needing to be addressed. The media also offers a forum for lifting-up underrepresented voices. We see great potential in this opportunity.”

Microsoft launched its Journalism Initiative last year, which aims to preserve and protect journalism and local newsrooms, launching pilot programs in Seattle and Yakima, Washington; Fresno, California; the El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico region and Jackson, Mississippi.

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