Can a New Partnership between Social and Traditional Media Regain Our Trust?

As a gatekeeper of the news, Facebook has done a remarkably bad job. So it’s not surprising that social media is in freefall in the trust department. Yet according to Jennifer Risi, Worldwide Chief Communications Officer Managing Director for Ogilvy & Mather, the state of trust in the media is a more complicated than that. 

“Instead of an election year blip for social media giants, ‘fake news’ seems to have taken its toll on trust across the board,” Risi writes on LinkedIn. But as that challenge has become more pervasive, the fight for solutions has become more collaborative.”

Risi bases that assertion on findings from this year’s Ogilvy & Mather Media Influence Survey of more than 350 journalists around the world. And what journalists are saying about fake news in fascinating.

“Our survey found an overwhelming majority of journalists – 68% total – believe both the news industry and social media giants like Facebook are responsible for combatting media ‘echo chambers’ and breaking down news silos,” Risi explains. 

“By contrast, only 24% believe consumers are responsible for diversifying their news sources,” she continues. “These shifts are expected to lead to more collaboration across traditional and social channels, with 38% expecting more partnerships in the coming years.”

She believes that for “real news” to continue to rebound as a trusted source, journalists must do a better job of “meeting people where they live.”

“In December 2017, Bloomberg launched the Twitter channel TicToc and reached one million daily views within a month,” Risi writes. “The channel describes itself as ‘the first 24-hour global news network streaming live on Twitter,’ and is targeted at a younger audience of 25- to 35-year old consumers. It’s since reached 50 million tweet impressions and has more than 270,000 followers. Not only is it reaching millions of viewers, but TicToc – brace yourself – expects to turn a profit by the end of the year.”

“Virality, trustworthiness and profitability all in one – imagine that!,” she writes.

Other brands are following suit, naturally – including Facebook, which is working on an alliance with traditional news channels to produce original news on their platform. While Risi is enthusiastic about the idea – she’s confident we’ll see “divisions between traditional and social media dissolve through innovative partnerships to deliver news that consumers can trust” – I don’t share her unbridled enthusiasm.

It still smacks of eyeballs and reach, which we know is part of the underlying problem that fed the fake news monster in the first place. And since Zuckerberg still shows little to no understanding of the true role of journalism in our society – and his role in damaging it – I think I could be excused some healthy skepticism. The dodgy way Facebook is ranking news outlets for trust leaves a lot to be desired. 

According to Erin Corbett writing in Fortune, the new partnership project is headed by Campbell Brown, a former CNN host and NBC News reporter who joined Facebook last year as its head of global news partnerships. 

“The goal was to begin to experiment with new formats and new ways to engage with an audience that is unique to Facebook,” Brown told CNN Money. Brown said that the point of the project was to “engage people around news, taking advantage of Facebook’s features,” rather than simply taking cuts from TV news and putting them on the social networking site.”

“CNN’s Facebook Watch program will be hosted by Anderson Cooper, who will go Live on weeknights at 6:25 p.m. ET. Shepard Smith will host the Fox program on weekday afternoons, and Jorge Ramos will travel the country and profile immigration issues on his weekly segment,” Corbett continues.

Maybe the model is a good one, and can somehow marry social media with trusted news. Or, maybe live TV-style content will go the way of Instant Articles when publishers realize that news inside a walled garden isn’t good for the brand or its viewers. For now, there’s a serious credibility gap. Can it be overcome? We’ll see.