Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Caplan’


Journalism by Facebook

Journalism was a key component of Facebook's growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Journalism was a key component of Facebook’s growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

The New York Times today published an interesting collection of pieces in its Room for Debate series on if Facebook is saving journalism or ruining it. The series of pieces comes amid accusations last week that the social network was suppressing content supportive of Conservative policies and ideas, and the release of documents giving guidance to editors on trending topics.

Since Facebook launched over a decade ago, it has significantly influenced how we communicate with each other, and ultimately, how news organizations communicate with audiences. Its relationship with journalism has evolved, from the fan page encouraging interaction, to recent new features including Instant Articles, where content from publishers is hosted on the social network itself, and Facebook Live, where any news organization in the world can broadcast a Q&A or do live reporting, all with the touch of a button.

As Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica wrote, Facebook’s role with some media companies became symbiotic, and the social network “could save both mainstream and alternative journalism.”

It was clear that journalism was essential for Facebook’s growth, and Facebook was essential for journalism to engage and evolve in the digital age. Yet, as the relationship evolved, it signified a wider change in the business of social media, as well as journalism. It became a mutual relationship, and though Twitter and Snapchat would later play prominent roles in social journalism, Facebook would still be at the helm of that change.

However, in spite of its advances, the relationship has its share of issues, particularly on the subject of its algorithm. More work needs to be done to address that relationship, and more accountability, as Robyn Caplan of the Data Society argued in her piece, needs to happen. Indeed, as I wrote here last week, Facebook and other sites should hire public editors, in the aim to improve the relationship with platforms and the public, as well as the relationship between social media and journalism.

There are also more complications, particularly when the social network looks to announce changes. As Catherine Squires of the University of Minnesota wrote in her piece, Facebook’s focus ultimately is on the advertisers and other entities that make it run, and when privacy settings are changed and the news feed itself is changed, that becomes prevalent.

“People who are shocked that Facebook might be skewing their newsfeed probably shouldn’t have trusted them with their news diet in the first place, given its history,” Squires wrote. “This is not the company I’d trust to tell me what’s important in the world.”

Nevertheless, Facebook remains at the helm of what is now the norm in the business of modern journalism, and though the relationship can be best summed up as mutually complicated, it is clear that Facebook continues to have the lead in the world of social journalism.

It is, according to Wired reporter Julia Greenberg, “the most powerful distributor of news,” as users flock to Facebook and other platforms instead of directly going to publishers and news organizations themselves, causing publishers to think twice about their engagement strategies.

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Facebook and these platforms are not necessarily saving journalism. Instead, they are reinventing journalism, upgrading it in a multi-platform, content focused age. Journalism is still a prevalent part of modern society, and the principles and ideas that remain at its core are still present even as the mediums themselves change.

Yet, the focus is transfixed on the content, and of all the platforms, Facebook remains the most popular hub. However, journalism still remains a constant, signaling a positive notion for an industry that remains in a state of flux.

In spite of its shortcomings, the mutual relationship between Facebook and journalism will continue to be dominant in the industry, and while questions will continue to be asked within newsrooms about how to best engage audiences, the relationship signifies a bigger message.

Even though it is being reinvented, journalism is not dead. It is here to stay, and though the mediums change, the mission remains the same — to inform, educate and enlighten, something that will always remain a quintessential part of the business of journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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