On the heels of its high-profile hiring of former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, Facebook has announced yet another initiative to magically strengthen the integrity of journalists and media organizations that publish on Facebook. It’s another sorta-commitment to helping media organizations stay afloat even as they descend lower and lower into Facebook’s gaping maw.
Today, it announced the Facebook Journalism Project, a program in which the company “will be collaborating with news organizations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age.” Facebook has long resisted identifying itself as a media company that makes conscious decisions about what it does and does not place on users’ screens. Over the years, it’s been coming around, at a glacial pace, to the concept that it is a media publisher.
Perhaps the most important and quixotic part of this three-pronged approach is the idea that Facebook will somehow help promote media literacy among its billion-plus daily users. (The program is a partnership with the nonprofit News Literacy Project.)
It will also further training programs (online courses) to help journalists use the company’s product more effectively, and hack together some new way to present stories within Facebook’s walled garden.
Is it a nice sentiment? Sure. But this new program also combines many of the smaller half-gestures that Facebook had already begun. Journalist training, soliciting feedback from news orgs to get them to publish on Facebook, and combating hoaxes are all previously known projects. Facebook wants to help journalists enough to keep them on the platform. Whether it wants to help them thrive is another story.