The Facebook Journalism Project

According to Neisen Report from March 2016, Americans spend one in every five minutes on Facebook or Instagram. On average, 100 million hours of video are consumed on Facebook daily (Facebook data gathered February 2016).

That’s a lot of time and content.

However, 83 million accounts on Facebook are fake. That’s 8.7 percent of its 955 million monthly active users worldwide.

 

The creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has chosen to take a more hands-on approach to controlling the content on his medium.

“I recognize that we have a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through,” says Zuckerberg.

Of course, it is in his best interest that Facebook does not become overrun with fake news and fake profiles. No one wants their newsfeed to clogged up with unreliable information or scammers.

To combat the rise of fake news and help Journalists tell their stories on the platform, Zuckerberg has created The Facebook Journalism Project.

 

The Facebook Journalism Project will work in three ways:

  • Collaborative development of news products
    1. New storytelling formats: LIVE, 360, instant articles
    2. Local news
    3. Emerging business models – partners want to grow subscriptions, helping to monetize options for partners (how to get us to watch ads, generate a profit from the news)
    4. Continuing to listen: sponsor journalism and publishing conferences
  • Training & Tools for Journalists
    1. Training, e-learning courses with Poynter for certificate curriculum
    2. Tools-
      1. Crowdtangle to surface stories, measure social performance and identify influencers (free)
      2. Facebook live
      3. Page contributors
      4. Monitor progress of posts
      5. Eyewitness media
  • Training and Tools for Everyone
    1. Promoting News literacy: research projects to determine best sources, News Literacy Project work to improve news literacy, while also promoting financial gains
    2. Continue to curb “fake news” – people can report easily, disrupt spammers, third party fact checking agency “Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principals

Facebook live is a large component of the Project. Users are encouraged to share real-time video. Journalists use this tool for interviewing subjects or broadcasting breaking news. When the Interstate 85 bridge fire broke out, I watched the events unfold on WSB-TV’s live stream on facebook. I watched President Trump’s Inauguration on Facebook Live. I watched the horrific riots in Ferguson on Facebook Live.

Facebook Live has become my first source for breaking news. I trust legacy media sources less and less. NPR and CNN are the only two I turn to, other than Facebook.

I believe the greatest challenge facing Facebook is how to get users to pay for news when they’ve already grown accustomed to free content. As a student journalist, I post my content for free. However, after I graduate, I will seek to earn an income from my writing. While The Facebook Journalism Project provides journalists with the tools to tell their stories, it does not address how those journalists will be compensated for their time and efforts.

Without a subscription fee to use Facebook, news media are obligated to their advertisers to generate income for clicks. This has lead to a rise in “clickbait,” sensationalistic articles with flashy titles meant to trick the user into clicking the article to learn more. Oftentimes, the article itself is lacking or completely false. Fake news in the most recent presidential election helped to proliferate the spread of unreliable sources. Breitbart, in particular, is notorious for use of click-bait articles and their disregard for fact-checking. It seems that those who share those articles are unaware of their illegitimacy or unconcerned with verifying the information. Because Facebook allows users to curate their content, news feeds can read like an echo shouting back their opinions. Here, they are insulated in their world-view and hold on to their ignorance.

I believe the Facebook Journalism Project is a good step towards renovating the convoluted system of news media. However, the source of revenue for journalists is still a major point of concern. News should be written for the people, not advertisers. The public needs to reclaim their news by purchasing subscriptions to news media that they trust. Only then will news media divorce itself from the sensationalistic circus it has become.

In the meantime, I plan on using The Facebook Journalism Project to build my audience base and create content. In this digital age, it is necessary for journalists to be social media experts. The audience does not come to you by purchasing a newspaper anymore. We must seek out our audience and meet them where they already are, Facebook.

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