May 12, 2016

Editor’s note: On Monday, Poynter’s media ethicist, Kelly McBride, proposed an out-of-the-ordinary idea: A public editor for Facebook, someone hired by the social network to write about the company and its controversies from the public’s point of view.

As Facebook continues to deal with the fallout from an anonymously sourced report indicating its Trending Topics feature suppressed conservative news, we thought it might be fun to imagine what the job description for Facebook’s public editor might look like, along with some of its required duties.

Job Title:
Public Editor, Facebook

Overall Job Responsibilities:
The Facebook Public Editor is an independent contractor who serves as a bridge between the public and Facebook around issues of public concern. The editor is employed for a two-year period with the possibility of a two-year extension. Except for the renewal period, the contract cannot be terminated by Facebook. The editor is granted access to Facebook’s entire staff for the purpose of investigating issues and complaints. The editor publishes her findings frequently and iteratively with the assistance of an editor and a researcher, who are also paid on a contract basis.

This is a fast-paced job, and the individual must have a high tolerance for loneliness and never pleasing anyone.

Position Requirements:

  • Report directly to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO
  • Clear understanding of ethical obligations in democratic society
  • Has read John Stuart Mill and understands the role of the marketplace of ideas
  • Thick skin
  • Add transparency to the inner workings of our News Feed algorithim and Trending Topics
  • Can demonstrate a history of ethical reasoning with practical application
  • Can parse values, policies, practices and perceptions.
  • Self-awareness, particularly on social media
  • Clear and efficient writer
  • Effective and prolific communicator on Facebook, Twitter and at least two other social platforms
  • Deep research ability
  • Demonstrated history of remaining unfazed in the face of trolls
  • Interviews skills, including with hostile sources
  • Speak and translate developer
  • Communicates honestly and forthrightly with the press
  • Sort through bajillions of repetitive emails, tweets, Facebook posts and other communications to uncover new and interesting issues
  • Bravery

Workplace Environment:
Public editor must maintain offices in New York and Menlo Park, California. and be committed to splitting time equally between both locations, as well as traveling to other Facebook offices around the world. This is a desk job that involves no actual heavy lifting, (except for your suitcase) but quite a bit of metaphorical heavy lifting.

Salary and Benefits:
We could not possibly pay enough for anyone to do this job, but starting at $200,000 per year seems like a good-faith offer. Also, stock options.

You can try and take up to four weeks vacation a year, but good luck with that.

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Kelly McBride is a journalist, consultant and one of the country’s leading voices on media ethics and democracy. She is senior vice president and chair…
Kelly McBride

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