The great FaceBook gift to journalism

By PHILIP CAREY | 20 February 2021

Instead of hoping to get FaceBook back to the negotiating table, our politicians should be reminding Australians that they have a choice. The choice to support Australia over Facebully. To support and reward solid, accurate reporting by going to the source.

When I was a kid, I used to get bullied a lot. I was skinny with glasses, so big surprise!

But one day, after numerous harassments, threats of violence and general intimidation, from two kids in particular, I snapped.

I don’t know why but I threw down my bike and screamed OK, that’s it. Let’s go! Very dramatic and in hindsight very stupid.

But to my surprise and relief the two bullies turned and left and never bothered me again.

I learned a lot from that day and I think FaceBook is giving Australian media management and journalism the same opportunity.

It is my experience from running my own businesses that if you have something of quality people will want to buy it.

The same applies to journalism – with the exception that journalism is a bit more important as it is a vital plank on which we build democracy.

But the big bullies have managed to convince all of us that they have the levers. That they are the ones who are important. That they are the ones who call the shots.

I call bullshit.

They have conned people into believing that their reach is vital to new media’s survival. Overseas experience suggests this is not necessarily the case.

In reality, what platforms like FaceBook have done is bolster their own content offering for free, created division by pitting the irrational against the rational and the evidenced-based arguments against the fanciful made-up stuff.

A perfect environment for someone like Facebully. It is a game as old as those once played in Rome’s Colosseum.

But like most bullies, they just don’t know when to draw the line. And as a result, Facebully has given Australian society, media management and journalism an incredible gift.

We just need to sign for it. We need our politicians to hold their nerve. We need media outlets to start collectively supporting Australian journalism. We need journalists to reclaim their sense of pride in the important role they play in our free society.

They don’t need to promote any single news publisher but instead could support home-grown journalism just as they do for ‘Buy Australian’.

“Australians should remember that we have some great journalism in Australia but like many parts of Australian life, it can sometimes do with a little public support. So if you normally get your news as part of your Facebook feed, I say support Australian journalism at the source and set up a news alert at the site you trust”, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Oh, sorry. I drifted off. He didn’t say that. I just dreamt it.

And as for media management, imagine if they got together like grownups and funded an agnostic Australian news aggregation site along the lines of Apple News. Promoted correctly I could then, through one update option, get the latest news and decide which flavour I want to enjoy.

Some people will read this and dismiss it is naive. Others will say it’s too hard. Some might say I’m crazy. But the reality seems to be that we have all been conned.

When a similar situation took place in Spain with Google a few years ago it ended up no worse than a status quo in terms of people visiting local news sites, according to a research-based article by Johannes Munter – Director, Copyright and International Policy and Associate Counsel at the News Media Alliance.

The bottom line is if we keep doing the same thing we will get the same result.

If we value quality journalism, this is a great opportunity to do something about it.

Thanks, Facebully!

(Philip Carey is a journalist and the publisher / editor of Inside Market.)