By Patrick Lynn
The Point/Plover Metro Wire is one of 1,800 newsrooms across the United States recently awarded a grant from the Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.
The Google News Initiative provided emergency grant funding of up to $30,000 for each of about 5,300 newsrooms worldwide from a pool of about 12,165 applicants. Other winning Wisconsin newsrooms include the Racine County Eye and Madison365.
In its application, Metro Wire Publisher and Editor Brandi Makuski explained the news crisis in Portage Co. had only been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which eliminated advertising budgets for many local businesses, and put many paying subscribers temporarily out of work.
“We live in a news desert decimated by mass journalist layoffs and corporate acquisitions,” the application reads in part. “By establishing a more solid website and a larger pool of reporters, and establishing a solid editorial training program student interns, we plan to create jobs and increase news literacy to inform the public during this and future times of crisis.”
Google VP of News Richard Gingras said the goal is to fund “thousands of small, medium, and local news publishers globally.”
“Local news is a vital resource for keeping people and communities connected in the best of times,” Gingras said. “Today, it plays an even greater function in reporting on local lockdowns or shelter at home orders, school and park closures, and data about how COVID-19 is affecting daily life. But that role is being challenged as the news industry deals with job cuts, furloughs, and cutbacks as a result of the economic downturn prompted by COVID-19.”
Challenges related to the pandemic aren’t going away anytime soon, Makuski said, requiring smaller-staffed newsrooms to work even harder to adapt and remain relevant.
The Metro Wire has already begun plans for an improved website, Makuski said, and has recently hired a new reporter, Ms. Sierra White of Plover. The company also recently launched its search for a new diversity reporter.
“Work is also underway to better market the Metro Wire as the best source of daily local news in Portage County—because our readers tell us they believe it is,” Makuski said.
The Metro Wire, driven by subscribers, was founded in 2017 by a group of reporters who lost their jobs at another news publication. The company’s primary distribution channel, www.spmetrowire.com, is a hyperlocal daily news website covering the primary areas of Stevens Point, Plover, Whiting, Park Ridge, and Hull, with plans to expand to Amherst and Rosholt later this year.