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BuzzFeed editor fired for repeat plagiarism: stole text from NYT, Yahoo Answers and more


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(NaturalNews) Maybe you haven't heard of or seen hyper mixed media website BuzzFeed in its entirety, but if you use Twitter and/or Facebook, then you may have seen bits and pieces of it. According to New York Magazine, "BuzzFeed's articles only nominally live on the website, spending most of their time out of the house as links on social networks like Facebook and Twitter." [1]

That seems to be part of co-founder Jonah Peretti's cleverness for creating viral surges that have put BuzzFeed's online influence into international prominence.

The New York Magazine online article, "Does BuzzFeed Know the Secret?" continues with this subtitle: "Jonah Peretti's viral-content machine purports to have solved the problems of both journalism and advertising at once, all with the help of a simple algorithm." [1]

This article explains: "The site is a hyperactive amalgam: simultaneously a journalism website, a purveyor of funny lists, and a perpetual pop-culture plebiscite where you can vote on articles with bright-yellow buttons reading lol, wtf, and omg." [1]

The site looks like the right side of a London Daily Mirror online page, with its juicy celebrity gossip, but on mixed media steroids: graphics, photo series and finely edited bit-sized clips from already short videos.

John Peretti managed to co-create a media phenomenon that appeals to the click-bait Facebook and Twitter crowd, which leaves it open to the viral explosion that it's enjoying now.

Peretti came across the concept while tinkering on the internet as a grad student at MIT. He considers BuzzFeed as "a deep experiment in psycho-sociological theory, and a new business model he calls Social Publishing." [2]

There are some detractors, such as the older competing online site Gawker, that predict the site's intentional contradictions, juxtaposing deadly serious world and national news reports with celebrity nonsense and other silliness.

But it appears that this paradox is fitting for the current culture of attention-deficit internet distraction browsing and clicking. And so far, investors have dumped millions into BuzzFeed. [2]

So how did someone manage to get fired for plagiarism from this site?

There's some irony in the fact that political editor Benny Johnson was ganged up on for lifting whole phrases, sentences and factual details from other sites by pseudonymous Twitter users who messaged the rival Gawker site.

According to Politico, Gawker gleefully reported the allegations that Johnson has "'periodically lifted text from a variety of sources' -- including Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, U.S. News & World Report -- 'all without credit,'" and displayed the exact text that Benny had lifted from Yahoo Answers and other sources as examples. BuzzFeed defended Benny but amended the text with proper attributions.

But more reports and more examples came forth to indicate that maybe Benny wasn't just careless or lazy about sourcing his material properly; there was a pattern that implied intent.

The Twitter tweeters further showed how Benny also took text from The New York Times (sacrilegious!), the Heritage Foundation and National Review Online without attribution.

This forced BuzzFeed to uncircle the wagons around Benny and initiate an internal investigation, which found 41 incidents of outright text copying without attribution among 500 posts by Benny Johnson. [3]

Considering the ratio of small bits and pieces taken and incorporated as his own among 500 posts compared to wholesale copying of articles or making stuff up and calling it news, Benny wasn't the worst copycat in journalism.

But the BuzzFeed staff was forced into letting their long-time friend and creative influence go while apologizing for their own insufficient editorial scrutiny which didn't notice the shifts in writing styles within those 41 articles. [4]

After all, this rising attention-grabbing online site had to at least put on a show of journalistic integrity to continue surfing a massive viral wave in shark-infested waters, even though its click-bait memes are flashy, frivolous entertainment and cute animal videos, interwoven with a little news here and there.

Sources for this article include:

[1] http://nymag.com

[2] http://www.businessweek.com

[3] http://www.politico.com

[4] http://www.buzzfeed.com

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