Facebook has been accused time and time again for damaging journalism, both by eating away at advertising revenues and by putting news publishers at the mercy of their algorithms. And that’s not to mention the prevalence of fake news on the platform.
But now, Facebook has launched it’s first ever program to directly fund the improvement of journalism.
As part of the Community News Project, Facebook will donate £4.5 million ($6 million) to the UK charity The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to help support local journalism in the UK. The goal is to “encourage more reporting from towns which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters,” Facebook said in a statement emailed to us.
The donation will fund 80 journalism training jobs for two years in partnership with local news providers Newsquest, JPIMedia, Reach, Archant and the Midland News Association.
“We recognise the important role Facebook plays in how people get their news today, and we want to do more to support local publishers,” Facebook said in the statement. “We’re excited about the opportunity to help more local news reach more people through the Community News Project. We hope it can play a small part in boosting community engagement in towns, cities and counties across the UK.”
Media commentator Professor Richard Sambrook, Director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University, thinks it’s “excellent” that Facebook is supporting local news. But, he tells us, it also highlights “the need for the big Tech companies to do something to redress the impact they have had on the news industry and, crucially, on communities.”
According to Sambrook, the Community News Project is not sufficient to address the many ways that Facebook has found itself on the wrong side of the debate about journalism.
“It is probably not intended to be an answer to those huge global issues,” Sambrook says. “It is an incremental start to support local journalism and an initial attempt to address the democratic deficit that has arisen in many communities as a consequence of the loss of local journalism.”
“This is an initiative that seeks to help where the pain is worst,” Sambrook adds. Local journalism in the UK suffered a blow earlier this week when the fourth largest regional newspaper group in the country, Johnston Press, entered administration. Johnston Press publishes the I, Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman, among others.
Facebook’s Community News Project will also aim to increase diversity in the newsrooms across the nation, to ensure that they more accurately reflect society they’re reporting on. Research from NCTJ shows that 94 percent of journalists in the UK are white.
The NCTJ said that they will start recruiting trainees early 2019.