Are you a disaffected journalist, wary of conventional media companies and worn down from the perpetual limbo of freelancing? Facebook may have just the job for you.
The social network recently announced the new position of Journalist Program Manager on their media partnerships team, whose role will be to "utilize both partnership and program management skills to help journalists understand the value of using Facebook, get started, and use it effectively over time." The current listed responsibilities of the job include:
- Lead development of strategic programs and projects which help journalists use Facebook progressively as a reporting and distribution tool
- Identify and document best practices for journalists, including creating content and case studies
- Speak at industry conferences and partner events related to journalism and social media
- Counsel individual journalists on how to use Facebook
- Provide hands on leadership of cross-functional projects to engage journalists in conjunction with the partnership and marketing teams
- Serve as an advocate for journalists within Facebook, and identify new product and partnership opportunities
- Develop relationships with key industry and academic institutions with journalism programs
The new position seems fairly blase on the surface, but it represents more than an organizational reshuffling. Facebook has been working closely with media companies since the launch of their Facebook + Media program last summer, helping brands leverage the social network's massive sharing infrastructure to spur growth in audience and traffic, increase engagement and gain valuable customer insights. As I wrote in December, Facebook is in the business of media infrastructure: the company has managed to build a system highly attractive to advertisers and marketers without producing original content itself. Other "Internet portals" like Yahoo and AOL (and even Google) have experimented with producing their own media, but Facebook has been happy to stay out of the content game.
Instead of simply providing services to larger media companies, Facebook is now retooling to assist individual journalists as a reporting tool.
"Last summer we announced new efforts focused on helping media organizations make their products more social," said Andrew Noyes, Facebook's manager of public policy communications and a former journalist himself. "In addition to working with media organizations, we're also committed to working with journalists to provide them with the platform they need to engage with their readers and advance their stories through social tools. Journalists have always listened to the people in their communities and brought together their collective voice by telling their stories. Facebook makes it possible to bring this practice online, and make it faster, more accessible and more efficient."
Facebook isn't looking to change the way journalists operate, but build on the current convergence of social media and reporting. "We've already seen amazing examples of how Facebook can be used in the reporting process from the Basetrack photographers and Ian Shapira's Washington Post story, 'A mother's joy and a family's sorrow,' and in engaging with readers from NPR's Andy Carvin and the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof," Noyes said. "We're only just beginning to see what's possible with social journalism, as innovative reporters are telling stories and reaching their audiences through Facebook Platform (apps, plugins, open graph, login) and Facebook products and features (Pages and status updates)."
In light of the role Facebook and Twitter played as essential reporting tools amid the unrest in the Middle East, Facebook's journo-centric approach may prove a serious boom for conflict reporters and beyond. The deal will benefit Facebook, too: if the familiar trope of "the medium is the message" remains true (and, like most cliches, it does), Facebook will be able to establish itself as a crucial component of narrative journalism without having to produce a single scrap of original content.