Depending on how old you are, the website “Buzzfeed” may bring a different collection of thoughts and feelings to mind. There is sort of a trichotomy among millennials. Different people of slightly different age groups remember this website in different ways.
BuzzFeed.com first emerged in 2006. The site was a different animal back in the day. It has remained basically the same idea, but, um…Check the archives if you would like a better idea. There’s even a disclaimer in these baby articles: “This is class post from BuzzFeed’s earlier days and may not represent BuzzFeed’s current editorial standards.” I’ll say!
A basic frame of there “articles” was a linked a list of articles from various sources related to a certain viral topic with a couple of introductory sentences. Humble beginnings.
By 2010, Buzzfeed had grown in popularity and was known as junk “journalism”. It had earned a reputation for plagiarizing, though at the time, no lawsuits were made. The difference in this stage was that there was more content, and articles, even though they were based on other content, were a little more substantial. It was, however, still a mishmash of photos and quotes and explanations, with a very similar creativity level of gluing a precut wooden bird to a premade wooden birdhouse.
Someone was finally sued for plagiarism. BuzzFeed exploded into more diverse content. Not only were original articles written, but original videos were made as well. The site still caters to a younger crowd and “clickbait” titles are reigning freely.
So do you want to write for BuzzFeed? Is it “real” journalism? In stage three, why not? In several years, maybe everyone will have forgotten its early Internet days anyway. And maybe the Reddit/BuzzFeed conflict will be resolved. (I will save the details for another day). There are still many websites that operate at stage one or two, and I have written for one. Just make sure that if you do write for a viral website, you can cite sources.
How do you define “real” journalism, and do you think the distinction is necessary?