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BuzzFeed Seriously Needs to Revamp Its Editorial Standards

As my colleague Andrew Husband pointed out yesterday, only minutes after the first reports of a school shooting in Oregon. BuzzFeed reporter Joel Anderson immediately began politicizing the tragedy, to the delight of some and the jeers of others.

If that sounds familiar, another BuzzFeed staffer apologized for doing the same exact thing after the Charleston shooting. While she defended the tweets at first, she was forced to apologize when a conservative tweeted her boss and pointed out that she was ignoring BuzzFeed’s editorial guidelines.

Here are the guidelines in question:

While we understand that many BuzzFeed editorial staffers are passionate and thoughtful and hold personal views on policy issues or candidates, we must maintain one blanket rule for all of editorial: Political partisanship may not be expressed in public forums, including Twitter and Facebook…

BuzzFeed News: Reporters and editors should refrain from commenting in a partisan way about candidates or policy issues. News staffers are not permitted to donate money or volunteer time for political candidates or policy issues.

So yes, Anderson fell afoul of BuzzFeed’s editorial guidelines, as critics again pointed out. But that’s because BuzzFeed’s editorial guidelines are contradictory and idiotic.

Here’s what they say in the paragraph above the one demanding reporters never give the impression of partisanship.

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. But when it comes to activism, BuzzFeed editorial must follow the lead of our editors and reporters who come out of a tradition of rigorous, neutral journalism that puts facts and news first. If we don’t, it makes it harder for those reporters to do their jobs.

So on a number of (coincidentally, all liberal) policy issues, it is the official stance of BuzzFeed that there are not two sides, and any article or cat listicle to the contrary is simply not welcome. Unhelpfully, BuzzFeed’s list of policy issues with only one side is not exhaustive. For all we know, gun control is one of the issues where the “right side” is so obviously correct, there’s no need to subject it to even the lightest scrutiny.

Then, a paragraph after openly and loudly proclaiming its institutional bias, BuzzFeed is worried about its reporters appearing partisan on Twitter? Who do they think they’re fooling?

Not to mention that BuzzFeed didn’t say a peep when one of it’s journalists accepted an award from Planned Parenthood for excellence in reporting on “reproductive rights.” Presumably, that didn’t come from critical reporting on reproductive rights. As the tweet announcing the award put it…

Doesn't Exist

Huh. Weird. It’s almost like they find it embarrassing for some reason.

Look, it’s perfectly fine if BuzzFeed wants to be a liberal website that does hard news, but also does advocacy journalism. I’d like to think my Mediaite co-workers and I handle the line between our straight reporting and our opinion pieces well enough. But to simultaneously chastise your reporters for engaging in the kind of advocacy you encourage seems unfair.

BuzzFeed’s editorial guidelines need an update. Preferably, they’d change the part that treats pro-life perspectives and disagreeing with DeRay McKesson as Worse Than Hitler. But if Buzzfeed is really married to the idea of being an explicitly liberal news source, come on, let the kids tweet.

 

[Image via screengrab]
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