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Facebook’s journalism certification class is just a test on how to use Facebook

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Sorry for the failing grade, mom

Facebook today announced a new certification program for journalists to help them learn how to do their job using Facebook. The online courses, split into three snackable 15-minute sessions, were made in partnership with Poynter and aim to teach reporters how to incorporate Facebook’s tools within their storytelling. These tools include Instagram, Facebook Live, and 360-degree images and videos.

I am happy to report that I failed the certification course. By a lot.

Let’s take a step back: this is not a Facebook guide to how to be a journalist. It’s the Facebook guide to how to use Facebook. There were no questions about journalistic integrity, such as verifying your sources, fact-checking, or how to develop your interview skills. Instead, the final assessment questions ranged from technical (“Why might a journalist tag the location of a Facebook Live video broadcast?”) to random trivia about whether you can name that Facebook feature (“Which of these tools lets journalists show their audience a scene from all angles?”).

I’ll admit, I only made it past the first page of the first 15-minute course before I decided I might know enough to do the 45-minute assessment meant to be taken after you’ve read all the course material (I also breezed through the final in 12 minutes. Test-taking was never my strong suit.) It turns out, the test mostly focuses on things like optimizing posts for social engagement — aspects of online journalism I have the privilege of letting our social media and video team polish before I simply appear on camera to do my job: report.

(As I suspected, our Engagement Editor Helen Havlak passed the test with flying colors, while Executive Editor Dieter Bohn surpassed my score by 3 percent, but still failed.)

Oops.

So maybe there are writers out there who’ll boldly proclaim they are Facebook-certified journalists. And maybe that’ll make their followers trust them more as a verified news source. As for me, I’m very satisfied with my education from an accredited four-year university, for which I had to actually take editing, reporting, and journalistic law classes to complete. I hope that’s enough for you, too.