Paper app might connect users with diverse storytellers

Facebook announced that it will launch Paper, a new mobile app, on Feb. 3. It combines a news feed with customized content based on the user's interests.

Facebook announced that it will launch Paper, a new mobile app, on Feb. 3. It combines a news feed with customized content based on the user’s interests. Pictured here is a sample interface that Facebook released on its website.

When I started this blog 30 days ago, I talked about how the future of journalism belongs to innovators who live on the edge of technology and understand how to tell compelling stories in ways that fit people’s lifestyles and news habits.

I am not equating Facebook with journalism, but certainly the social media giant’s new Paper app, which launches Feb. 3, has the potential to combine technological innovation with storytelling that matters to the individual reader.

Thursday’s announcement boasts about the app’s cool features and customization. It is designed for mobile users to see stories from their friends (in their news feed) as well as from trusted news sources on topics of interest (in “sections” that the user chooses).

For people who come from diverse cultures and cannot often find stories about their own people, the Paper app might help fill that void.

According to an article in TechCrunch, each section of the app combines stories chosen by Facebook editors and “surfaced by the Paper algorithm that have been posted publicly to Facebook by a publication, blogger, public figure, or average Joe.” TechCrunch says the goal isn’t to just pump articles by The New York Times, but also posts by “expert yet undiscovered bloggers, commentary by industry pundits, and opinions from laymen.”

Followers of my blog know that I am beyond frustrated in trying to find meaningful stories and data about Native Americans in mainstream news media. Perhaps the Paper app could help me find stories that are now flying below my radar on topics like the Affordable Care Act and how it relates to tribes. The only source I am aware of who is writing consistently about health care and Native people is independent journalist Mark Trahant.

What also interests me about this new app is that it could become another place for my friends and I to engage on topics of the day. Whereas Facebook has been a place for us to catch up on happenings with each other, the Paper app could be the place where we engage on issues that impact our lives.

My favorite real-life conversations take place when my friends and I share our views and ideas on news, politics, social issues and spirituality. The fact that I live about a thousand miles from most of my family and friends makes it difficult to have those conversations. A digital app may be the next best option.

This kind of app cannot replace newspapers, which are going through a transformation. But perhaps it can help bring diverse voices to those who are interested in hearing them. I will be interested in finding out.

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