Facebook has hired a top TV journalist who thinks “hunger for ratings” created Donald Trump

Published January 7, 2017 by lagmen
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook said last month that it was seeking a “news executive” with at least 20 years of experience to manage its relationships with media organizations around the world. The head of news partnerships, Facebook wrote in a job posting, would be an internal coordinator and “public-facing voice of Facebook and its role in the news ecosystem.” The company has found that person in Campbell Brown, a veteran of cable news and controversial school reform advocate.

It’s unclear how much influence Brown will have over Facebook’s editorial strategy—insofar as one exists—and the content privileged by its algorithms. Facebook executives told the New York Times that Brown will not function as an editor in chief who makes content decisions for the company. In a Facebook post today, Brown said she will work directly with news organizations “to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism, and contribute value to their businesses.”

Facebook laid out several steps it is taking to eliminate the “worst of the worst” fake news from its platform last month, around the same time that it listed the opening for the news partnerships job. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brown made her name working in TV journalism, first as a co-anchor with Lester Holt on NBC News’ Weekend Today and as a substitute anchor for Brian Williams, then with her own eponymous show on CNN. She departed the latter in May 2010 after “Campbell Brown” failed to produce sufficient viewer numbers, especially compared to Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” and MSNBC’s “Countdown.” At the time, Brown spoke candidly about the pressure she felt to shed her “journalistic skin” and inhabit “a persona” to succeed in the industry.

Brown sharpened that critique last year, blaming cable news and its obsession with ratings for the success of Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign. “TV news has largely given Trump editorial control,” she wrote in Politico Magazine in April. “It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain.”

That stance will put Brown in an odd position at Facebook, where she will aim to convince journalists around the world that partnering with the social media giant does not constitute a similar deal with the devil. Like the cable industry, Facebook has been heavily criticized for promoting sensational, hyper-partisan, and outright false stories that fueled Trump’s rise. Many media outlets are also wary of Facebook, having seen their businesses dependent upon its increasing control over advertising and content distribution.

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