Sunday, February 19, 2017

The facebook Journalism project: Do we really need it?

Approximately two weeks ago, Facebook kicked off their first Facebook event with local media in Dallas. According to their site page, the Facebook team hosted nearly 70 attendees, representing newspapers, TV and radio stations from across Texas and surrounding areas.

The social media giant called it "an opportunity for newsroom leaders, social media editors and journalists to learn more about using Facebook and Instagram for news" and for them to learn more about local news organizations on these platforms. Additionally, Facebook said local news is important to people and that they admire their local news partners that bring communities together around issues that are closest to home.

 Facebook invited users to take a look at some of the standout moments local publishers shared over the past few weeks. They say they are launching a new monthly feature on their Media Blog called "Spotlight on Local," where they will showcase storytelling from local news publishers on Facebook and Instagram. The Facebook team said over the coming months their news partnerships team will also be hosting more regional news on Facebook events for local publishers across the country.

The problem with "fake news" found on social media has also been addressed of late. I think the problem is exacerbated by a president and an administration that labels news report they find critical or they disagree with as fake. Just because a politician does not like the way he or she is portrayed in an article, that does not necessarily invalidate the information anymore than President Trump hearing somewhere that he garnered the greatest number of electoral votes in history (not true) make that fact a true statement.

Personally I don't think there really is a need for a Facebook journalism project. The latest version of the Associated Press stylebook has an entire chapter dedicated on how to deal with many of the issues journalists face with the emergence of social media. Mostly I use Facebook and Twitter to post links to my work, and so do a lot of other media organizations that I am aware of.

Certainly there needs to be more education about social media and how it benefits the industry, but other than that, it does not seem this type of elaborate project is needed because media professionals have already incorporated the web and social media to supplement and enhance their reporting and have been doing it successfully for quite some time now.

 I also dare to say that social media, Facebook in particular, has not always been good for journalism and has had the opposite effect in many cases. One unwanted byproduct of social media integration has been the notable rise in the fake news trends. Because anyone can post on the web and links containing information that isn't vetted, often the spread of misinformation via links to sites of questionable legitimacy with questionable facts and content was a byproduct of the rise of social media, memes and the internet culture.

Another detrimental result is that people have become accustomed to getting their news from social media and have become lazy and less critical. A large demographic and segment of the population does not even read newspapers or magazines and the lack of in-depth reporting in other media outlets has eroded people's ability to exercise critical thinking and judgement. That may not all be attributed directly to social media, but it sure has not helped.

Another problem has been news outlets, particularly on the broadcasting spectrum, becoming less impartial and espousing ideology such as Fox News for conservatives and MSNBC on the liberal spectrum.

I think it is laudable for Facebook to try to mitigate the problem with fakes news now, but it seems more like a reactionary end result to the criticism it faced over the controversy, more than anything else. I hope that the collaboration between Facebook and news professionals turns out to be good for the industry.