Loyola Student Wins Google Innovation Grant
NEW ORLEANS – Loyola University New Orleans College of Business senior Valeria Ali, in collaboration with Jambalaya Deportiva Corporation, is among the most recent recipients of a Google Innovation Grant. Ali received $73,865 as part of the Google News Initiative’s $300M commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age by supporting projects that drive digital innovation and develop new business models.
GNI’s latest Innovation Challenge focuses on “projects that generate growth and diversification of revenue for local media who elevate underrepresented audiences and promote diversity, equity and inclusion within their journalism.” Ali partnered with Jambalaya News Louisiana, a local media outlet reporting and interpreting information for the Spanish-speaking community since 2004, to develop Al Día. Al Día is a new SMS system that allows readers in two of the most densely populated Spanish-speaking, Latino, immigrant areas in Louisiana – Orleans and Jefferson Parishes – to receive instant messages on local and national breaking news, stories, events and services in Spanish, with the ability to message questions directly to team members and receive responses in real time.
“The importance of local news in Spanish often does not align with how easily the Latino Immigrant can find it and understand it,” said the Al Día team in their proposal. “Jambalaya Deportiva Corporation’s audience accesses Facebook at significantly higher rates based on our analytics than any other internet/social platform; thus, it causes local news to get lost in the user’s social Facebook timeline updates. Leveling out the communication field in the state by offering a service for Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants to be well-informed means meeting them where they are.”
Ali, who is majoring in Marketing with a Communications minor, was first introduced to Jambalaya News Louisiana when she interned with the company in 2020. When she launched her own business, Imagen Marketing Agency, in the summer of 2020, Jambalaya News immediately came on board as her first major client.
“My role was to increase profits and build brand awareness,” said Ali.
The role also included market research, and it was during this research that Ali came across the Google News Initiative opportunity, as she and Jambalaya News launched their second round of funding for local journalism. Immediately recognizing the parallels between their mission statements, Ali sat down with Jambalaya’s owners to present the grant and brainstorm potential projects.
“I know the power journalism has on empowering communities with the information they need for a better life,” said Ali. “Thanks to Google, we have received over $70K in funding and I’m proud to be leading it today.”