OLD Media Moves

What it’s like to cover Facebook

July 1, 2020

Posted by Chris Roush

Jacob Silverman writes for Columbia Journalism Review about the issues reporters face when covering Facebook.

Silverman writes, “Beyond the company’s dissembling, reporting on Facebook’s operations has become increasingly complex simply because of its size. The company controls the communications and informational intake of more than two and a half billion people. It can feel impossible to comprehend its total influence—or to overstate its impact on journalism. The past four years have made tech reporters out of many journalists who would otherwise confine their scope of interest to politics, culture, labor, or economics. Facebook’s reach extends across every beat.

“In conversations with more than fifteen journalists and industry observers, I tried to understand what it is like to cover Facebook. What I found was troublesome: operating with the secrecy of an intelligence agency and the authority of a state government, Facebook has arrogated to itself vast powers while enjoying, until recently, limited journalistic scrutiny. (Some journalists, like The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, have done important work linking Facebook data to political corruption in the UK and elsewhere.) Media organizations have stepped up their game, but they suffer from a lack of access, among other power asymmetries.

“Many journalists contacted for this story declined to talk out of fear of hurting relationships with Facebook’s communications shop. A number of journalists agreed to be interviewed, only to pass after speaking to their editors and PR reps. Some spoke to me off the record.”

Read more here.

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