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Facebook paying $5M to local journalists as part of newsletter focus

Facebook paying $5M to local journalists as part of newsletter focus
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Facebook said Thursday it is committing $5 million towards paying local journalists for coverage in their communities as part of the tech giant’s new newsletter platform. 

Independent journalists chosen from the pool of applicants will enter into a deal with Facebook that includes a multiyear licensing fee to give the writers “time to build a relationship” with their audience, Facebook said in the announcement. 

The deal will also give the chosen journalists monetization tools starting with subscriptions, and access to experts, information and services “designed to make it easier to start and build an independent business.”

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The journalists will commit to “regularly publish” public-interest journalism focused on a local community, according to the announcement. 

Facebook’s announcement did not share details on how many journalists it plans to select, or how the payment structure will be built. 

Facebook spokesperson Erin Miller told The Hill the $5 million will cover the multiyear licensing fees for the writers, as well as support the services they receive for the project, but she said Facebook will not disclose terms of the deals. 

Miller also declined to detail how many journalists will be selected, but said “we’re committed to local writers making up a meaningful percentage of the initial writers using the platform.”

The application closes on May 20. Independent writers who live in the U.S. and are applying to cover local news “in a defined local community” are eligible to apply. 

Facebook said it is prioritizing applicants who will “extensively cover Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian or other audiences of color,” and who intend to cover communities that are not served by an existing media company. 

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The announcement comes about a month after Facebook announced plans for its newsletter platform, following the rising success of the Substack platform. 

Substack earlier this month announced a similar $1 million initiative to pay local journalists

The launch of Facebook’s program aimed at supporting local journalists comes after years of friction between local news publishers and the tech giant. 

The controversy came to a head earlier this year as Australia put forward a plan to require Facebook and Google to pay news publishers to share their content. 

Facebook even cut off the ability for news stories to be viewed and shared in Australia amid negotiations, but ultimately restored the ability after reaching an agreement that would give the platform more time before being forced into a government-run arbitration process. 

In the U.S., Facebook faces a similar battle with the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. The bill was reintroduced last month with bipartisan support

The U.S. bill doesn't go as far as the Australian approach in forcing arbitration. It would instead establish a temporary four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for news outlets that would allow publishers to negotiate collectively with digital content distributors, such as Google and Facebook.

--Updated 12:38 p.m.