Video: In conversation with Facebook Journalism Project’s Jason White

Story by Juli Metzger, Ball State University
Live stream by Robby General, Ball State University

Facebook is experimenting on how to connect local audiences with more local news and information on their newsfeed.

“We’re interested in how to surface local news for local audiences,” said Jason White, manager of the U.S. News Media Partnership, during a keynote conversation at the News Leaders Conference 2017.

White joined Bill Church, outgoing president of the Associated Press Media Editors, in a post-luncheon conversation. “We are looking how can we better connect them to news and information in that community. Were hoping that it bears fruit. Not everything does.”

White discussed the new Journalism Project, launched in January and designed to help Facebook create deeper ties with news publishers by collaborating on publishing tools and features before they are released.

It’s just one way Facebook continues to test the waters about how its roll in the news and local media can evolve.

“We want to keep you informed about what we’re doing,” explained White, who has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern and a graduate degree from Yale University. “We want to learn more about how what we do might align with your business.”

In an effort to address false news, White described an “article eye” button that lets users find out more about the source of information.

“We want to empower users with more information so they can make more informed decisions about content they are seeing.”

White told publishers there would be more chances to interact and give feedback on Facebook products.

“We haven’t been very public and there is an increasing demand for us to be that,” he said. “We’re going to be more intentional and you can hold us accountable.”

White said Facebook expects to work with publishers on subscription-based products, as well as monetizing video. “We’ve heard that you want your brands to have a higher profile,” White said.

With two billion daily users, White said Facebook must find more ways to automate some of which it does, especially when it comes to monitoring the site for false news.

“We’re in a fact-checking partnership with the Associated Press, as well as others – PolitiFact, Snopes and ABC News,” White said, adding that the feature is available now only to users in the U.S. France, Germany and Netherlands.

“We’ve gotten faster but we can do better. We need some automation to our process; it’s high-touch work. This won’t solve the problem of propaganda sites or websites who do it for financial gain. We will always look for ways to reiterate.”

On the question of Russian advertising, White said Facebook admits its made mistakes and has announced changes to avoid future abuse. One, he said, on the front-end will be that advertising that is politically oriented or socially oriented, will require a layer of human review.

Two, on the back end, Facebook will require political parties and candidates a higher level of transparency.

“We’re responding to needs. We know this is what we want to learn about and we’re figuring it out.”

Robby General is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is rjgeneral@bsu.edu.

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