Over the last two weeks we’ve read a lot about Mark Zuckerberg’s post/manifesto discussing Facebook’s role in ‘Building a Global Community‘. In response, some were concerned by the lack of apparent detail from Zuckerberg on how to fund good journalism:
“A strong news industry is also critical to building an informed community,” Zuckerberg wrote in his manifesto. “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.”
There is more Facebook must do. But what? Lip service to the crucial function of the Fourth Estate is not enough to sustain it. All of this is the news industry’s problem; not Zuckerberg’s. But it’s also a problem for anyone who believes in and relies on quality journalism to make sense of the world.
Zuckerberg doesn’t want Facebook to kill journalism as we know it. He really, really doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean he won’t.”
Contrast this point of view with Jeff Jarvis who recently wrote:
“Facebook, Twitter, and all the platforms should invest their considerable intelligence, imagination, and resources in helping reinvent journalism for this age. New tools bring new opportunities and new responsibilities. I would like to see Facebook help news companies understand how to serve communities and how to reimagine how we inform citizens’ conversations where they occur. I wish that Facebook would find more ways to introduce us to new people who can tell their stories in safe spaces where we can come to learn about each other. I would like Facebook and media to collaborate convening communities in conflict to informed and productive discourse. I would like to see Twitter finally address its and perhaps society’s key problem: Can we be open and also civil? I hope Google will be more transparent about those who would manipulate it and thus us. I hope they all help us invent new business models that no longer reward just clickbait and fame, cats and Kardashians, sensationalism and polarization (Zuckerberg’s words). The platforms should spend less effort trying to help journalism as it is — except insofar as it buys us time for innovation — but instead support journalism as it can be.”
There you go. Some food for thought.
Elsewhere, Google announced it was taking steps to prioritise fact-checked articles in its search results. Good to see both Google and Facebook taking steps to address the proliferation of Fake News, but the point raised by Emily Bell above remains – good journalism needs investment. However, according to this article from Politico, getting platforms to fund news might be a step too far.
In other news, Digiday published a great interview with Jeff Steinberg from Cheddar looking at how scale affects relevancy for publishers. Essential listening for anyone building a brand online plus he mentions a deal he has with Twitter that drives more traffic to his sites than Facebook. Hmm…
For those following the confirmation bias/echo chamber topic, New Yorker have published an amazing, thought-provoking article by Elizabeth Kolbert called Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds:
“A recent experiment performed by Mercier and some European colleagues neatly demonstrates this asymmetry. Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses, and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices; fewer than fifteen per cent changed their minds in step two.
In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.
This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.”
Well worth reading, although entirely pessimistic of course.
Lastly, I popped along to Stationers Hall to listen to a great debate concerning Section 40 and press regulation. Hosted by The Society of Editors and chaired by the most excellent Roy Greenslade, it was a good to hear the various points of view around this topic. I think there was general agreement that the press needed regulation and that the regulator needed to be independent; but that Section 40 was considered too harsh and would penalise the smaller publishers for the sins of some UK newspapers.
Our very own LBC presenter Stig Abell had an interesting take on the press regulation debate on last week’s Media show which you can listen to here. As a previous member of the PCC he points out that what Section 40 doesn’t really address the more pressing issue of fake news. Who, after all is said and done, is going to regulate the platforms?
And that’s it for now folks. Bye, bye.