By Ken Stone
Aiming to learn from journalists and school them as well, Facebook is planning a program in San Diego — part of what’s been called a national “listening tour.”
The “full-day event” is March 30, said a Facebook official. The location has yet to be announced.
“Local newsroom leaders, social media editors, community managers and journalists are all invited to attend” the free event, said Jason White of Facebook Media Partnerships.
New York-based White says the visit is part of the Facebook Journalism Project, launched Jan. 11.
Earlier stops on the tour were early this month in Dallas and Atlanta, covered by the Poynter Institute.
Columbia Journalism Review said the debut event in Dallas drew 70 print and broadcast reporters, most of them from Texas media.
Facebook co-sponsored digital journalism panels with National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapters.
CJR said Facebook offered a mea culpa at one of the panels.
“We have not been doing a great job at listening to local journalists and local newsrooms, but we’re recommitted to doing that,” Facebook News Partnerships manager Dorrine Mendoza was quoted as saying.
“Then she corrected herself: ‘I shouldn’t say ‘recommitted.’ I should say “committed,” if I want to be perfectly honest here.’”
Facebook has faced criticism from journalists over the viral spread of “fake news” and how the social media giant dominates (with others) the digital economy.
A week ago, for example, Steven Waldman of The New York Times wrote: “While training, technology and innovation are critical, what journalism needs most now is money, and lots of it — to fund full-time local journalists. What these companies [like Facebook] have donated so far is too little given how wealthy they are, how much harm they’re (inadvertently) doing — and how much good they could do.”
Asked about the critique, Facebook’s White declined to specifically address revenue sharing.
Instead he repeated what he had told Poynter: “Local news is the starting place for great journalism — it brings communities together around issues that are closest to home. … We’re interested in exploring what we can build together with our partners to support local news and promote independent media.”
He noted the initiative is in its earliest stages.
“We want to talk about it now so that we can get as much input from newsrooms and journalists as possible, working together to shape what local news on Facebook could look like,” he said.
“We want to hear from local journalists and news organizations, and in visiting these newsrooms and hosting these events – it’s a great way to hear from our partners directly.”
In January, Facebook hired Campbell Brown, formerly of NBC News and CNN, to lead its News Partnerships team.
On Facebook, Brown said: “Right now we are watching a massive transformation take place in the news business — both in the way people consume news and in the way reporters disseminate news.
“Facebook is a major part of this transformation. This change comes with enormous challenges for journalists but also with great opportunities.”
Seattle is the next stop — on March 28. Later spring visits in the roadshow are Chicago and Denver.
But why San Diego?
“We want ‘News on Facebook’ events to be accessible to local newsrooms across the country,” White told Times of San Diego via email Tuesday. “To that end, we’re visiting cities regionally that are easily accessed by journalists in surrounding areas.”
He called San Diego a “great way to reach the West.”
White said local journalists can expect “feature presentations and discussion, interactive one-on-one help desks, plus cocktails and community.”
Participants will get a better understanding of how to use Facebook and Instagram to reach and engage their audience, White promised. Also in the mix is CrowdTangle, which Facebook acquired in November.
Forbes said CrowdTangle — which depicts itself as helping publishers “identify great stories, measure social performance and identify influencers” — “can help Facebook track fake stories and take necessary action to prevent them from spreading.”
Coming to San Diego are the Bay Area-based service’s news partnerships team and engineers, plus reps from CrowdTangle and Instagram, the photo-sharing service acquired by Facebook in 2012 for about $1 billion in cash and stock.
The March 30 visit — a Thursday — is a chance for local news outlets and journalists to hear from Facebook in a way that they haven’t before, White said.
“We’re looking forward to hearing their feedback and giving them an opportunity to ask questions live in person with us.”
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