The leading organization of journalism educators has invited a representative from one of the most troublesome publications as the keynote speaker for its annual convention.
AEJMC describes Silverman as an “internationally renowned expert on verification and fake news.” His big story was locating pro-Trump websites in Macedonia that produced fake news. Trump has nothing to do with the websites. But I guess if you can get Trump and fake news in the same paragraph, you get a lot of page views and a lot of buzz.
What AEJMC fails to mention is the problematic role BuzzFeed plays in today’s media landscape. Moreover, it is one of the least-trusted news organizations, according to a recent survey by the University of Missouri. BuzzFeed’s credibility is less than Breitbart, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and The Blaze. In fact, Occupy Democrats, which really isn’t a source of news and information, is the only website in the survey that ranks lower than BuzzFeed.
But back to Silverman. Just a few weeks after he joined the “news” organization, BuzzFeed published the memo that alleged Russia had a dossier with which it could blackmail President Trump.
BuzzFeed published the document without any attempt to verify its claims, which have led to the continuing onslaught of Russia nonsense. I don’t intend to repeat the scandalous and unverified claims from the 35-page document.
Ironically, Silverman ignored whether his own publication dealt in fake news. Editor Ben Smith defended the January release of the salacious document. “We thought that it was important when you have a blanket claim like he was compromised by Russian intelligence to share the details,” Smith said. “I think we are trying to best inform our audience, to be true to our audience, to treat our audience with respect.”
Having spent many years doing investigative reporting, I was appalled by this statement. To simply put information into the public space—irrespective of whether it was true or false—does not qualify as journalism to me. The actions of BuzzFeed demonstrated its role as a gossip monger.
But such is the niche of BuzzFeed in today’s journalism environment. The organization is best known for its animal memes, lists, and quizzes. It is a media darling because it makes money, mainly because the organization closely monitors what people want to know rather than what people should know.
Recently, BuzzFeed has been trying to gain some credibility by expanding bureaus throughout the country and the world, including the creation of an “investigative” team.
Nevertheless, I am nonplussed and embarrassed that a group of journalism educators–an organization of which I have been a member for more than 20 years–would bless BuzzFeed and its antics. I have decided to skip the convention this year rather than give MY blessing to such “journalism.”