Posted by Sydney Price
On April 9, BuzzFeed deleted a post by Beauty Editor Arabelle Sicardi. Its removal sparked an uproar. The reason? The post criticized Dove’s new advertising campaign. The catch? Dove is a big advertiser on BuzzFeed. Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s Editor-in-Chief, quickly apologized and put the post back up, calling it an issue with unclear standards for opinion writing. Twitter users who responded to Smith’s tweet had mixed reactions. Some praised his transparency and others questioned the legitimacy of BuzzFeed’s editorial standards.
Despite the repost of her deleted work, Sicardi announced her resignation.
The Columbia Journalism Review picked up the story, boldly calling the episode a “censorship problem” and warning of the dangers of editorial and advertising content getting too cozy.
BuzzFeed appears to be having a bit of an identity crisis. The site ventured into publishing hard news stories (and hired experienced journalists to do pieces for them, according to the CJR article), but these still run next to entertaining quizzes and funny GIF lists. Much of their sponsored content, although labeled, is easily confused with staff-written content. BuzzFeed is a popular website and a lucrative business model, but it will have to do more to earn the respect of “serious” journalism – if that’s indeed what it is trying to accomplish.
How do you feel about the way BuzzFeed handled the situation? How can journalists better avoid clashes between advertising and content when they are so closely linked, especially on the web?