People who believe that the news is sacred and that readers should decide which news is important and which is not will be hit by another new media tool to dash their wishes. The worry that Facebook undermines the independent consumption of news began years ago, when it became clear that much of what its users read is based only on the recommendation of their friends. Now that trend will continue, or even accelerate. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) will soon launch a news dissemination product called “Reader.”
The Wall Street Journal says of Facebook’s news project:
When Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 as a college social network, he wanted it to be a hub for users to interact with friends and classmates. Today the service is still predominantly used by consumers to keep track, via posts and photos, of friends and family. But more recently, Facebook has pushed hard to become a destination for users’ interests—a hub where they can discover news and follow real-time events and conversations.
The paper also points out that Twitter already has a way for its users to share news and information, via recommendations from people to their followers. It is yet another way that encourages people from going directly to news sources and deciding what they think is critical news and what is not.
The trouble with the social media products that “push” news from one member to another is that people with little independent judgement about news and related information rely on people whose judgment is no better. The movement toward these news recommendations often becomes the blind leading the blind. Those who are barely literate confer just as much importance, or perhaps more, on trivia from their friends as on news that the most educated people should want to know on their own.
If the majority of research about Facebook is correct, heavy users of the social network are young. Many of these people have had little experience picking their own, or being educated on what important and independent news outlets are. Rather, they look at what their friends send them, without any discernment or thought about what is critical to an understanding of the world. They have ceded that process to their “friends.”