Facebook delivers the news but keeps the profits. And it leaves you wondering at times: Where’s the journalism?
A majority of Americans say they get their news mostly from social media, more than 40 percent from Facebook. And social media get their news mostly from traditional media like newspapers, without paying for it.
I have an issue with the monetary part, in which journalists produce news and Facebook attracts people who want to read it. Facebook makes money selling ads based on the people who come to the network, while the people who produce the news aren’t compensated for their work. How long can that last without killing the goose that lays the golden egg?
I prefer to get my news in more traditional ways and look to Facebook for postings about friends and acquaintances. But I spent a morning exploring what it would be like to get my news from Facebook.
First I clicked on the trending stories.
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Dennis Rodman, the former NBA player, says he broke his penis three times. That trending story had nearly 3 million hits when I saw it Friday morning. You never know what you might learn in such an information-rich environment.
The next story was about Hugh Jackman, the actor. He’d posted a photo of himself, and the story said it had led people to comment that he looked much older than his actual age, 47. Truly disturbing news. He doesn’t look that way in the movies. Do they use makeup or something? Have we been fooled?
But maybe there’s something beneficial about that story. Some guy reading it might feel better about his all-natural self.
The third trending story was more what I’d call useful news. It was about the Perseid meteor shower, which will be viewable through Aug. 24. That had gotten only 332,449 views.
Over in the main content area was a story about tennis star Serena Williams being accused of using a muscle-building drug. It was a long, fake story in which the drug was “investigated” and found to create muscle with astounding speed. Nothing indicated the story was in fact an advertisement, except the word “sponsored” in small letters. I wondered how many people would take the piece at face value as a real news story, or just see the headline without going far enough into it to smell the prettied-up rat.
I went through the process to eliminate the ad and moved on to stuff people were posting.
Lots of people posted pictures of food or of themselves with food: fermented shark, naan, chips and salsa. There were kittens and puppies and babies, too, always cute, and presidential candidates, not so cute.
People posted videos of exciting performances and touching moments from the Olympics. And there were some posts that sought to inform.
Social media, including Facebook, have made it possible for more voices to address social issues. That is a benefit for everyone who is willing to pay attention.
There was a posting about the film “The Great Wall,” which stars Matt Damon as the one guy who can save China. It’s a Chinese-made movie that fits an old Hollywood pattern of having a white hero save other people, and it has drawn criticism from Asian Americans for perpetuating that pattern.
The narrator in the post asks, why does a white guy always have to be central? It’s part of an ongoing effort by Asian Americans in the entertainment business to challenge how they and other people of color are treated in films and on television.
Some issues come up regularly because they are hot topics now. There was a video of jail officers hurting a woman in a jail in Albuquerque, N.M. She was crying, and the guards wanted her to stop. “Twist her wrist until she shuts up and stops crying,” one officer tells another.
After watching that, I skipped the video of a dog jumping through a hoop. But I did watch a video and read a story about Albuquerque’s mayor, the first Republican elected to that job in 30 years, and a program he started to deal with homelessness.
The city pays homeless people who agree to participate $9 an hour to work on cleanup projects around the city. Mayor Richard Berry believes in the importance of work, so he uses jobs to address homelessness. And, according to the story, people who’ve participated have been connected to needed services, regular jobs and places to live. Somebody used Facebook to spread the news.
That’s good. I just wish Facebook would spread a little of the wealth.