Knight Foundation aids hurricane relief in Puerto Rico with LPRC grant

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The Knight Foundation has awarded the Latino Public Radio Consortium $75,000 to help public radio stations on the island of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

The funds will help stations get back on the air and maintain service after brutal back-to-back hurricanes destroyed infrastructure and left much of the island without electricity.

“In times of crisis providing an information lifeline to communities in need is vital to ensuring their regrowth and future success,” Karen Rundlet, Knight Foundation program officer for journalism, said in a statement. “To this end, supporting public radio in Puerto Rico is an urgent necessity.”

LPRC will use the grant to deliver generators, radio equipment and satellite phones to San Juan’s WIPR, university stations WRTU and UAGM, and community stations WOQI and Radio Vieques, according to a statement from LPRC.

“This support will help us to advance the recovery of public media in Puerto Rico, whose services are so necessary in a time of crisis,” LPRC Executive Director Magaly Rivera said in a statement.

Some stations, including WIPR, have been able to get on back on the air since Hurricane Maria. Radio Vieques returned to the air last week after receiving equipment from LPRC. WOQI is also back on the air but is struggling to purchase diesel to power its generators, according to LPRC, which has set up a GoFundMe page to support the stations. Puerto Rico’s PBS affiliate, a university station alongside UAGM, has gone off the air indefinitely.

LPRC has also coordinated support for Puerto Rico broadcasters with support from CPB. CoastAlaska, a nonprofit collaborative of public media stations in southeast Alaska, provided two “radio-to-go” kits to Puerto Rico stations. Staff from Orlando’s WMFE delivered equipment to WRTU, and engineers from WNYC traveled with equipment sent to WIPR.

LPRC is also partnering with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which announced this month that it had received $75,000 from Knight, $9,000 from a crowdfunding campaign and $10,000 from the Ford Foundation. The money purchased 10 satellite phones and Wi-Fi hotspots for media across the island. The funds also supported the #ConnectPuertoRico initiative, in which partners are sharing information about the island’s recovery in a Facebook group, through @ConnectPRnews on Twitter and the hashtag.

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