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Appeared on: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Facebook Journalism Project Aims At A Healthy News Ecosystem

Facebook today announced the Facebook Journalism Project, a new effort to support quality journalism, improve news literacy and provide reporters and editors with tools and training to help them better tell their stories.

he project follows a year of debate over Facebook's role in the media during which it faced questions over whether the social network is biased in the way it presents news to users and whether it propagates false information.

Facebook, which has 1.79 billion users, has occasionally generated criticism for deleting newsworthy items that violate its content policies, then restoring the items after protest.

With the Journalism Project, Facebook is trying to establish stronger ties between the social network and the news industry. Facebook will begin a deeper collaboration with news organizations across the spectrum, connecting its product and engineering teams.

Currently available storytelling formats include Live, 360, Instant Articles, etc., and Facedbook wants to build entirely new ones. For example, editors want to be able to present packages of stories to their most engaged readers on Facebook. The company plans to start testing this using Instant Articles, so that readers can start to see multiple stories at a time from their favorite news organizations.

Local news brings communities together around issues that are closest to home. Facebook is interested in exploring ways to support local news and promote independent media.

One key area of collaboration is existing and emerging business models. This month Facebook's engineering team in collaboration with the engineering team of the German news organization BILD will launch a test to explore offering free trials to engaged readers, right from within Instant Articles. Facebook will also keep working on monetization options for partners, such as expanding the live ad break test to a wider group of partners, and exploring ad breaks in regular videos.

Facebook will also launch new hackathons, where the company's engineers take a break from their day-to-day work to explore new problems and technical solutions. Facebook will be launching a program globally where Facebook engineers will host sessions with developers from news organizations to collaborate to identify opportunities and hack solutions.

As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, the company will also meet publishers in the US and Europe, as a start in the months ahead.

In addition to the newsroom training currently offered, Facebook is conducting a series of e-learning courses on Facebook products, tools and services for journalists. These trainings will be expanded to nine additional languages, and a partnership with Poynter to launch a certificate curriculum for journalists in the months ahead.

Going forward, Facebook will be providing training at scale for local newsrooms through collaborations with Knight Foundation, Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Institute for NonProfit News, Local Independent News Online (LION), Institute for Journalism in New Media and more.

Facebook recently acquired CrowdTangle, a tool to surface stories, measure their social performance and identify influencers. This tool will become free for Facewbook's partners.

Journalists are using Facebook Live to find and share news, and connect with their audiences. Today, Facebook is launching the ability for Page administrators to designate specific journalists as contributors, giving them the ability to go live on behalf of the Page, a change designed to make such reporting more flexible for newsrooms. In the future, Facebook also wants to bring to Profiles all the flexibility that the Live API provides to Pages, so journalists can use their professional equipment to go live.

Facebook will also be working on new ways to help give people information so they can make smart choices about the news they read. The company will work with third-party organizations on how to better understand and to promote news literacy both on and off the platform to help people in Facebook's community have the information they need to make decisions about which sources to trust. In the short-term, Facebook is working with the News Literacy Project to produce a series of public service ads (PSAs) to help inform people on Facebook about this important issue. Facebook's longer-term goal is to support news organizations with projects and ideas aimed at improving news literacy, including financial grants where needed.

Facebook recently announced improvements on the platform to further reduce the spread of news hoaxes. In addition, the company launched a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter's International Fact Checking Code of Principles to identify hoaxes on Facebook.

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