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Against the Algorithm

Lila LaHood, publisher, and Michael Stoll, executive director. Photo by Daphne Magnawa // San Francisco Public Press

Though the newspaper and sfpublicpress.org are still the main ways we communicate with readers, like many news organizations we’re always looking ahead toward changes in how people consume local news.

We recently tried a new way of connecting directly with readers craving insider info on city politics: Project Text, a two-month pilot in partnership with the Alpha Group at Advance Digital. We deployed veteran political reporter Joe Eskenazi to serve up daily text message tidbits — and several scoops! — around the June election. We love that so many people engaged with Joe and shared their own insights. We hope to launch another topic-focused text project this fall — stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, we encourage San Francisco news mavens to join us as eager followers of Mission Local (missionlocal.org) where Joe was recently hired as managing editor.

Many of you follow the Public Press on social media, and we will keep posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But Facebook has caused a lot of problems for journalists recently by changing its rules about what it calls “political content.” To combat fake news, the social giant started limiting distribution of journalism about politics along with political ads. This policy also applies to news stories referencing topics Facebook classifies as “national issues of public importance,” defined as: abortion, budget, civil rights, crime, economy, education, energy, environment, foreign policy, government reform, guns, health, immigration, infrastructure, military, poverty, social security, taxes, terrorism and values.

In response to pushback from media outlets and journalism organizations, Facebook modified the policy and now captures promoted news stories (i.e. whenever publishers pay for increased visibility) about political issues and political ads in separate archives. To boost stories on the platform, journalists who cover hard news now face extra layers of authorization and scrutiny.

We’ve decided not to pursue authorization for this service, which we think could have unforeseen consequences for participating news organizations. You’ll still see our stories on Facebook, but we’ll depend on organic distribution, since most of our stories will get caught in the political and issues-of-public importance-filters. We’re not alone in our thinking and are heartened to be part of a national coalition of news organizations appealing to Facebook to change these rules. We’ll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, the best and most certain way to get updates about the latest Public Press reporting and events remains our email newsletter. Sign up here — sfpublicpress.org/newsletter — and you’ll always be in the know.

Lila LaHood, publisher

Michael Stoll, executive director