What does Facebook’s plan to hire journalists mean for media industry?

Small toy figures are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration picture on April 8, 2019. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)
Updated 22 August 2019

What does Facebook’s plan to hire journalists mean for media industry?

  • Facebook’s journalists will be curating stories from news sites and won’t be editing headlines or writing content
  • Stories will appear in a section called the “news tab,” which will be separate from the traditional news feed that displays content from users

NEW YORK: Facebook’s plan to hire professional journalists instead of relying solely on algorithms to deliver news is a positive step but is unlikely to shake up an embattled media industry, analysts say.
The social media giant said Tuesday it would build a small team of journalists to select the top national news of the day “to ensure we’re highlighting the right stories.”
It comes as the US media landscape is plagued by job losses and newspaper closures, with organizations trying to figure out how to record profits in the age of free news.
Stories will appear in a section called the “news tab,” which will be separate from the traditional news feed that displays updates and content from users’ friends and relatives.
“In theory I see this as a really positive development. It is something quite promising,” Danna Young, a communications professor at the University of Delaware, told AFP.
Facebook’s journalists will be curating stories from news sites and won’t be editing headlines or writing content.
The California-based company has consistently said it does not want to be considered a media organization that makes major editorial decisions, and this announcement does little to change that, experts add.
“It’s not transformative because it’s not going to change necessarily the behavior of individuals who are referencing stories on their feeds,” said Young.
“That’s where the power comes from — individuals you know and trust putting their tacit stamp of approval on stories by sharing them,” she added.

"Trending topics" scandal
The tab will be the site’s first news feature using human moderators since it shut down its ill-fated “trending topics” section last year after a scandal over allegations workers had suppressed stories about conservative issues.
Articles not deemed top news stories will still be collated using algorithms based on the user’s history, such as pages they follow, publications they subscribe to and news they have already interacted with.
“Our goal with the news tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people,” Facebook head of news partnerships Campbell Brown told AFP in San Francisco Tuesday.
The news tab feature comes as Facebook embarks on a series of initiatives to boost journalism, with traditional media organizations accusing it of benefitting financially from their hard work.
Internet platforms are dominating the Internet advertising space making it difficult for established news organizations to transition what were very profitable print advertisements online.
Facebook announced in January that it will invest $300 million over three years to support journalism, particularly local news organizations.
It has also funded fact-checking projects around the world, including one in partnership with AFP.
Facebook will reportedly pay some publishers to license news content for the tab but Mathew Ingram, who writes about digital media for the Columbia Journalism Review, doesn’t expect that to trickle down to hard-up organizations that need it the most.
“The companies they are going to choose are ones already doing well I assume. It might give them a little extra cash but I don’t see it driving a huge amount of traffic,” he told AFP.

In free fall
Print journalism in the US is in free-fall as social media overtakes newspapers as the main news source for Americans.
Around 2,000 American newspapers closed in the past 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving millions of residents without reporters keeping track of what their local authorities are up to.
“The death of local news has such destructive effects for democracy. It’s a complex issue that Facebook alone cannot fix,” said Young.
The number of journalists working at US newspapers slumped by 47 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to a Pew Research Center survey released last year.
The total number of journalists in newsrooms fell by 25 percent, the group found, while consultancy firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says this is going to be the worst year for layoffs since 2009.
It’s a difficult time for Stephen Groves, who recently earned a master’s in journalism at New York University, to be looking for work. When he heard about Facebook’s plans, he was skeptical.
“Facebook is not a journalism company and so before working for Facebook I would want to see their commitment to ethical, robust journalism,” the 30-year-old told AFP.
The digital sector is also in trouble.
When Buzzfeed cut 200 jobs in January, 29-year-old Emily Tamkin was let go from a position she had held for just a few months.
“I’m personally not cheered by the fact that Facebook is swooping in and hiring journalists. If that’s the silver lining then we have a very big cloud here,” she told AFP.


Arab News Japanese edition to launch in October

Updated 16 September 2019

Arab News Japanese edition to launch in October

  • Digital news service to be available in English and Japanese
  • Launch to coincide with Emperor enthronement ceremony

TOKYO: Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English language daily, is to launch a Japanese-language online edition as part of its ongoing global expansion.

The international edition will be the second under the Arab News brand, following the highly successful launch of the Pakistani edition. 

As a symbol of the cordial business, trading and cultural relations between the Kingdom and Japan, arabnews.jp will commence coverage to coincide with the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito next month. It will be a 24-hour rolling news website comprising original material generated in Tokyo and translations of Arab News’ award-winning English content.

Faisal J. Abbas, Arab News editor-in-chief, announced the project at the G1 Global conference in Tokyo on Monday, September 16.

The Japanese edition will be the second under the Arab News brand.

He said: ““As part of our more digital, more global direction; we are delighted to announce the launch of Arab News Japan. The news site will be available in both English and Japanese, with a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a translated feed of some of our most important news and views. 

“We are also honored to coincide our launch with our coverage of the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito. We hope that our new service arabnews.jp helps bring a better mutual understanding of both our rich cultures and become a trusted communication channel where our friends in japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis,” he added.

Japan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic partners. A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom imports manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan, and is a significant destination for Japanese financial investment.

Saudi Arabia officials are working with their Japanese counterparts on the formal handover for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in the Kingdom next year, following the highly success event held in Osaka, Japan, in June.

At that event, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe that Japan was a country dear to the hearts of all Saudis. “We will work together to prepare for the G20 summit 2020 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Crown Prince said.

The prime minister praised the Kingdom’s progress in accordance with the Vision 2030 strategy and pointed to the keenness of the government of Japan and its readiness through public and private sectors to make further efforts and cooperation with the Kingdom.

Arab News is part of the regional publishing group Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). It has been the English newspaper of record for Saudi Arabia and the region for over 40 years.