Amid fake news scandal, Facebook launches effort to innovate in digital journalism



Facebook announced that it’s teaming up with the DMZ university incubator and the Ryerson School of Journalism at Ryerson University to support Canada’s efforts to advance innovation in journalism.

The move takes place amid controversy over fake news, in which Facebook played an unwitting role, that has allowed providers of false news and sensational headlines to cash in on the gullibility of the public and steer political opinions.

The aim of the Digital News Innovation Challenge with the DMZ and Ryerson University in Toronto is to transform how people create, access, and consume news. The Facebook Journalism Project, the DMZ, and the Ryerson School of Journalism at FCAD (the Faculty of Communication and Design) will support digital news efforts and early-stage tech companies that are driving innovation for journalism and news organizations.

The program will provide five startups with five months of incubation at Sandbox, the DMZ’s skills development space, which offers support for early-stage startups. Selected participants will gain access to mentors and will also be able to attend workshops designed by Canada’s leading experts in digital news. They will be able to work in a dedicated space in the heart of downtown Toronto and will be exposed to influential investors, journalists, experts, and researchers.

“Quality journalism delivers facts and ideas that help us better understand society, and each other,” said Kevin Chan, head of public policy at Facebook Canada, in a statement. “The Facebook community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, which is why it is critical for us to partner with leading organizations like the DMZ and Ryerson School of Journalism to support the Canadian news ecosystem and help these startups succeed.”

During their five-month stay, each of the finalists will receive $ 100,000 in non-dilutive seed capital and a $ 50,000 Facebook marketing budget, which will be broken up in increments. The program will culminate in a demo day when each startup will present their company to a panel of judges, mentors, and industry leaders.

“Canada is a key market where innovators, influencers, and investors are shaping the digital media sector on a global scale,” said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ at Ryerson University, in a statement. “Our goal with this Canada-wide program will be to support and stimulate innovation in journalism, while developing a more sustainable news ecosystem through ongoing collaboration between the tech and news sectors.”

Examples of innovative journalism could include looking at new ways to create and distribute content or to better serve an audience with news that is both factual and interesting. It could involve figuring out ways to give new voices access to the power of media.

As far as fake news goes, Snobar at DMZ said in an email, “In some ways, there has never been more information available to the public, but an increasing number of people are finding their news online. This has led to sensational content and falsehoods plaguing the internet. This has also had a devastating effect on the traditional news business model. However, as news organizations continue to find and engage with new audiences, the DMZ understands that today, news and social media are fused together. This is why we wanted to partner with a social media platform like Facebook to support digital news innovation.”

Founders and aspiring entrepreneurs are invited to apply.

“There has never been a more important time for innovation in journalism, to experiment with technologies and economic models,” said Janice Neil, chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism at FCAD, in a statement. “We are excited to act as mentors and bring both leading alumni and industry partners to support this project.”

Applications to the Digital News Innovation Challenge will open on January 25, 2018 and will close on March 9, 2018.

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