Leader-Press awarded grant to aid in local COVID-19 coverage
By LYNETTE SOWELL
With the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, reaching into the state of Texas and drifting into Coryell County and Copperas Cove, the need for timely local news and information is paramount.
The Copperas Cove Leader-Press learned on Tuesday that it will be receiving a boost during this time of rapidly-changing news and onslaught of information.
The Copperas Cove Leader-Press is one of 400 newspapers and media groups across the United States and Canada to receive a slice of a $2 million pie, in the form of a $5,000 grant.
The Lenfest Institute, in partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), Local Media Association, News Media Canada, and The Independent News Challenge has awarded FJP Community Network grants.
The grants help cover unexpected costs associated with reporting on the crisis in their communities.
According to the FJP, “the grants will help fulfill needs such as remote work, increasing frequency of publishing, combating misinformation and serving vulnerable and at-risk groups.”
CCLP publisher David Morris said the day that the newspaper learned that applications were open for the grants was the same day that the first positive case of COVID-19 was announced in Coryell County.
“The day I learned of the grant was the first day that we learned that a COVID-19 patient from Belton worked in Coryell County. We knew that this was a story that we would need to tell and we were in for a fast paced marathon,” said Morris.
“Soon the story grew from one Bell County patient who worked in Coryell County to more than 50 positive cases in Bell County, and at the time of this interview, Coryell County hit double-digits of positive cases, with the epicenter of Coryell county being Copperas Cove.
“From day one the Leader-Press has held this story on the front page as well as removed the paywall for all COVID-19 related articles in both print and online.”
For Morris, it was important that as many readers as possible had access to the information, which sometimes changed hour by hour, or even right after pages were uploaded to the newspaper’s press, in Brownwood.
“When the city senior meals program ramped up with CCISD buses delivering meals to senior citizens, we saw an opportunity to serve the senior population of our community who may not get their information on Facebook, and we have provided a free subscription to those who participate in the Cove Cares program.
“Already, we are delivering 600 additional copies to the senior population of Copperas Cove.”
Morris said the newspaper has had a sharp spike in online traffic, both on social media and the newspaper’s website.
“Currently we are seeing a 300% increase in traffic on the Leader-Press Facebook page which has more than 5,800 followers, as well as an uptick in users on our website with tens of thousands of page views and article reads, as we try to share the latest information on a very fluid situation.
“I am excited that the Copperas Cove Leader-Press was selected to participate in the Facebook Journalism Project as our team works to share the story of COVID-19 and the impact not just in Copperas Cove, but Coryell, Lampasas and Bell Counties.”
Josh Mabry with The Facebook Journalism project sees what local newspapers do as being vital to accurate information for local readers.
“They watch the news, but might not hear about what’s going on in their own community,” Mabry said. “That’s why what we see as being important about local journalism.”
Seventeen other publications and media groups in the Lone Star state were also notified that they were among the 400 receiving grants, to include: Advocate Media, Dallas; Austonia Inc., Austin; The Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa; Dallas Voice; The Dallas Weekly; Houston Defender Newspaper Inc.; El Paso Matters; The Kerrville Daily Times, Kerrville; North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA), Dallas; NOWCastSA, San Antonio; Orange Newsmedia, LLC; Rivard Report, San Antonio; Texas Metro News, Dallas; Tribune Newspapers, Humble; Victoria Advocate, Victoria; Wilson County News, Floresville; and Wise County Messenger, Decatur.