This past year, I had a student in Washington who was really into BuzzFeed, for many reasons, including lots of valid ones.
Like it or not, she said, the mainstream press was going to have to come to terms with key elements of the BuzzFeed business model, especially the idea of breaking stories down into humorous and entertaining listicles that force profitable mouse clicks. This concept, she added, could save the news industry by helping young readers develop habits of news consumption.
I asked: But what about basic news? How do these digital-era concepts apply to the coverage of daily hard news about topics that, like it or not, are essential to life and public discourse? Her reply was blunt: That doesn't matter since young readers won't read those kinds of news stories anyway.
I was also worried about continuing efforts to erase the line between news coverage and editorial writing, in the snarky new listicles, first-person features and in the waves of "reported blogging" pieces that are spreading through the websites of conventional newsrooms. Oh yes, and things like the Twitter blast at the top of this post.
Then there was that famous statement by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith (see my post "From old Kellerism to new BuzzFeed") that bluntly stated:
“We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”
Smith later said, in a Hugh Hewitt interview (transcript here) explained his newsroom's open celebration of the 5-4 Obergefell decision: