Journalism needs a better aggregator than Facebook

Bubblegum forests and lollipop trees

For many people, social media is where they get their news. According to research from the Pew Research Center, 44 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook although some have contested this. Our own numbers aren’t much different. In the past three months (January to March) 49.5 per cent of sessions to our site came from social media. According to a survey on one of the biggest project in our community (the South Cariboo Rec Centre expansion survey with 750 responses), 54 per cent heard about the project through Facebook, compared to 48 per cent from the newspaper and 27 per cent from the radio.

As newsmedia, we have to make an important acknowledgement here; for a lot of people, social media is currently the best place to get news.

When you’re on Facebook, the articles that you see, outside of advertising, are shared by your friends and family (presumably they have similar interests) or from pages you follow. Furthermore, Facebook doesn’t show you every post. By choosing posts you’re more likely to engage, you stay longer on the site, giving them more opportunities to show you advertising.

In comparison, everything from your local newspaper to the New York Times websites are poorly tailored to your needs. Your local newspaper’s website will have stories about local students, council and even some good provincial and international stories, but won’t have a story on that obscure European soccer team you follow but have some local stories you’re not interested in. Similar problems exist for the national and international media. If you want to get your news exclusively from reliable news sources, you have to put in the work to go to a number of different places. Civic-minded individuals may put in the work but many aren’t going to.

The Shattered Mirror report from January 2018 by the Public Policy Forum on journalism in Canada started their report with a quote, “In a land of bubblegum forests and lollipop trees, every man would have his own newspaper or broadcasting station, devoted exclusively to programming that man’s opinions and perceptions,” from The Uncertain Mirror report (1970). I guess with Facebook we have that land of bubblegum forests and lollipop trees, almost.

Facebook, of course, wasn’t built as a news source and the problems are obvious. Our friends and family occasionally share fake news stories, satirical news stories as real news, really old stories as if they’re current and so on. Furthermore, despite nearly every media outlet using Facebook, for many news media, Facebook is a competitor eating up ad revenue. This is before any data security problems.

As a society, if we don’t want people to use Facebook for news, we need a better place to get news. We need a place that finds all the news we’re interested in and presents us with the land of bubblegum forests and lollipop trees that Facebook hints at but only draws from reliable and trustworthy sources. Such a place could also partner with journalists and news media in the same way that Subscribe with Google partners with them.

Some will undoubtedly argue that it is important for editors to choose what stories a reader is presented with so news consumers get a broader view of what’s going on in the world. While there are some merits to the argument, but on the internet that cat got out of the bag some time ago and is never coming back.

Just Posted

Business training funds still available for businesses impacted by 2017 wildfires

Businesses with less than 50 employees, less than $250,000 net profits eligible to apply for reimbursement of training expenses up to $10,000

Provincial government needs to fund search and rescue: CRD

CRD board wants NCLGA resolution calling on the province to ensure secured funding is in place for SAR groups

100 Mile House Soccer Association has more players signed up at this point than last season

Overall, the association has 140 kids signed up but the number to beat is 300

100 Mile House and District Council considers immigration pilot program

Over 30 communities will participate in Regional Entrepreneur Immigration Pilot Program

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Father-son duo at B.C. Children’s Hospital helps new dads fight depression

The pair teamed up to introduce the only known research-based mindfulness workshop for new dads

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

Most Read