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Facebook to offer grants to bring more to 'news deserts'

media Facebook says it will direct some of its funds supporting journalism to "news deserts" in the United States with little or no media coverage AFP/File

Facebook said Monday it would begin directing some of its funds to support US journalism efforts to so-called "news deserts" with little or no media coverage.

The leading social network said its Journalism Project Community Network would begin taking proposals in May from areas lacking in local news coverage.

Facebook, which has been blamed for accelerating the decline in legacy news organizations, said it is taking the action after its own research confirmed the growing problem of declining local news coverage in many parts of the United States.

This results in little or no content for Facebook's local news feature called "Today In" for many communities.

"About one in three users in the US live in places where we cannot find enough local news on Facebook to launch Today In," said a statement from Facebook product marketing manager Jimmy O'Keefe Product and local news partnerships lead Josh Mabry.

"What does that mean exactly? In the last 28 days, there has not been a single day where we've been able to find five or more recent news articles directly related to these towns. This does not vary much by region: 35 percent of users in the Midwest, Northeast, and South, and 26 percent in the West, live in places where we can't find much local news on Facebook."

Both Facebook and Google have been stepping up efforts to support journalism amid concerns that their sophisticated ad networks siphon off most online revenues, making it hard for news organizations to compete.

In the US, social media has overtaken print newspapers as a news source for Americans, according to a survey released last year by the Pew Research Center.

The survey report found 20 percent of US adults say they often get news via social media, compared with 16 percent from newspapers.

Facebook earlier this year announced it would spend $300 million over three years to support journalism, with an emphasis on promoting hard-hit local news organizations.

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