On Friday, former NBC and CNN journalist, turned education activist, Campbell Brown announced that she was joining Facebook as a liaison to news organizations. She will lead the “News Partnerships” team at Facebook according to a post on her Facebook page:
This month I will be joining Facebook to lead its News Partnerships team. This is a different role for me, but one where I will be tapping my newsroom experience to help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook. I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism . . .
The announcement made me think about how big a part of the Facebook experience news and politics have become. This has been part of a very self-conscious plan, since roughly 2013, to turn Facebook into a “personalized [digital] newspaper.”
Some people now get the majority of their news (broadly defined) through their News Feeds. According to Pew survey data released last year, “A majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media. That’s up from 49% in 2012.
Six in Ten Get Their News from Social Media
Two-thirds of Facebook users get news on Facebook. It’s also the primary news source for Millennials. Though I don’t pay close attention to news in my feed, my wife and many others I know do get a substantial amount of news from Facebook.
At a holiday gathering recently one of our friends was saying she (40+) had completely shifted away from Facebook to Instagram because she was so tired of the political tirades from her connections, leading up to and following the election — I have been guilty of some of that myself (tirading). She complained about both Clinton and Trump supporters ranting in her feed.
There has been lots of unfriending on Facebook in the run up to and in the aftermath of the election. You’re also familiar with the whole fake news controversy and how bogus stories, some planted by Russia, may have influenced some voters. Facebook is now trying to address fake news in several ways.
Facebook’s tag line or mission is “to make the world more open and connected.” It has done that to varying degrees but with the emphasis on making it a news platform — and the inevitable political discussions/arguments that has inspired — Facebook has also inadvertently helped create echo chambers where any information that contradicts preferred positions is screened out. In this way it has arguably helped harden positions.
Any internet platform as large and successful as Facebook, which is driven by the logic of a public company, is under constant pressure to grow, evolve and innovate. News was a logical — even inevitable — place for Facebook to go. But it may well have been a mistake.