With the Wind Out of Its Sails, a Battered BuzzFeed News Forges On

A few weeks ago, BuzzFeed News revealed a presentation about a group home operator for the disabled owned by the private conglomerate KKR. In a nearly 6,000-word feature, a team of four BuzzFeed reporters revealed that residents were “deposited to live in cramped conditions, denied basic medical care, or all but abandoned.” . While KKR says it “totally disagrees[d]“With this installment, BuzzFeed has the receipts to back it up, including state inspection reports and disturbing video footage, both of which were published alongside the story. It’s the kind of mission that makes the newsroom bleed, a fiery public interest probe that uncovers runaway nefarious behavior and corporate greed. But BuzzFeed’s well-deserved win was bittersweet. As Kurt Andersen observe on Twitter“It’s ironic how this essential year-long story exposing the horrors of America’s financialization is one of the final achievements of the @BuzzFeedNews investigative unit, which has disbanded due to @BuzzFeed going public a few months ago.”

The investigations are one of four newsroom groups targeted for acquisitions this spring — also science, politics and inequality — as part of BuzzFeed’s latest exercise in downsizing. . Now combined with HuffPost and Complex Networks, both of which were bought last year and have been struggling with a plunging share price since it went public in December, Jonah PerettiThe 16-year-old digital publishing phenomenon no longer seems able (or willing) to subsidize such a rampant news body, but never mind that BuzzFeed News has always been a reputable source for brands. larger brand, putting it on bombshell maps like the Steele dossier and the Pulitzer Prize-winning series on China’s mass detention of Muslims. The news division has a new mission to become profitable in its own right, requiring further downsizing after two previous cullings.

As for the influence BuzzFeed News wields in the collective media consciousness, a great deal of wind has been taken out of the site’s sails with the departure of its founding editor-in-chief. Ben Smith in early 2020, part of BuzzFeed’s seemingly methodical talent hunt by The New York Times. The site has grown tremendously under the leadership of Mark Schoofs, a veteran investigative journalist. But with the news of the latest cuts came a similar piece of news in the spirit that Schoofs would be stepping down, along with his two top lieutenants, the deputy editor. Tom Namako and executive investigative editor Ariel Kaminer. (Schoofs had a memorable farewell on April 20 when three employees called to his farewell dinner in LA and FaceTimed himself received BuzzFeed-themed tattoos.) As Peretti put it in a BuzzFeed-wide email on March 22, minutes before the company’s launch. On its first earnings call, “BuzzFeed News will need to go smaller” and “prioritize the coverage areas that our audience is most connected to.” (For its Q1 earnings, announced Monday, the company touted a 26% increase in revenue year-over-year to $91.6 million, although it also posted a net loss of 44 ,6 million dollars.)

This isn’t a BuzzFeed News claim — at least not yet. After the acquisitions, the trickle begins — about 30 people in total — the total number of newsroom heads will fall between 70 and 80. This is down from 250 at its height. , but still a respectable number. The tables that are still intact cover breaking news, culture, celebrities, health and technology, which were the team responsible for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Uighur series. The political contingent will be greatly reduced, but at least not non-existent. “We will review midterms,” a source assured me. And the search for Schoofs’ successor is entering the discussion, led by Peretti and the interim editor-in-chief. Samantha Henig. They’ve narrowed the field to a handful of candidates, including at least one candidate from outside, who have now submitted memos describing their vision for the site. However, no matter how you slice it, it’s hard not to treat BuzzFeed News like a deflated balloon, a smaller force than the towering gladiator it became during the digital revolt of the 2010s, when BuzzFeed and its ilk had heritage stores like Times sweat like a bath.

BuzzFeed News Investigations sunset makes that reality bare. Created by Schoofs in 2013, the 16-person unit is known to outperform its weight, creating enterprise features that stand up to larger publications and deeper resources. BuzzFeed News made it to the Pulitzer finalists in 2021 thanks to a 108-news collaboration called FinCEN Files, which senators say has spurred major anti-money laundering reform. The site is also in competition for the Pulitzer Prize for the seven-part horror film from 2017 about the Kremlin assassination program in the United Kingdom, which has been adapted into books and archives. released this month on Sky TV in the UK The site’s 2017 investigation into a crooked Chicago police detective has won a Polk Award and helped lead to dozens of people being released or cleared. Kaminer, who joined BuzzFeed from the show Times in 2015 and has been the investigative editor since 2019. “And we got every support imaginable to make that happen, at every stop, straight to Jonah.” (There’s nothing stopping BuzzFeed News from doing future investigations, just won’t have the same pace or firepower.)

Kaminer’s team is going out with a bang – five major investigations over the past five weeks, from a display of dormitory homes owned by KKR to an investigation into a UK counter-terrorism programme, problematic child abuse registry, and the acquittal and ill-treatment of men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer. They published their swan song Wednesday morning: a 5,000-word opus relating to alleged fraudulent companies operating on the Visa and Mastercard networks. From what I’ve heard, the general feeling right now isn’t realistic anyway, but Kaminer has adopted a more upbeat style. “Initially, it was heartbreaking to think that it was all coming to an end, the team was dispersing,” she said. “But five major investigations in five weeks was just such a triumphant exit that we all felt strangely excited.”

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/05/a-battered-buzzfeed-news-forges-on With the Wind Out of Its Sails, a Battered BuzzFeed News Forges On

Sarah Ridley

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