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Facebook hires ex-NBC anchor to head news partnerships team

Campbell Brown says she'll work on the "complex issues" around Facebook News.
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Campbell Brown (right) at AOL's Huffington Post studio in 2014. Huffington Post

Facebook has hired former CNN and NBC anchor Campbell Brown to head its news partnerships department and help it deal with a spate of recent problems around its news feed. In the newly-created position, Brown will "help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook," she wrote on her Facebook page. The social network no doubt helps she can help deal with fake news, strained relations with media companies and other issues.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said earlier this year that "we are a tech company, not a media company." However, in a Facebook Live chat with COO Sheryl Sandberg, he softened that stance, acknowledging that "Facebook is a new kind of platform ... it's not a traditional media company. You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it's used."

Nevertheless, many media companies including the New York Times and Vox started creating strategies around Facebook Live and other features on the site to promote stories and even earn revenue. However, last summer Zuckerberg & Co. tweaked the algorithms to show your friends' posts ahead of everything else, to the consternation of some news outlets.

I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism.

With 1.8 billion users, the site has an outsize impact on current events, and many pundits said a spate of fake Facebook news helped sway the presidential election in Donald Trumps' favor. Zuckerberg denied those claims at first, but has since tacitly acknowledged that it's a problem by asking users to help fight it. Facebook has also started using third-party fact checkers to curb false or misleading articles.

Brown -- who is married to a prominent Republican policy advisor -- was brought on with all that in the background, and acknowledges that Facebook has played a "major part" in the "massive transformation" of the news business. Nevertheless, she won't be acting as a sort of editor-in-chief for the site as some media heads want, Facebook executives told the New York Times.

Instead, she was hired for her savvy in the news industry as co-anchor of NBC's Weekend Today, lead CNN anchor and White House correspondent. "I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism," she said. "That also means making sure there is ongoing feedback from publishers as Facebook develops new products and tools for news organizations."

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