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Zuckerberg speaks at the annual F8 summit. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to convince journalists Tuesday that the company is committed to boosting trusted news outlets and supporting journalism as a whole, but didn’t give much reassurance that individual outlets would recoup lost revenue or traffic.

The big picture: The tension is growing between Facebook and media as it controls a large portion of digital ads and is a primary news distributor, but doesn't help newsrooms recoup dwindling revenue. And recent News Feed algorithm changes resulted in a dramatic drop — an average of 20%, Zuckerberg says — of Facebook-generated traffic to media sites.

What he said: In an interview with media leaders, organized by The Information, Zuckerberg said Facebook has a responsibility to help sustain journalism and prioritize trusted news organizations.

A few key points:

  • Facebook will rely on its "community” to decide what's trustworthy.
  • His goal in helping to better inform users is to ultimately build “common ground."
  • The News Feed, he argues, provides a greater diversity of opinions than the person would get by reading a newspaper or watching a cable channel.
  • Facebook needs to be “more about interacting with people and less about consuming news." Photos and life updates are really what users are there to see, he said.

Yes, but: Many journalists in the meeting felt those points revealed misunderstandings about how the news media works.

  • Zuckerberg said many news organizations have an opinion. Many news outlets, however, strive to provide objective information without bias, outside of their editorial sections.
  • He repeatedly emphasized that trusted news will foster "common ground." But common ground, which is often based on opinion or shared experiences, isn't considered the primary goal of news. The goal is to report and synthesize verifiable facts and information.
  • The idea that opinions in your News Feed are proxies for news struck some as a disconnect. "As any journalist can tell you, the best answer to the question 'what happened?' is not why don’t you ask a bunch of your friends what they think, organize their views along a spectrum, and then decide where to plant yourself," writes The Atlantic's Adrienne LaFrance.
  • He argued only a "small minority portion" of people come to Facebook to consume news. But, two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media.

Be smart: Zuckerberg seemed genuine in wanting to play a role in helping news organizations — particularly investigative journalism — survive. But he gave no details on how Facebook's current business model would support that, and flat-out rejected the idea of paying publishers a licensing fee for content (like cable channels do).

The bottom line: Facebook and news organizations have a strained, yet symbiotic, relationship. But the two industries' business models are far from aligned, and the awkward dance between them is far from over.

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.