Saving local news, or not
The Sunday Times reported
yesterday that Facebook wants to fund training for local journalists in the UK.
As a headline, that’s an intriguing one. After all, Google has funded all sorts of local news projects through its Digital News Innovation Fund
, and the BBC has a Local News Partnerships
programme that helps support local reporting. Could Facebook be looking to do something similar to help boost its reputation after a barrage of negative stories about fake news and its fraught relationship with news publishers?
That would certainly be interesting, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.
From the report (emphasis mine):
“The Sunday Times understands that Facebook and the three local paper publishers are discussing a scheme under which Facebook’s money could be used to train reporters on how to use its social media platform as a reporting resource.”
So this isn’t about training up new reporters to generate more local news, it’s a lot more lightweight – it’s training existing reporters… to use Facebook.
I did a similar course with LinkedIn once. It was an hour-long webinar on using LinkedIn as a research tool. They gave me a free six-month premium membership too, which was useful. Facebook’s proposal sounds like it could literally just be this – without even the free account, since you can’t pay to use Facebook.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this in isolation, but it’s certainly not a ‘plan to help revive UK local press,’ as the Sunday Times’ headline suggests.
Facebook is certainly not afraid to pull out its wallet to fund a better future for news. It helped fund the News Integrity Initiative
in the USA, for example. But if you’re looking for Facebook to help fund better local news journalism, the activity in this news story certainly doesn’t seem to be it.