Facebook to invest $300m to help local news survive

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Facebook Inc (FB.O) will invest 300 million dollars over three years in local news globally as it faces blistering criticism over its role in the erosion of the news business worldwide.

“The investment in time and money is a significant expansion of a plan to help newsrooms in the U.S. and abroad create and sustain viable business models to survive,’’ the company said on Tuesday.
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Unlike earlier investments in the news business, this latest round is distinguished by how it is not tied to Facebook-related products, recipients of the investments say.

Earlier rounds of investments in the news business were designed to encourage publishers to rely on delivering its products over Facebook, which eventually hurt many news organisations when Facebook’s strategies shifted.

“We are going to continue fighting fake news, misinformation, and low quality news on Facebook.

“But we also have an opportunity, and a responsibility to help local news organisations grow and thrive,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of Global News Partnerships said.

Critics have slammed Facebook for its role in providing a platform for hate speech, misinformation and political meddling.

The first round of investments in the U.S. will help bolster resources for local reporting, help research on how to use technology to improve news gathering and create new products, recruit “trainee community journalists.”

It will also place them in local newsrooms and also help fund a programme modeled after the Peace Corp, which will place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms over five years.

The recipients of the investments include the Pulitzer Centre, Report for America, Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, the Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium, the American Journalism Project and the Community News Project.

Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, an alliance of 80 news companies representing 2,200 outlets, said Facebook is helping the group create a branded content programme aimed at attracting new advertisers.

“Facebook is making this investment to help support local media companies, and open up new revenue streams that will support local journalism,” she said.

In December, it announced a six million dollars investment in local publishers in Britain.

It also planned to expand an “Accelerator” programme it inaugurated in 2018 to help local newsrooms such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post improve its ability to attract subscribers and membership donations. (Reuters/NAN)

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