Readability

Buzz Off, BuzzFeed!

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.

Craig Sil­ver­man, the media edi­tor of Buz­zFeed, will be fea­tured this week at the con­ven­tion of the Asso­ci­a­tion for Edu­ca­tion in Jour­nal­ism and Mass Communication.

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.”

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.

Craig Silverman, the media editor of BuzzFeed, will be featured this week at the convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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.”