Depending on your point of view, Facebook, Inc. (FB) has been either an important partner to traditional news outlets or a combative opponent. The criticism it has received regarding fake news suggests that it has steered closer to the latter. But that may soon change.
Facebook seems ready to repair its relationships with news outlets by hiring Campbell Brown, a former CNN prime-time host, to lead its news partnerships team. Brown, who has also worked for NBC News as a correspondent, will start her new role immediately. According to her Facebook post on Friday, she will "help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook." (See also: Why Facebook Stock Rose 7% Last Week.)
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media giant took tons of blame for what some critics perceived as its role in affecting November's U.S. presidential election. Beyond the fake news, Facebook took flack for hurting the businesses of certain media companies considered to be more legitimate. Can Brown – who will work with media outlets that publish content on Facebook – smooth over the company’s strained ties?
According to the New York Times, Brown "will work as a liaison with news organizations." The goal is not only to help Facebook meet its journalistic and business goals but also to bring much needed credibility to the site. In other words, news outlets don't want to have to worry about their association with Facebook. (See also: Facebook's 2016: A Year in Review.)
The position is a new one for Facebook. Despite being known as a content provider, the company does not produce its own content but relies heavily on its users’ posts. As its user growth approaches saturation, however, it will become harder for Facebook to acquire not only new content but also get the content people want. And with the concerns about fake news emerging, Facebook – which seemingly wants to be media company – needs news sources it can rely on.
To that end, Brown’s role is an important one. And while the company insists it wants to be an authentic voice for all people, Facebook may have no choice but to establish an editor-in-chief type of role if it wants to be taken seriously as a media company. Brown’s hire, for now, is a good first step. (See also: Facebook Is Using AI to Tackle Fake News.)