If Facebook isn’t a media company, why is it offering journalism scholarships?

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 29 January 2018
Lindsay Bennett

Mark Zuckerberg has long sworn Facebook is not a media company and has maintained for years it’s a “tech company”.

This has angered critics who view Facebook akin to the most powerful newspaper on earth and blame the social network for its proliferation of fake news and echo chambers.

So why is the “tech company” offering scholarships to journalism students?

The news, released over the weekend, sees the company dole out US$1 million over the next five years to US students pursuing degrees in digital media, journalism or communications.

"The Facebook Journalism Project is committed to supporting the next generation of journalists," said head of news partnerships Campbell Brown in a blog post.

Brown joined Facebook last year from NBC where she was a news correspondent. At the time, the move was said to “help news organisations and journalists work more closely and effectively with Facebook”.

Her appointment formed part of the global ‘Facebook Journalism Project’, which was introduced to improve media ties, but so far, has garnered mixed reviews, with some execs saying it has done little to help solve their biggest issue with the platform – making money.

The scholarship announcement, paired with the introduction of the journalism project and the revamp of its News Feed, could indicate Facebook is gearing up to produce news itself - something that publishers’ have been fearful of since they became beholden to its power.

And something that Facebook has repeatedly denied it would do.

In early 2017 Zuckerberg was quoted in US publication Quartz saying “We build the tools. We don’t produce content.”

On one hand, the new move shows Facebook has finally addressed its influence on the field of journalism, but on the other, it strikes me as odd as to why Facebook would invest on education journalists to do exactly that – produce content.

A string of announcements and admissions this year prove that even Facebook, one of the world’s biggest organisations, is still working to figure out its own definition.

If it does decide to pivot towards content production, it will have detrimental ramifications for global media.

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