Social media giant Facebook announced on Apr. 29 that it will give $5 million to pay local journalists in multiyear deals as part of its new publishing platform to help independent writers attract an audience and make money through the social media network.
Facebook to Hire Journalists
The move is part of Facebook's answer to the trend of email newsletters, led by platforms like Substack, as it focuses on reporters who are usually the lone voice covering a given community, according to The Verge.
The publishing platform, which Facebook announced last month, will be integrated with Facebook Pages and will include a free self-publishing tool for journalists to send out newsletters or create their own websites.
Independent journalists in the United States can apply to Facebook's news program starting May 6, and priority will be given to reporters who plan to cover Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, or other audiences of color, in locations that lack an existing news source.
Journalists will be able to earn additional money from publishing stories using Facebook's tools, starting with subscriptions, and each writer can set their own price, according to the social media platform.
The director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, Emily Bell, posted on Twitter that while journalists and their communities will benefit from Facebook's funding, the news industry will have to reckon with the economic foundation of the Faustian pact.
This is because Facebook has been used as a tool to oppress reporters around the world, and its business relies on news workers like content moderators who are not unionized or paid well.
Paid newsletters are growing, and it has shaken up the media industry, as high-profile journalists from outlets including Vox Media and the New York Times that have left to strike out on their own on platforms like Patreon and Substack. They were lured by uncapped earning potential from their subscribers and cash advances.
Just this month, Substack announced Substack Local, a program with a budget of $1 million set to pay up to 30 local reporters to build their own subscription-supported business, Reuters reported.
Facebook's Media History
Facebook added that it would partner with the Washington-based International Center for Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists to evaluate applications, and would give the journalists selected access to experts and services to help them create a news business.
The social network giant has long had a strained relationship with the news industry, which came to a head in February after a showdown with the Australian government over paying news outlets for content.
Following the conflict, Facebook pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry globally over the next few years.
According to the BBC, Facebook was forced to block Australian news in response to the proposed legislation. The government's news code aims to set up a fairer negotiation process between the tech giants and news companies over the value of news content.
However, it has been opposed by Facebook and Google, as both companies argue the code misunderstands how the internet works. The platform has also said that it gets little commercial gain from the news content.
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Written by Sophie Webster