When it comes to the latest Facebook project, we’re used to reading headlines like “Facebook Acquires Oculus” or “Facebook Buys Instagram.” That wasn’t the case when Facebook announced its latest endeavor earlier this year. The headline simply read “Introducing: The Facebook Journalism Project.”
The announcement made on their website described the project as a collaboration between Facebook and news organizations to develop products and learn from journalists about ways to be a better partner. In addition, the tech company would be working with publishers and educators on how to inform readers in the digital age. Current publishers partnering with Facebook include the Washington Post and Vox Media with the New York Times reportedly planning to join them in the future.
“The new initiative is something of a peace offering from Facebook to publishers who share news content on the network,” Mike Isaac of the New York Times wrote in January. “Publishers have long considered Facebook a kind of frenemy—increasingly relying on the social network to spread their stories but often wary of depending too much on one medium to reach an audience. Facebook also regularly changes its algorithms, which can make or break a publisher’s traffic and revenue…Facebook is also partly responsible for an upheaval in the advertising industry, with online ad dollars now being spent on the social network and Google instead of directly with publishers.”
But others have wondered why Facebook and other tech giants like Google and Apple have not put their money where their mouth is.
“While training, technology and innovation are critical, what journalism needs most now is money, and lots of it—to fund full-time local journalists,” Steven Waldman wrote in the New York Times. “What these companies have donated so far is too little given how wealthy they are, how much harm they’re (inadvertently) doing—and how much good they could do.”
Since publicly identifying itself as a media company, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone out of his way to affirm news organizations and their readers that Facebook was going to be their ally. In fact, Zuckerberg released a long manifesto in February called “Building Global Community,” where he addressed how social media played a big role in reporting accurate information.
“Accuracy of information is very important. We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously. We’ve made progress fighting hoaxes the way we fight spam, but we have more work to do,” he wrote.
He continued, “A strong news industry is also critical to building an informed community. Giving people a voice is not enough without having people dedicated to uncovering new information and analyzing it. There is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable—from growing local news, to developing formats best suited to mobile devices, to improving the range of business models news organizations rely on.”
All of these statements indicate that Zuckerberg is sincere in his efforts, but I must admit, I’m not going to wait around for a tech billionaire to save journalism. Why should we when the industry is already filled with young news professionals around the same age as the 32-year-old Zuckerberg? You can find 25 of them in this month’s issue.
Our annual 25 Under 35 list recognizes young men and women who are fighting for a free press, doing their part in reporting the truth, and finding new ways to generate revenue in order to keep newspapers alive. As you get to know them, you’ll be encouraged to read how much they still believe in their profession. If a young mind is going to save journalism, it’s going to be the one entrenched in the newsroom.