Microsoft reinvests in NEW News Lab to continue journalism initiative
GREEN BAY – A partnership with Microsoft to strengthen local journalism in northeastern Wisconsin will continue after the project reached over 23 million people in its first three years.
Mary Snapp, vice president of strategic initiative at Microsoft, announced Thursday that Microsoft along with the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Green Bay Packers have committed $135,000 to continue the support of the Northeast Wisconsin Journalism Initiative in funding the Northeast Wisconsin (NEW) News Lab.
The News Lab is a regional news outlet made up by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Appleton Post Crescent, the Press Times, Fox Valley 365, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Watch. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s journalism department is an educational partner.
Microsoft has provided a total $900,000 to the Northeast Wisconsin Journalism Initiative since it started in 2021.
Microsoft helps fund similar news projects around the country to support and revitalize local journalism. The NEW News Lab is the fifth piloted program that was chosen, in part, because of the level of collaboration between community foundations and Microsoft’s prior relationship with the Packers through Titletown Tech.
The pilot program in Wisconsin was initially set to last three years. Due to its success, Microsoft announced Thursday it would continue funding the NEW News Lab.
Stories published by the NEW News Lab are shared and posted for free among the six news outlets to encourage the collaboration. The latest series, “Families Matter,” takes a look at what hurdles families in northeastern Wisconsin face and what can be done to have a better life in the region.
The funding for the NEW News Lab has expanded news coverage in the region, allowing the media partners to hire additional reporters. It’s also broadened what issues get covered in more depth and its stories have been picked up by more than 125 news outlets nationwide.
The NEW News Lab comes at a time in the country when critical journalism and stories are disappearing. News deserts are on the rise, leading to cities without credible information and news outlets sustaining the community. Over a fifth of Americans live in news deserts with limited access to local news, according to a 2022 report from the Local News Initiative at Northwestern University. They’re falling quickly — in an average week, about two newspapers disappear nationwide, the report said.
Reviving local news outlets is essential to keeping a community running, said Mary Snapp, vice president of strategic initiative at Microsoft.
“If you fund news, in a horizontal way you potentially fund programs to mitigate homelessness, to increase school graduation rates because you fund the ability of the newspapers to talk about that to create citizens in a community who are informed,” Snapp said.
By working with UWGB in the NEW News Lab, Microsoft hopes to highlight the role of higher education in inspiring more students to become journalists and strengthen local journalism. Students newspapers play a critical role in filling that gap, said Jim Fitzhenry, the director of community engagement for the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
In fact, UWGB brought back its student newspaper, The Fourth Estate, this year.
“We all want the same goal of a vibrant democracy, healthy communities, and people participating in the process in a constructive way and that’s under threat,” Fitzhenry said.
More information about the NEW News Lab, including links to stories produced by the Lab, can be found at ggbcf.org/NEWnewslab.