Facebook has tapped Campbell Brown, a former television news anchor and a charter school advocate, to lead its news partnerships team. Brown will be charged with easing tension between the media and Facebook, which have clashed over the social media giant’s role in disseminating the news, its censorship of news photos, and its proliferation of false and misleading stories.
Brown announced her new role, fittingly, on Facebook — with a nod to rocky relationship between her new employer and her former coworkers in journalism. “This is a different role for me, but one where I will be tapping my newsroom experience to help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook,” she wrote. “Right now we are watching a massive transformation take place in the news business — both in the way people consume news and in the way reporters disseminate news. Facebook is a major part of this transformation.”
Facebook said Brown would work on news partnerships but would not be taking on an editorial role or setting content policy for the company. As Facebook has faced backlash over censorship and fake news, some observers have called on the company to appoint a public editor who would explain the company’s opaque editorial decisions to its users, but that’s not the role Brown received.
Instead, Brown will show media companies how to leverage Facebook in order to reach broader audiences and will receive feedback from publishers as the company creates new features for them.
Facebook emphasized Brown’s experience running a news organization, pointing to her work on The 74, a publication focused on education. Brown previously worked as an anchor on CNN. More recently, she’s campaigned for charter schools and against tenure for teachers.
Facebook also stressed that it’s too early for speculation about what Brown will do, but we have a few guesses. Given her background in television and Facebook’s recent push to get users more engaged with its Live video streaming feature, it’s possible that we’ll see Facebook nudging publishers toward Live.
Brown is also likely to have a hand in Facebook’s Instant Articles, the platform Facebook offers to publications that hosts their content and allows it load faster in News Feed. News outlets have squirmed over allowing Facebook to control their articles in this format and Facebook has recently admitted several mistakes in Instant Articles metrics, impacting publications’ ability to measure their web traffic.
Additional reporting by Josh Constine.