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2017-01-06 17:02:16
Facebook Hires Campbell Brown to Lead News Partnerships Team

Facebook is turning to a former television news journalist to help smooth over its strained ties to the news media, which views it as both a vital partner and a potentially devastating opponent.

It has hired Campbell Brown, a former NBC News correspondent and CNN prime-time host, to lead its news partnerships team, starting immediately.

The position is a new one for Facebook. In the role, Ms. Brown will “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook,” she wrote on her Facebook page Friday afternoon.

The addition of Ms. Brown comes as Facebook is struggling with its position as a content provider that does not produce its own content — that is, as a platform, not a media company.

Facebook’s ambivalence in applying editorial judgment to the information coursing through its site has repeatedly drawn the company into trouble.

In the past few months, Facebook has faced criticism for giving too much prominence to fake news; for censoring an iconic Vietnam War photo of a naked girl fleeing a bombing attack as offensive content; and for allegations that members of its now-disbanded “trending topics” team penalized news of interest to conservatives. In recent months, Facebook has taken several steps to try to limit the exposure of fake news on its site, including working with a group of news organizations.

Facebook executives emphasized that Ms. Brown’s role was not to act as the sort of editor in chief that some commentators, including Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post media columnist, have said it needs. They said she would not be involved in content decisions.

Rather, they said, she will work more closely as a liaison with news organizations so that Facebook can better meet their journalistic and business imperatives and lessen some of their suspicion about the social media giant.

In recent years, Ms. Brown has emerged as a major player in the pitched political battles over charter schools, prominently clashing with teachers unions while advocating against teachers tenure. She is married to Dan Senor, a Republican foreign policy adviser and former White House adviser, who is making his own media foray with a bid to buy the Israeli financial newspaper Globes. And, during the campaign Ms. Brown was critical of Donald J. Trump.

But Facebook executives said they were hiring Ms. Brown for her understanding of the news industry as a one-time White House correspondent, co-anchor of “Weekend Today” and primary substitute anchor of “Nightly News” at NBC News, and prime-time anchor on CNN, which she left in 2010.

Facebook’s relationship with the news media is, at best, in frenemy territory.

Facebook relies on major news organizations — including The New York Times — for reliable news content. News organizations in turn rely on Facebook for distribution to its 1.8 billion users, who are increasingly turning to its newsfeed for information instead of to news organizations’ own home pages.

That shift has enabled Facebook to eat up a huge share of the online advertising market, contributing to devastating consequences for the ad-supported news organizations. So, Facebook has gotten double blame in recent months for enabling the circulation of false news items while contributing to the financial pressures that are causing the ongoing, national wave of newsroom buyouts and layoffs.

Facebook executives said Ms. Brown would help find better accommodations between Facebook and its journalistic partners so that both find the partnerships equally worthwhile — whether through Facebook Live, its Instant Articles feature or its newsfeed.

The company does have some seasoned journalists in its ranks. But it does not have any in a senior position working on its newsroom partnerships, contributing to a disconnect between the company and news organizations when discussing how to collaborate on projects.