Save Local News, Facebook and Google to the Rescue?

Have you ever wondered how the roads are before going on a trip in the winter when it’s snowing? This happens to me quite often in the upper midwest where I live. When it does, I always try to find a local, very recent report of the road conditions. Where do I look?

Sometimes people post information on Facebook or Twitter about the roads being icy. So I check it out but end up scrolling way too long without coming across anything about roads. I try searching but that doesn’t work. The information I’m looking for is just too recent. Maybe there’s something on TV or radio. Nothing immediately accessible except current temperature and forecasts.

There’s always the 511 weather app for smartphones that tracks road conditions. It is helpful. But it would be nice to get an actual report from someone who was or still is on the road.

Another example. You see a huge billowing cloud of smoke in the distance. It looks bad. You wonder what’s burning.

Again, looking on Facebook or Twitter may or may not get the information you want. Where is it. What happened. Who’s involved. Is help on the way? You check the local newspaper website, but they don’t have anything yet. You want to know as soon as possible because you’re concerned. But nothing.

One more example. There’s a local high school basketball game happening and you are unable to attend. You’re very interested in the game for one reason or another. You really want to know what’s happening and who is winning. The game isn’t being broadcast on radio or TV because your town doesn’t do that. If someone would provide updates about the game that’s what you need.

There’s a demand for Local up-to-the-minute News Reporting. People want to know local news. And not just local news but sometimes very recent news.

I know this is true because I’ve wanted it myself. I also know it’s true because both Google and Facebook are working on a solution. They wouldn’t be working on it if there wasn’t a demand for it.

Bulletin, by Google, powered by Citizen Journalists, Local Media and Newspapers not needed

Bulletin is a Google “app for contributing hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone. Bulletin makes it effortless to put a spotlight on inspiring stories that aren’t being told”. It’s new, only available in two cities (as of Feb, 2018), and still being tested. I can see a demand for this. It’s basically a good idea. People can benefit from it.

But does it HURT existing local media businesses? It could take away their customers. Even though it doesn’t replace the journalistic talent of news reporters.

Good reporting can’t be replaced by the general public. Some reporting can, but not thorough, well researched, well written reporting. There’ll always be a job for reporters. Or should I say, there’ll always be a need. The question is who will those professional reporters work for?

If citizen reporting puts the local news media out of business who will pay the professional reporters? Can Google and Facebook actually put the local news media out of business? Not that they want to but they could still cause it to happen. Craigslist and other classifieds websites including Facebook groups have hurt revenue for newspaper classifieds. Online news has hurt printed subscription revenue. So yes, Google and Facebook will certainly not hesitate to move forward simply because they don’t want to hurt local news media or put someone out of business.

The citizen reporters can’t replace professional journalists in terms of the quality and depth of news stories. But the amount of content that can be generated by the general public could be much larger than what the local news media can possibly provide. It could lower the need for the local news media by diminishing the number of people consuming content from the local media. If people can get their news, news that is generated by the general public, directly from the Google “Bulletin” app, or from Facebook, why would they need the local media organizations?

Facebook “Today in” – Prioritizing news stories from local news sources

Facebook wants you to get your local news. They want you to be happy. They care about you. That’s what they say. Do you believe it?

They definitely want you to be a Facebook user. They want you to use Facebook for everything you do on the internet. As much as possible. They don’t want you to get “Fake” news via their website. Fake news helped elect President Trump. At least that’s what they think.

Facebook wants you to get real news. But they want you to use Facebook to find it. They have announced that they’re prioritizing local news because it’s better for you. They figure it’s less likely to be fake.

Whether you believe that Facebook is concerned about you or not, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that Facebook has the capability to control what you see in your Facebook news feed.

Facebook is now (2018) testing a new section called “Today in”. It’s a feed made up entirely of local news, events and announcements. Content from local newspapers and other local media that have been selected by Facebook would be allowed in the feed. But not content that hasn’t been approved by Facebook. This selection process is to prevent “Fake” news.

How does Facebook know which media sources to choose and which to omit? That’s up to Facebook. They’ll be in control. They’ll control the news people see in the feed.

What do you think about Facebook, Google and Local News?

It’s convenient to use Facebook to find local news. Especially if you’re used to being in Facebook anyway. Although it’s not that hard to open a browser and search for your local news website, it’s still a little more work to do that. However. It’s probably a good idea to go directly to the news source rather than letting Facebook or Google offer stories they think are best for you.

I think that Facebook, Google, and Amazon are kind of taking over things a little too much. It may come to a point where the government has to step in and do something. Similar to stopping a monopoly. I think capitalism is good and limited government is good. But it might be getting a little too good for these big internet giants. We’ll see.

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