Politics

The Reason Why BuzzFeed Cannot Stand Journalism Competing With Their Activism

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Christopher Bedford Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation

“There are not two sides.”

That’s not true, but it’s a quote from the editor in chief of BuzzFeed. And it could be the motto for all activists determined to make sure they’re the only voice in the room on marriage, life, education, family and politics. The silencing of other journalistic voices is a mission many have pushed since Hillary Clinton lost her last election, and it resurfaced just last week when BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith complained that The Daily Caller was, per usual, represented at a publishers’ meeting convened by Facebook. (Josh Earnest Forced To Cite First Amendment FOUR TIMES, As Press Corps Insists White House Censor News)

Ben, “the famously pugnacious editor … was confused as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” the drama club tells us, so he scampered to other news outlets to dish on how the explicitly off-the-record meeting was totally unfair. He even wrote TheDC’s publisher a long letter about how he hadn’t paid enough attention to Ben’s hot scoop (that a tax-code opinion writer in D.C. got a paycheck).

Somehow, one of BuzzFeed’s own reporters obtained Ben’s letter to TheDC, and while his boss tattled to outside reporters, the intrepid BuzzFeeder insists Ben wasn’t the source of the letter Ben wrote.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is all very stupid, but there’s actually a good reason for Ben to be worried. For years, he and likeminded activists have been the only voice in a lot of rooms.

There hasn’t been reporting that disagrees with the basic tenets of his “no-two-sides” world view.

Ben was fine, he said, with some of the center-right opinion journals present at the meeting. And I bet he was, because for decades, storied magazines were largely restricted to dealing with news reported and broken by reporters antagonistic to conservative views. They weren’t investigating the people conservatives might have investigated, asking the questions conservatives might ask, or chasing the stories conservatives might have chased. Even the best and brightest opinion journals stick mainly to the realm of opinion and not news-reporting. (RELATED: The Media Is Consolidating Power After A Disastrous Election)

It’s very, very rare, for example, that an opinion writer would uncover that BuzzFeed “created dozens of native political ads for anti-Trump super PACs in 2016 that were ‘based off mounds and piles and troves of data and information’ it had [admittedly] collected on its own users.” (RELATED: How BuzzFeed’s ‘Data-Monster’ Leveraged User Data To Fuel Super PACs, Target Voters)

It’s very uncommon that an opinion writer would uncover that, despite the Federal Elections Commission requirement to identify who pays for and authorizes political messages, “12 of the super PAC posts on BuzzFeed’s website reviewed by TheDCNF did not contain a disclaimer notice within their posts.” (RELATED: The Call To Censor Bad News Isn’t New, Doesn’t Make Sense, And Should Frighten You A Great Deal)

Nearly all media organizations and platforms that create native advertising or allow their data to be used in messaging protect their own reputations from accusations of bias by offering the same services to all paying clients. But Ben decreed that to work with anyone who disagreed with his view of now-President Donald Trump would be “hazardous to our health.”

Whose health, exactly? His own? His BFFs? This certainly does not seem like a statement from a company that regards itself as an international news outlet with offices in France.(DEVELOPING: BuzzFeed ‘Closes’ France Office, Will Lay Off At Least A Dozen Employees)

Let’s be real: Most everyone in the news business will agree journalistic mistakes, such as publishing the fake Trump dossier, are bound to happen.

But there’s more here.

Aside from operating a de facto super PAC for liberal initiatives, Ben demands a loyalty pledge at BuzzFeed: “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.”

It’s a pledge that conveniently herds abortion, transgender bathroom-use, Black Lives Matter activism and President Donald Trump into neat little boxcars. It’s a pledge that professes the debates of our time are settled. It’s a pledge anathema to any real news organization. (RELATED: BuzzFeed Caught Citing Fake Data In Its ‘Fake News Won The Election For Trump’ Argument … Again)

Thing is, though, the middle-aged man who calls himself “BuzzFeed Ben” doesn’t pay the bills with news, he pays them with cute millennial articles like “Times Women Shut Fuckboys The Fuck Down” and a Children’s-book-themed “32 Faces You’ll Recognize If You’ve Ever Had Anal Sex With A Penis,” combined with “brand publisher” posts such as “A Day In The Life In President Trump’s America,” which asked readers to vote for Hillary Clinton and failed to include a political disclaimer.

“When I got to BuzzFeed in 2011 it was seen as the world’s leading cat website,” Ben told a June audience gathered for a panel called “The New Gatekeepers: Journalism In The Era Of Platform Monopoly.”

His point in June was that he’d made BuzzFeed into something so much more than cute cats. And the point of the June panel was that platforms such as Facebook have a massive impact on the public’s access to news. Now he feels threatened, so he lashed out. (RELATED: BuzzFeed To Lay Off 100 Employees)

This week, a print newspaper editor told one of our colleagues, “The first time I ever heard of Ben Smith was when he reported that John Edwards was leaving the race.”

“The second time I heard of him, he was reporting why John Edwards wasn’t actually leaving the race.”

Fortunately for BuzzFeed Ben, the internet is a forgiving place — he just has to figure out what he’s really doing with it.

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