With ‘Today In’, Facebook wants to be your new local news reporter
Local news reporting in the UK is a somewhat struggling breed of journalism.
According to Press Gazette, between 2005 and 2016, 198 local and regional papers in the UK have shut down. When you consider that an extra 17 local papers closed their gates for good last summer, it sadly doesn’t inspire confidence about the long-term state of regional news.
Especially when you realise that the closure means council meetings go unreported and communities lose their voice. Most of these papers have been forced to merge and move online. Now, there seems to be an unlikely saviour – Facebook wants to step in and save local news, as it begins testing ‘Today In’, a feature that pushes local news and information to Facebook users.
‘Today In’, which provides local news, group discussions, local events and community updates to users, is an initiative born out of the Facebook Journalism Project. The local news pushed to users will be selected by Facebook’s algorithm and vetted by the news partnership team at Facebook, which is spearheaded by former NBC news anchor, Campbell Brown.
So far, the feature is being trialled in six cities across the US: Binghamton, New York; Billings, Montana; New Orleans, Louisiana; Peoria, Illinois; Olympia, Washington; and Little Rock in Arkansas.
Occasionally, ‘Today in’ news will find itself popping up in your News Feed, but more commonly, ‘Today In’ will be tucked away in the ‘More’ section of the app, which is slightly disappointing. This More tab is filled with many of Facebook’s forgotten features and ‘Today In’ would benefit from being placed front and centre, making the platform more local-centric.
While it’s slightly ironic Facebook, the company notorious for being embroiled in the fake news scandal, might be local news’ saviour, the social media giant has done a lot to regain the trust of the public.
The Facebook Journalism Project was launched a year ago today, shortly after the US presidential election, and it has already accomplished quite a lot. Just in the past year, the site has brought in Related Articles, third-party fact checkers, a tag that allows publishers to mark their content as Breaking News, and have begun highlighting posts made by local politicians.
It’s still unknown if Today In will benefit local news publishers, but it’s definitely a step towards reviving local journalism.