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An endowment fund from Facebook for news organizations wouldn’t solve the news industry’s problems

Charlie Beckett, Medium

You might have heard: Facebook is trying to “smooth over relationships” with news organizations, hosting a series of off-the-record meetings with journalists discussing topics such as “fake news” and “Facebook’s huge clout in the media industry” (BuzzFeed News) and Emily Bell argues that Facebook should create an endowment fund that would be distributed by a board of trustees to newsrooms (CJR)

But did you know: “I don’t think that adds up to a recipe for an industry-changing ‘transfer of wealth’ to journalism from the social networks,” Charlie Beckett writes in response to Bell’s idea for a Facebook endowment fund. “The problem is not just that the platforms are attracting the old advertising revenue, but that too much of old mainstream media was not good enough and duplicated its efforts  —  a thousands brands recycling agency copy and attending the same press conferences. The business model problems are real but (apart from local news) what is remarkable is a) how few traditional news media businesses have disappeared and b) how many new ones have sprung up.”

+ Steven Waldman argues in favor of an idea similar to Bell’s: “If the leaders of [Facebook and Google] put the equivalent of just 1 percent of their profits, for five years, to the cause, local American journalism would be transformed for the next century. That would be $4.4 billion — enough to establish a permanent endowment to fund local journalism. That would produce about $200 million in income a year, more than 15 times the current philanthropic spending on investigative journalism — and enough for about 50 new investigative reporters in each state, or to underwrite the technology operations of most nonprofit news organizations.” (New York Times)

+ Mathew Ingram: “The three major questions that these proposals spark are: 1) Do technology companies or their founders actually have a duty to do this? 2) Is there any realistic chance that this might actually come to pass? and 3) Would it solve any of journalism’s real problems if it did happen?” (Fortune); Dave Winer argues in response to Bell’s idea that journalism needs to come up with a “plan B”: “Yes we need journalism, but the journalism we need is not what Bell describes, we need something re-born out of the web” (Scripting News)

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