Mar 30, 2020 - Economy & Business

Zuckerberg: "Local journalism is incredibly important" to fighting coronavirus

Mike Allen, author of AM

Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg, signaling his personal involvement in a new Facebook commitment of $100 million to bolstering local journalism, told me that "very local work" is vital to his big mission of bringing the world closer together.

What he's saying: "Everyone believes that local journalism is incredibly important," Zuckerberg told Axios in a phone interview. "But everyone is connected to their local [outlets]. Figuring out how to make an impact, and support local journalism broadly and at scale, has been a challenge."

  • "We know that a lot of journalists are working really hard under very difficult conditions, when getting accurate information is incredibly important," Zuckerberg continued. "At the same time, a lot of these organizations are struggling because of the economic impact of the outbreak."

Facebook's announcement is a much-needed cash infusion for local news businesses, which are having their business models annihilated by the coronavirus crisis, at the same time readers need them more than ever, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • $25 million will be given to local news organizations in the U.S. as grants.
  • The other $75 million is being funneled to news organizations in need globally through Facebook marketing, or ad space Facebook is purchasing to market itself from those outlets.
  • This is on top of $300 million that Facebook had committed earlier.

Campbell Brown, Facebook's V.P., Global News Partnerships, writes:

  • "Over time, we think this work can have the added benefit of fostering civic engagement, which research suggests is directly correlated with people’s reading of local news."

What's next: With Facebook experiencing a massive surge in traffic, Zuckerberg said the company is moving up products on its long-term road map that'll help people maintain their social infrastructure while they can't go outside — video and group chat improvements, and online events instead of physical events.

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Why it matters: Facebook staffers have pushed back against controversial management choices in the past, but they've never before made public their dissent en masse. The protest suggests that the company — already battered by privacy scandals and political tensions — could be beginning to lose at least some of its workforce's trust.

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Why it matters: While Twitter has flagged two of the president's Tweets, one for being potentially misleading about mail-in ballot procedures and another for glorifying violence, Facebook has left those and other posts up, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying he doesn't want to be the "arbiter of truth."