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Facebook launches new ‘quality journalism’ project — with a typo front and center

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A typo in Facebook's statement about its commitment to high quality journalism is almost too on the nose.
A typo in Facebook’s statement about its commitment to high quality journalism is almost too on the nose.

Image: ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook announced a new component of its “Facebook Journalism Project” on Wednesday: a partnership with CNN and other media outlets to produce news shows specifically for Facebook.

Unfortunately, the social media/content production/advertising/how do we even categorize Facebook anymore company is in need of… a copy editor.

“We care about about supporting high quality journalism,” the Facebook Journalism Project’s Overview section reads.

That’s right, the sentence in which Facebook pledges its commitment to “high quality journalism,” contains a typo. Ohhhh boy.

Honestly, the definition of 'not a good look.'

Honestly, the definition of ‘not a good look.’

Image: screenshot: Facebook

Cringey typo aside, Facebook has taken steps in recent months to increase the quality of news on Facebook. That comes in response to the role Facebook played in spreading sensationalism and misinformation around the 2016 presidential election. It first launched the Facebook Journalism Project in January 2018.

“I’ve asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a January Facebook post.

The Facebook Journalism Project involves working more closely with journalists in product development, training journalists in digital tools, and now, apparently, actually producing news content for Facebook’s video platform (that Facebook will pay for). Facebook is also trying to amplify the reach of local news.

But some of Facebook’s more specific journalism efforts have been controversial. Facebook began revamping the way it displays news in the feed by ranking news sources by trustworthiness, and allotting the most prime news feed real estate to the most trusted sources. But the “trustworthiness” rankings are according to users, not experts. This can be seen as proliferating the same sort of faith in “the crowd” that allowed sensationalized news to flourish in the first place.

Some applied a similar criticism to Facebook’s decision to provide more information about news sources by linking to the crowd-sourced information platform Wikipedia. And in a roundtable discussion with journalists in May, Mark Zuckerberg left many questions as basic whether or not Facebook is a media company unanswered — leading some to conclude that Mark Zuckerberg fundamentally does not understand journalism.

Look, typos happen. And I’m sorry for putting whoever wrote the Facebook Journalism Project’s website copy on blast. Your editor should have caught this.

But given Facebook’s embattled journalism initiatives, it’s honestly too on the nose that Facebook’s statement about its commitment to high quality journalism contains a blatant typo. It embodies the skepticism some of us, especially those in the journalism industry, have about Facebook’s (and other tech companies’ and leaders‘) journalism initiatives: that its identity as a tech company, its devaluing of editorial judgment, and the role it played in eroding trust in the news in the first place, makes it wildly unqualified to be in the business of disseminating — let alone making — the news.

But hey, at least Facebook now has a new place to start making good on its promises about quality news: getting a dang Journalism Project editor.

UPDATE June 6, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET: Facebook said it corrected the typo.

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