What Does Facebook’s Plan to Hire Journos Mean for Media Industry?Social Media

August 22, 2019 16:14
What Does Facebook’s Plan to Hire Journos Mean for Media Industry?

The social media giant Facebook’s plan to recruit professional journalists rather solely depending on algorithms to deliver news is a positive step but is unlikely to shake up an embattled media industry, according to analysts.

On Tuesday, Facebook said it would build a small team of journalists to select the top national news of the day "to ensure we're highlighting the right stories."    

Stories will turn up in a section called the "news tab," which will be separate from the traditional news feed that displays updates and content from users' friends and relatives.

"In theory, I see this as a really positive development. It is something quite promising," Danna Young, a communications professor at the University of Delaware, told AFP.

Facebook's journalists will be curating stories from news sites and won't be editing headlines or writing content. The social media platform has consistently said it does not want to be considered a media organization that makes major editorial decisions, and this announcement does little to change that, experts add.

"It's not transformative because it's not going to change necessarily the behavior of individuals who are referencing stories on their feeds," said Young.

"That's where the power comes from - individuals you know and trust putting their tacit stamp of approval on stories by sharing them," she added.

Since Facebook shut down its ill-fated “trending topics section last year, the tab will be now the site's first news feature using human moderators.

Articles not deemed top news stories will still be collated using algorithms based on the user's history, such as pages they follow, publications they subscribe to and news they have already interacted with.

"Our goal with the news tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people," Facebook head of news partnerships Campbell Brown told AFP in San Francisco Tuesday.

                       (Image source from: The New York Times)
The news tab feature comes as Facebook embarks on a series of initiatives to boost journalism, with traditional media organizations accusing it of benefiting financially from their hard work.

Read: Facebook to Ban Ads That Urge People Not to Vote in 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

Facebook will reportedly pay some publishers to license news content for the tab but Mathew Ingram, who writes about digital media for the Columbia Journalism Review, doesn't expect that to trickle down to hard-up organizations that need it the most.

"The companies they are going to choose are ones already doing well I assume. It might give them a little extra cash but I don't see it driving a huge amount of traffic," he told AFP.

Print journalism in the United States is diminishing owing to social media turning out as the main news source for Americans.

Around 2,000 American newspapers closed in the past 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving millions of residents without reporters keeping track of what their local authorities are up to.

"The death of local news has such destructive effects for democracy. It's a complex issue that Facebook alone cannot fix," said Young.

The number of journalists working at U.S. newspapers slumped by 47 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to a Pew Research Center survey released last year.

"Facebook is not a journalism company and so before working for Facebook I would want to see their commitment to ethical, robust journalism," the 30-year-old Stephen Groves, who recently earned a master’s in Journalism at New York University, to be looking for work, told AFP.

When Buzzfeed cut 200 jobs in January, the 29-year-old Emily Tamkin was let go from a position she had held for just a few months.

"I'm personally not cheered by the fact that Facebook is swooping in and hiring journalists. If that's the silver lining then we have a very big cloud here," the 29-year-old Emily Tamkin, who once worked at Buzzfeed, told AFP.

The digital sector is also in trouble.

By Sowmya Sangam

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