Irony, thy name is Zuckerberg.
A new Facebook “service” designed to connect users with local news is having trouble finding local newspapers, according to this Associated Press story you should read after perusing your local newspaper.
The service, called “Today In,” debuted last year and is available in 400 cities nationwide. It gathers news from local sources like newspapers, government and community groups and packages the information for quick, easy use. Facebook has learned what we ink-stained wretches have long known — local journalism is sometimes quick, but never easy. Or cheap to sustain.
Nearly 2,000 local newspapers have gone under over the past 15 years, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. Newsroom employment is down by 45 percent. Newspapers don’t die on deadline. They are slowly choked out by downsizing, declining circulation and the loss of advertising revenue to platforms like Facebook.
It was somehow breaking news to Facebook that its cold war on local newspapers contributed to mass casualties across the country. The online giant went looking for the little guy and found nothing but its own cavernous footprints in places once covered by local newspapers.
Regular readers may recall Facebook siding against me and The Times-Tribune over the past couple of years. When I was attacked by Russian bots and living, breathing trolls using the platform to spread fake news, Facebook banned me. Read about some of that here.
Facebook prefers not to dwell in the past, no matter how recent. The AP story says the company “plans to award some 100 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, to people with ideas for making more news available… That comes on top of $300 million in grants Facebook announced in January to help programs and partnerships designed to boost local news.”
In short, Facebook is willing to throw money at a problem it helped create. Somewhere in Russia, automated grant writers are filling out mountains of applications…