BuzzFeed is to journalism what Geraldo is to Walter Cronkite. It sucks. It is built on meanest of readers’ instincts. These endless stream of crass listicles are an insult to the human intelligence and goodness you personify. Even Business Insider, a champion practitioner of cheap click-bait schemes, looks like The New York Review of Books compared to BuzzFeed. And don’t tell me that, by hiring a couple of “seasoned editors and writers” as the PR spin puts it, BuzzFeed will become a noble and notable contributor of information. We never saw a down/mass market product morphing into a premium media. You can delete as many posts as you wish, it won’t alter BF’s peculiar DNA.
There have been a flurry of new apps and services released recently that are aimed at giving users short hits on breaking news, from Jason Calacanis’s Inside app to Yahoo’s new Tech News app, which is based on its acquisition of algorithm-driven startup Summly. Circa, a mobile-news startup we’ve written about a number of times, often gets lumped in with this growing group of services because the updates it sends on news stories tend to be short — but co-founder and CEO Matt Galligan says what Circa is up to is actually quite different.
While most of the services mentioned give users brief news items that they can consume quickly while standing in line at the bank or in the back of a cab, Galligan says Circa’s approach differs in one major way: since it allows users to “follow” a specific story, and get updates only about new developments on that story, it essentially is building a long-form news story over time — just in bite-size chunks.
Some degree of perfectionism turns out to be good for business, and absolute perfectionism can prevent great journalism from ever happening at all. Journalists haven’t found a magic answer—the Knight Foundation just issued a $320,000 grant to support development of software that determines if viral videos are real. And the audience remains uncertain about what standards to apply: Twitter addicts are far more forgiving of mistakes than, say, subscribers to print newspapers, or readers of The New Yorker.
In every newsroom I visited, The New Yorker’s iconic fact-checking system was mentioned, not so much as an ideal, but more like an impossible standard that no mere mortals could reach. Despite the difficult advertising climate, The New Yorker still employs full-time staff checkers to verify every assertion in each piece. For an article I wrote last year, the magazine assigned two checkers who devoted much of their time to the story for more than five months. Each set of checks opened new avenues for reporting, immensely strengthening the story. From the perspective of a newspaper guy, the experience seemed to take place on a different planet from where I ordinarily live.
Every time I would talk about the “process” the crew would stop filming, their way of hushing me up. I started to tell the cast we should share what we were asked about in our weekly interviews because they were trying to establish plotlines to make us fight. This did not go over too well with the crew, which sat us down as a group to “talk” to us about the process. I told them, if you want to keep it real, film you talking to us about what you are calling a “process.” Hilariously, a junior director of the show said, “She’s right,” and brought out a camera, and the main director said, “Get that camera out of here. Now.”
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