The non-profit organisation has been supporting in-depth reporting on global issues for 13 years. Now, its latest local news initiative, Bringing Stories Home, has supported 11 local, public service journalism projects since January 2019. She explained how it is a crucial lifeline at a time when regional newsrooms are facing mass job layoffs.
"The immediate pressure point we felt is how local journalism in the US - and I think it’s also true in the UK - is undergoing tremendous changes,” she explained.
"We wanted to give an opportunity for local outlets across the US to have a chance to do important, meaningful journalism that changes laws and lives, and makes a difference in communities."
It was made possible thanks to a $5m endowment fund from the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), as a way to recognise and repair some of the problems facing local newsrooms brought on by the emergence of social and digital media, mainly declining ad revenue.
Local news outlets like The Texas Tribune and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel were amongst the beneficiaries and they also received editorial and data-driven support to explore important investigative stories that would otherwise fall by the wayside.
But while the initiative seeks to give these stories the publicity they deserve, it does not aim to be a stopgap forever. Lakshmanan said it is buying time until a more lasting solution presents itself.
"We don’t want journalism in the US to depend on philanthropy alone, I don’t think that’s the solution," she said.
"Our focus was on important, systemic crises and stories that no one else was doing, and otherwise without our support, news organisation big or small would not be able to do.
"So many stories that affect people’s lives like police corruption or costs of global trade, or abuse of women and children, will be considered second- and third-tier issues in newsrooms that don't have the support. That's where we come in."
For now, with the benefits of philanthropic funding clear to see, Lakshmanan plans to go back to the FJP and ask them to 'double-down' on its investment once more.
"We’re hoping all these philanthropic partners and corporate responsibility partners will realise how important this journalism is that we’re making possible, and realise it’s a smart contribution to journalism and a healthy democracy.
"By supporting quality investigative public service journalism, we are rebuilding the fabric of people's trust in what is real and what is true news, and fighting against misinformation.
"I don’t just see this as investment into individual newsrooms and stories, I see this as an investment into democracy."
Find out how to regain audiences’ trust by driving diversity in your newsroom at Newsrewired on 27 November at Reuters, London. Head to newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets
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