BuzzFeed got a $50 million bump in its wallet just recently from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. But with that new investment, is BuzzFeed also trying to carve out a new reputation?
That's one conclusion you might drawn from this Gawker article published Tuesday. The article calls out BuzzFeed for "permanently erasing thousands of specious, staff-written posts" (nearly 4,000 in April, the writer alleges), "a practice virtually unheard of in online publishing."
It's worth noting that Gawker and BuzzFeed are rival sites, at least according to Gawker Media Founder Nick Denton. He said back in March that the Jonah Peretti-founded BuzzFeed is "pointless," yet "understands the Internet."
BuzzFeed has made a notable shift to include more serious journalism and, what it calls, high-quality content to its site in the last year. The New York Times reported that focus on actual journalism, coupled with its social media-styled delivery, is a part of its strategy to "Publish items that people want to share on social media."
But the site has been forced to confront journalism's cardinal sin, plagiarism, after firing writer Benny Johnson for the offense and making corrections to 41 of his posts. The Daily Caller cites an anonymous source who said Johnson was the "sacrificial lamb," essentially taking the blame for BuzzFeed's unclear and, at times, questionable editorial practices.
So, if it's trying to re-shape its image, why would BuzzFeed delete posts without letting anyone know? Trotter over at Gawker says maybe "the deleted posts committed lesser sins, like insufficient photo sourcing."
But in our opinion, BuzzFeed could stand to lose quite a few of its more recycled posts anyway. I mean, how many posts does a site really need on Coachella fashion? Let's just say most of the outfits at Coachella suck.
BuzzFeed spokesperson Ashley McCollum explained in an email to Gawker in July the site has "removed certain posts" in the past after updating their policies and standards and finding that older posts didn't meet those standards.
And Poynter reported that writers were given the option to make edits or delete their own posts, if they felt the need to do so.
Also in July, Peretti addressed the missing posts, likening them to to "b-roll and screen tests" for a T.V. show, adding "We weren't a news org 4 yrs ago."
BuzzFeed might not have been a news organization four years ago, but it's pretty safe to say they are one now. And as a news organization, it might be best to let folks in on major changes for the sake of transparency. The site has yet to respond to comment on the 4,000 deleted posts pointed out by Gawker.
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