By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
October 13, 2017

Good morning.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is on a media blitz, fending off the political backlash against her company. She promised to do more to fight fake news and fraudulent ads, but took a step in the wrong direction by continuing to insist that Facebook is not a media company. “We are a technology company,” she told Axios’ Mike Allen. “We don’t employ journalists.”

I have known Sandberg for more than two decades, and consider her a friend. But I also served as president of the Pew Research Center in 2013, when it published its first report showing nearly a third of Americans were getting news from Facebook. By 2017, that had grown to nearly half. And Facebook isn’t just a distribution technology—like, say, a radio or a television. It’s a service whose algorithms profoundly influence what news gets seen. It has become the nation’s uber-editor—far more important to what news we see than any poor progeny of Ochs, Hearst, or Luce.

As for her defense that Facebook doesn’t hire journalists—well, therein lies another problem. Facebook doesn’t need to hire journalists—we do that for them. But it does sell advertising, and can profitably do so at much lower rates than any other media company because it doesn’t have to pay for content. That severely crimps the blood supply for those of us who actually employ journalists.

Which gets back to the backlash. The time has come for Facebook to step up and admit it has become a media company—indeed the most important media company in the country—and accept more responsibility for the quality of the information it provides, as all media companies must do. Until that happens, the backlash will grow.

I freely admit my bias on this one. Happy to hear from CEO Daily readers who feel otherwise. (I may even publish your responses!)

News below and enjoy the weekend.

Alan Murray


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