RIP to BuzzFeed News, You Launched Some Incredible Talent
BuzzFeed News, an outlet that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021, announced it was shutting down today. This sucks! BuzzFeed News launched a lot of talented journalists into the world and has had some amazing long-form pieces over the years. Naturally, CEO Jonah Peretti is very upset to have to make that decision. Don’t worry though, I’m sure he’s still worth millions. Per The New York Times:
Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s chief executive, said in an email to employees on Thursday that he was closing BuzzFeed News as part of a broader round of cuts at the company. About 60 people will be affected by the shuttering of the news division, some of whom will be offered jobs at other parts of the company.
You can read the whole memo, embedded in this Tweet:
The layoffs will affect 15 percent of BuzzFeed employees, and that really sucks! Despite flippant critics’ love for disparagingly lumping the site in with quizzes determining which TV show character you most resemble, BuzzFeed News was a legitimate news outlet doing serious and impactful investigative work.
It’s a bad day to be in media because Insider is also laying off about 10 percent of their workforce, which was announced in a 7 am email to employees.
What really stings about the BuzzFeed News layoffs is that buried in the middle of Peretti’s memo is a throwaway line about investing in AI, stating: “We will bring more innovation to clients in the forms of creators, AI, and cultural moments …”
Ha, read between those lines. They will outsource content production to influencers (with no ethical standards unlike journalists), and AI, and I don’t even understand what he’s talking about with cultural moments. Coachella? Your guess is as good as mine, there.
As CEO, Peretti is at least taking full accountability for the misstep in leadership in the memo, but I am willing to bet my entire monthly income (which is probably Peretti’s weekly Doordash budget) that does not extend to taking a cut in his own compensation package, just saying. Per the NYT:
In his memo, Mr. Peretti said he “made the decision to overinvest” in BuzzFeed’s news division because he loved the work it produced but acknowledged that he had been slow to accept that social media platforms would not provide the financial support needed to make Buzzfeed News profitable.
“I’ve learned from these mistakes, and the team moving forward has learned from them as well,” Mr. Peretti wrote. “We know that the changes and improvements we are making today are necessary steps to building a better future.”
Yep, just so we’re clear: Leadership failed, here, and as a result, 15 percent of the company is losing their livelihoods, but the CEO feels really bad, OK?! Nothing to see here, let’s just move on! Everything will be fine going forward, until the next round of layoffs!
What I liked most about BuzzFeed News was that they had substantial long-form pieces that didn’t exist behind a paywall, about people and places the large publications didn’t seem to care about. They also launched some of my favorite journalists, like Anne Helen Petersen. Petersen wrote about something being off about Armie Hammer for BuzzFeed News years before anyone else caught on (and she got a lot of flack for her piece, too). There was also this excellent piece about the murder of DeeDee Blanchard by Michelle Dean that was adapted into the Hulu miniseries The Act. Plus, there was this excellent article about how China was detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims, which won the publication a Pulitzer in 2021. Now that all goes away, all we’ll have is AI, content creators, and cultural moments instead. Does that sound like a news site worth visiting?
More to the point, where are we supposed to go to get our news, now? It seems like every publication that sources first-person accounts with any sort of editorial standard is behind a paywall and the ones that don’t—CNN, Fox News, etc.—clearly have an ideologically conservative bent to them. Sure, BuzzFeed News wasn’t A+ content all the time, but overall, it had a high standard and excellent journalists working for it. Peretti’s memo says a “number of select roles” will be open at HuffPost, which BuzzFeed acquired in 2020, but that’s leaving a lot of great, formerly easily accessible talent on the table in favor of a low-cost future of low-cost “content creators, AI, and cultural moments.” No, thank you.
(featured image: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
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