New Facebook Journalism Project Aims to Strengthen Ties With Media

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Facebook has a message for the media: Let’s be friends.

A new Facebook journalism project aims to strengthen the giant social network’s ties with the media by collaborating more closely on publishing tools and news products, helping the advertising-supported organizations find new readers and training journalists to more effectively use the platform.

“We want to work with publishers to build products that enable them to tell better stories, connect with their audiences in richer ways and support emerging business models for publishers,” Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations and media partnerships, told USA TODAY.

The company increasingly is acknowledging its responsibility as a top provider of news to the world. Wednesday’s announcement comes amid growing scrutiny of the giant social network for the wave of fake news that spread on Facebook, particularly during the bitterly divisive presidential campaign, alienating users and drawing criticism from President Obama.

Facebook execs say the company is eager for its users to be more discerning consumers of news. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. say they get their news from Facebook. The barrage of fake news creates significant public confusion about current events, with nearly one-fourth of Americans saying they have shared a story that turned out not to be true, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

“Facebook is quite cognizant of the fact that being bombarded by lies, fraud, deceit and hate is not a good user experience,” CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis said. “Having more reliable, quality, authoritative content is good for users and thus good for Facebook.”

Many of the initiatives Facebook announced Wednesday have been previously discussed but the public push reflects its heavy reliance on the media for a steady stream of content to keep its 1.8 billion users glued to their News Feed longer so Facebook can show them more ads.

In recent months, Facebook has been in the spotlight for the content it shows its users. Last month, Facebook took steps to stem the flow of fake news and brought in outside groups to help fact-check articles and label those that are false.

Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has previously insisted that Facebook is a pure technology company but acknowledged in recent weeks that it is also a media company, only not in the “traditional” sense.

News organizations have for years collaborated with Facebook but now will gain greater and earlier access to the product, people and engineers who build news products, Osofsky said. Facebook also plans a listening tour in the U.S. and Europe to make sure it’s building new storytelling formats and advertising products such as ads that appear in the middle of videos that goose the fortunes of news organizations.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Jessica Guynn