Among certain old-media types, you’ll still sometimes hear the stale refrain that Buzzfeed is a purveyor of substance-free listicles, not serious news. Why, here’s one such old-media type, CNN President Jeff Zucker, quoted in August:
“I don’t think Vice and Buzzfeed are legitimate news organizations. They are native advertising shops. We crush both of them.”
Ironic, then, that today brings word that CNN has hired crack Buzzfeed political reporter Andrew Kaczynski and members of his team just five weeks before the presidential election. Kaczynski has proven himself a scoop machine, dogging Donald Trump’s campaign with, most recently, the revelation that Trump appeared (clothed) in a softcore porn video in 2000. He also uncovered the 2002 Howard Stern interview in which Trump said he supported the US invasion of Iraq, contradicting the GOP candidate’s continued lie about opposing the war from the start.
In short, Zucker seems to have recognized what others have long known: Buzzfeed does great journalism. Take, for instance, its investigation into working conditions at meal delivery service Blue Apron. Just because a site publishes pieces like “How Normal Are Your Cake Opinions?” or “30 Jaden Smith Tweets That Will Make You Say ‘Huh?'” doesn’t preclude its newsroom from doing serious reporting. Last time I checked, most “serious” newspapers still have style sections and funny pages.
Huffington Post reports that Kaczynski and crew gave notice today and start at CNN tomorrow. That has to hurt if you’re Buzzfeed. But with the election just 35 days away, no one has time for two weeks’ notice. Kaczynski’s boss, Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, clearly isn’t thrilled by the loss. But he’s finding at least one small consolation:
I guess this means that CNN has seen the value in doing the kind of tough reporting on Trump @BuzzFeedNews has been doing all cycle…
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) October 3, 2016
Turns out, when you do good journalism, even the most reluctant old-media holdouts want a piece of what you do.