Facebook’s journalism project pledges stronger media ties

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The company’s Journalism Project follows a year of debate over Facebook’s role in the media — inside the company and externally — during which it faced questions over whether the social network is biased in the way it presents news to users and whether it propagates false information. Members of the media will be updated on the efforts, which include training for journalists and ways to promote news literacy among users, on a new Facebook Journalism Project page.

“We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, and as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive,” the company said in a blog post.

Facebook’s relationship with the media is complicated. The industry blames the company for disrupting its business model and helping promote viral content over articles of substance. The social network, which has 1.79 billion users, has also occasionally generated criticism for deleting newsworthy items that violate its content policies, then restoring the items after protest. Questions over Facebook’s role in the media intensified in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency, when the company was criticized for not doing more to curb the spread of misinformation on its site.

At the same time, the media relies on Facebook to distribute its stories — even more so now that news organizations have taken to formats like live video, which Facebook introduced in April. Facebook products such as Instant Articles, which ensure stories load faster on a user’s news feed, are also popular with media companies. As part of its outreach, Facebook last week hired Campbell Brown, a former CNN host, to be head of its news partnership team.

Facebook’s executive leadership meets in January to discuss its priorities — this year deeper work with media was a primary topic of discussion. The company said it will work with news organizations on emerging business models, train journalists on Facebook products and tools via online courses, and visit newsrooms to discuss best practices.

The company said it wants to educate its users on what news sources to trust — a potentially thorny issue after a controversy last year over its trending topics section, which prioritized news from certain mainstream organizations, but not some popular conservative sites. The company will work with outside organizations like the News Literacy Project and run public service ads and is open to making financial grants where necessary, Facebook said.

“This is just the beginning of our effort,” the company said.

(c) 2017, Bloomberg ยท Sarah Frier