UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Facebook plans to hire professional journalists instead of relying on news-reporting algorithms, a positive step, but it will not change the media industry’s difficult times, analysts said.
The social media giant announced on Tuesday that it would form a small team of journalists to pick national highlights “to ensure that we highlight the right incidents.”
The decision comes at a time when the US media sector is in crisis, losing jobs, shutting down newspapers and trying to find ways to make money in the era of free news.
The stories will appear in the NewsTape section, which will be separate from the traditional section where updates from other friends and relatives appear.
“Theoretically I see this as a really positive development. It’s a very promising thing,” Dana Young, a professor of communications at the University of Delaware, told AFP.
Facebook journalists will select stories from news sites and will not make editorial edits or rewrite content.
The California-based company has repeatedly said it does not want to be considered a media organization making editorial decisions, and the latest announcement does not change that trend, according to experts.
“This is not a transformation because it will not necessarily change the behavior of individuals who refer to stories,” Young said. “This is the source of strength. People you know and trust put the tacit approval stamp on stories by sharing them,” she said on Facebook.
– Press Support –
The news section will be the first news service to use human supervisors after the “Popular Topics” section was closed last year after a scandal caused by information that its staff had withheld stories related to issues not of interest.
Articles that are not top stories will continue to exist using algorithms based on user history, such as the pages they follow, the bulletins they subscribed to, and the news they’ve already interacted with.
“Our goal of marking the news is to provide a close personal experience for people,” Campbell Brown, president of Facebook’s new partnerships, told AFP in San Francisco on Tuesday.
The launch of the specialized news section comes as Facebook is undertaking a series of initiatives to promote journalism, where traditional media organizations accuse it of financially benefiting from its hard work.
Online advertising is dominated by social media platforms, making it difficult for news organizations to transfer print ads that have been highly profitable to their web pages.
In January, Facebook announced it would invest $ 300 million over three years to support the press, especially local news organizations.
He also funded fact-finding projects around the world, including one in partnership with AFP.
It is reported that Facebook will pay some publishers for publishing news content in the news section. But Matthew Ingram, who writes about digital journalism for Columbia Journalism Review, said he did not expect the money to be used by institutions in urgent need of financial support.
“I think the companies that will be selected are the ones that are doing pretty well,” he told AFP. “It might give them a little extra money, but I think it won’t lead to a big increase in the number of visitors.”
– “devastating” effect –
The print press in the United States has recently seen a dramatic decline as social media outperformed newspapers as the main source of news for Americans.
Nearly 2,000 US newspapers have been shut down over the past 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving millions of people without correspondents to follow their local authorities.
“The death of local news has devastating effects on democracy,” Young said. “It’s a complex issue that Facebook cannot solve on its own.”
The number of journalists working in US newspapers fell by 47 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to a Pew Research Center survey last year.
The group found that the total number of journalists in newsrooms fell 25 percent, while consulting firm Challenger Gray and Christmas said the year would be the worst in layoffs since 2009.
Stephen Groves, 30, who recently earned a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, is having a hard time getting a job, and when he heard about Facebook’s plan, he seemed skeptical. “Facebook is not a journalism institution, so before I work on Facebook I would like to see their commitment to a strong ethical press,” he told AFP.
The digital sector is also in trouble. When the US Web site Bazvid cut 200 jobs in January, Emily Tamkin, 29, was forced out of her job she had been in for only a few months.
“Personally, I am not cheerful about the fact that Facebook employs journalists (but) if this is a positive aspect, we have a big cloud here,” she told AFP.
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