BuzzFeed, Huffington Post reporters defend the fluff

by Margaret Looney
Oct 30, 2018 in Miscellaneous

Although the website BuzzFeed, which "connects people in realtime with the hottest trends of the moment," has expanded to Washington and added veteran Capitol Hill reporter John Stanton into the mix, the site's many list stories are often regarded as fluffy content.

At a recent panel at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference, Stanton, BuzzFeed's Washington bureau chief, challenged the claim that both broccoli (serious news) and doughnut (entertaining news) can't complement one another on a single site.

“I've never understood the notion that [both hard and soft news] can’t coexist together perfectly well, or this idea that there are serious journalists that write these stories about politics and then sort of these other idiots that do this other stuff,” he said.

In fact, writing list stories requires strong journalism skills, Stanton said at the panel featuring political journalists from news sites PolitiFact, Politico, Roll Call and The Huffington Post.

"[List stories] require you to have a depth of knowledge. [Writing them] requires you to have an understanding [of] how to relate your information to your reader," he said. "What are those two things? Those are exactly what make a good journalist in any part of this business.”

The Huffington Post also features content that includes both the latest celebrity clothing mishaps and serious, thoroughly-reported issues, and the outlet's White House correspondent Jennifer Bendery defended the model.

“There’s a difference between journalism and things people want to talk about, and to me they’re both valid," she said. By placing the cute cat GIFs next to stories on substantive issues, Bendery hopes the "fun" content can drive readers to the "serious" news, a tactic seen as "kind of the model of Huffington."

"You can have things you want to talk about, and then there’s journalism," Bendery said. "If it’s a well-reported piece, it’s journalism, and if it’s a bunch of photographs with funny’s a fun read. It’s not that hard to differentiate for me, and it’s great that they coexist together, because in the end it’s human interest.”

You can watch a video of the panel here.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

Photo: Panelists Alex Muller of Roll Call, John Stanton of BuzzFeed, Jennifer Bendery of The Huffington Post, Rachel Smolkin of Politico and Bill Adair of PolitiFact. Photo by Margaret Looney.