Facebook hires former NBC anchor Campbell Brown to lead news partnerships team

Campbell Brown, a former television news journalist and charter school advocate, said Friday that she’s joining Facebook to lead its news partnerships team.

In an announcement on the social media site, Brown said her role at the company will be to “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook.”

“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,” she wrote. “Facebook is a major part of this transformation. This change comes with enormous challenges for journalists but also with great opportunities.”

Tensions have flared between Facebook and media organizations, which compete with one another for ad dollars, especially within the past year. Some blamed the social media site for Donald Trump’s presidential victory, pointing to fake news that spread quickly on Facebook.

About 62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media, a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center shows. And with 1.79 billion monthly active users worldwide, Facebook has a massive reach. About 66 percent of Facebook users get news on the site, according to the report.

But fake news isn’t the only challenge Facebook has been grappling with as it contends with its role in news distribution. The company was criticized in September after it pulled down an iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photo that showed a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Before that, it also faced allegations that it was suppressing conservative news stories from its trending topics section, though the tech firm has denied those claims.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been inking deals with media companies including the New York Times and CNN to stream live video. In 2015, it also partnered with news agencies to directly publish stories on the social network. Media companies, though, have also been concerned that relying too much on Facebook could drive traffic away from their news websites and hurt their business.

Facebook executives told The New York Times that Brown would not be involved in content decisions, but will be working as a liaison to news organizations.

“Being given the chance to work on these complex issues with an industry full of people I care so much about is thrilling for me,” Brown wrote.

She formerly worked as an anchor on CNN and NBC News. She also started the Partnership for Educational Justice and is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the education news website The 74.

While some applauded the pick, the 48-year-old’s ties to conservative politics also raised some eyebrows.

Brown has faced criticism from teacher unions for her support of charter schools, which she has said gives families more school choice as well.

She has ties to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary. Brown referred to DeVos as “friend” and a “born decision-maker” in a post on The 74 about Trump’s pick. DeVos has funded the education news website and Brown later recused herself from editorial involvement in the coverage of DeVos. Brown is stepping down from her editorial role at The 74, but will remain on the board.

The 48-year-old, though, has also been critical of television news coverage of Trump during the presidential campaign.

Brown is married to Dan Senor, who previously worked as the chief spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He was also the senior foreign policy adviser to U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

Photo: Campbell Brown. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

 

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