WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Facebook Learns Local News Sources are Disappearing

Apr 2, 2019

The Guardian reported Facebook's effort to establish a service that provides users with local news and information is being hindered by the lack of outlets where the company's technicians can find original reporting.

The Guardian said the Facebook service is called Today In.  It launched last year and is available in some 400 cities in the U.S. It collects news stories from local outlets along with government and community groups.

Shop Talk panelist Rich Egger suggested Facebook spend some money on local reporters if it wants to get into the local news business. He said there are many small communities that could use more journalists.

Egger questioned whether Facebook is interested in helping keep communities informed or if Today In is simply a money-making scheme.

Panelist Will Buss said many of his students get their news through social media sites. But they don’t realize those sites are simply aggregating stories from other sources and don’t generate the reports they’re sharing.

Buss said the number of newspapers is decreasing at the same time people are increasingly turning to their phones and computers for information so this could be an opportunity for Facebook to do some good.

Panelist Patrick Johnson said his students also get much of their news through social media sites. He believes this leaves them susceptible to propaganda or misleading stories from sources that are not reputable. 

Johnson suggested Facebook take a cue from BuzzFeed, which he said started out as a site with a bunch of lists but has since hired journalists and started producing original reporting.

Shop Talk is a weekly panel discussion.  This week’s program featured Will Buss, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Illinois University and advises the student editors at the Western Courier; Patrick Johnson, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at WIU and advises Western’s student radio station WIUS/The Dog; and TSPR News Director Rich Egger.