Facebook reboots its role with media with a 'news tab'

The company is in discussions to bring the feature to other countries

Facebook began rolling out its dedicated "news tab" with professionally produced content - the latest move by the social network to promote journalism and shed its reputation as a platform for misinformation. The tab, being tested with some US users, will be separate from a user's normal feed and include articles from partner news organisations - making a clear distinction between journalism and stories shared by users from a wide range of sources to combat fake news.

Topic sections will include business, entertainment, health, science and technology, and sports.

For now the company announced that it would begin an initial test rollout which would "showcase local original reporting" from publications in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, Miami, Atlanta and Boston. 

"This is going to be the first time ever there will be a dedicated space on the (Facebook) app that is focused on high-quality journalism," Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told an audience in New York in a joint appearance with CEO Robert Thomson of News Corp, one of the partners in the project.

The mix of stories in Facebook News will be then determined by algorithmic "personalisation" based on a user's preferences and data, with journalists choosing some of the stories. This would give users "more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests, directly within the Facebook app."

"We want to do something like this across the world as well," Zuckerberg said.

For the new feature to become a reality the social network has partnered with some 200 news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, CBS News, BuzzFeed, Fox News, the Boston Globe, Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. As part of these partnerships Facebook is expected to pay some of the news organisations - reportedly millions of dollars in some cases - but has yet to disclose full details.

Zuckerberg defended the inclusion of partners some criticise as politically partisan such as the right-wing outlet Breitbart, saying the news tab "needs to have a diversity of views."

Nevertheless, the move represents Facebook's effort to reboot its relationship with news organisations, many of which have been critical of the platform for failing to curb the spread of misinformation and for taking much of the online ad revenue.

Thomson, the News Corp CEO who last year denounced what he called a "dysfunctional" online landscape that made it hard for publishers to thrive, welcomed the Facebook initiative in the joint appearance with Zuckerberg.

"It is a powerful precedent that will echo around editorial departments," said Thomson, whose company includes the Wall Street Journal.

"It begins to change the terms of trade for quality journalism."

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