Facebook pilots new local newspaper scheme in UK

Facebook is donating £4.5m ($5.8m) to support 80 local newspaper roles across the UK for the next two years in an effort to help bring back local reporting


Facebook has announced the launch of a new program designed to support local newspapers and has donated £4.5m ($5.8m) to the UK National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). The donation will fund 80 local newspaper jobs through the NCTJ, a charity which offers formal training to aspiring journalists.

Part of the money the social media giant has donated to the NCTJ will go toward subsidizing the formal training of a number of aspiring journalists. Then, in collaboration with local UK publishers, the new journalists will be hired directly by local newspapers for the duration of the two-year period.

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Of the scandals and controversies Facebook has courted over the last few years, the accusation that it has aided in the proliferation of misinformation around the world is one of its most damaging charges. This new scheme from Facebook is aiming to help right one of the most damaging side effects of digital publishing, the loss of local reporting

However, concerns about how this relationship could possibly impact the objectivity and independence of local news sources have also been raised by the public. Speaking to The Guardian, Charlie Beckett, media at the London School of Economics commented, "If the cost of these posts is covered by Facebook then you won’t bother spending the money yourself. Over time that’s almost inevitable."

Moreover, Facebook would not be the first tech company to dabble in print media. Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos famously bought the Washington Post in 2013 and more pertinently, Google has the News Initiative Program through which it also supports a number of publishers monetarily.

"Our experience of working with Facebook has been a very positive one," commented Joanne Butcher, chief executive at the NCTJ. "The view I have is that Facebook is sincere in its hope that this will lead to the creation of more relevant, timely local news. In terms of our charitable objectives we are there to attract, train, and qualify outstanding journalists".

No particular details of where exactly these jobs will be based have been released, but the NCTJ has revealed that the salaries of those employed through the program will likely reflect a typical trainee wage, around £17,500 ($22,513) a year.

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