Last week, the Pulitzer Prizes recognized the 105th class of journalists winning awards for reporting on some of the most important issues of our time: the pandemic, racial inequity and the integrity of elections. Journalists were recognized from large and small newsrooms, from traditional and, for the first time, digital newsrooms. I am reminded both of how journalism has evolved with technology yet has stayed true to reporting on critical issues for our country. Still, it’s hard to think about this celebration of the best of journalism without also thinking about the continued challenges journalists and newsrooms are facing. Over the last decade, the number of newspaper reporters has more than halved, dropping from 71,000 in 2010 to more than 35,000 today. In the past year alone, 70 more local newsrooms closed. The distinguished Poynter Institute’s nonprofit newsroom tracks a list of newsroom closures, layoffs and furloughs, and says, “It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about news right now. But we have to.”
In October 2020, Microsoft launched our Journalism Initiative to help stem this bad news. It works to combat disinformation, expand news distribution and pilot a new community-based program that looks at ways to provide journalists and newsrooms new tools, technology and capacity in order to expand reach and efficiency for local news outlets. Over the past eight months, I have had the privilege of meeting with dedicated local publishers, editors and journalists, as well as community and national foundations, about how we can all do more to strengthen and support journalism. The grit, passion and dedication local journalists have for their communities shines through in the important stories they’re telling. While I recognize the challenges ahead, I’m inspired and even optimistic about the innovation, experimentation and hard work local newsrooms are investing in strengthening journalism.