Former Google chairman donates $4.7M to NPR to develop regional newsrooms

Former Google chairman donates $4.7M to NPR to develop regional newsrooms
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The family of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt donated $4.7 million to NPR newsrooms in the Midwest and California as the economic fallout from the pandemic wreaks havoc on the local news industry.

"Now more than ever, we depend on high-quality journalism for timely and critical information," Eric Schmidt’s wife, Wendy Schmidt, said in a statement to NPR. "Local news is especially important, and with so many newsrooms in decline, we need to invest in strengthening reporting resources from trusted sources like public radio."

The donation from the Schmidt Family Foundation comes as local newsrooms struggle to stay afloat amid a plunge in the advertisement market. Many outlets, even in the national market, have announced layoffs and furloughs amid the pandemic. 

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Even before the pandemic, local media, which will be the biggest beneficiary of the donation, was seeing a steady decline in revenue. 

The California digital newsroom will be led by former Marketplace assistant managing editor Joanne Griffith and will serve all 17 public radio stations across the state, anchored by major stations in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles. The midwest newsroom will serve all 25 stations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska

The funds will go toward hiring new investigative reporters and help public radio stations in the regions coordinate breaking news and political coverage.

"This generous gift will allow the Midwest and California regional newsrooms to focus on investigative reporting, which is so essential to an informed citizenry and democracy," Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president for news and editorial director, said in a statement. "It's also the type of journalism that has been eroding at the local level as newspapers scale back."