Originally published April 20 2015
BuzzFeed joins the mainstream media club of censoring information to appease corporate advertisers
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) When it comes to advertising in today's mainstream media, it is certainly a buyer's market.
Once upon a time, legacy publications like those in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston and Los Angeles were flush with ad dollars and had little reason to worry about meeting publishing costs and turning a profit for investors.
But the media landscape has certainly changed over the past 20 years, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and web-based alternative news sources like Natural News, and that has meant a drastic decline in ad dollars for traditional newspapers.
The competition for advertisers in a more diverse pool of media outlets has been stiff, and it has often led to decisions by both management and editorial staff that have compromised journalistic integrity. As in, advertisers upset or uncomfortable with a sponsored publication's reporting now have sway over whether some stories are covered, or the manner and perspective of the coverage.
Who gets to tell the truth, then?Now, however, it appears that advertisers are even beginning to influence the editorial judgment of some in the "new media" -- such as BuzzFeed News. As reported by The New York Times recently, the website's editors were forced to remove some posts because advertisers didn't like what was written:
An internal review by BuzzFeed [in recent days] found three instances when editors deleted posts after an advertiser or employees from the company's business side complained about their content, according to a memo sent to staff members on Saturday by the news and entertainment website's editor in chief.
A memo from BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith reveals that the site's editorial staff had deleted more than 1,100 posts in total; three due to advertiser complaints.
The other posts were expunged for a variety of other reasons, including potential copyright problems with material or photos, concerns about quality of journalism and technical errors.
But according to the memo, the three ad-related deletions criticized products or advertisements that had been produced by Microsoft, Pepsi and Axe body spray, which is manufactured by Unilever. Smith wrote that they were "pulled after an editor fielded a complaint from a business-side BuzzFeed staff member who worked with a brand mentioned in the piece."
The deletion disclosures, and the reasons for them, came four months after BuzzFeed published editorial guidelines that were meant to showcase the site's continuing evolution from an aggregator of viral web content into a more traditional digital news company.
Advertiser influenceThe disclosure also came on the heels of an admission by Smith in March that he had ordered editors to delete two other posts that were hard on BuzzFeed advertisers: Dove soap, which is also a Unilever product, and toymaker Hasbro.
After much criticism, Smith eventually ordered the two posts republished, explaining that he had simply overreacted in asking editors to take them down. In a note, he told staffers that the posts were deleted after he took issue with the opinionated tone of the pieces but not because of advertiser complaints.
Here is a of the three ad posts that were removed:
-- In 2013, Mark Duffy (who was later fired), then the site's ad critic, criticized a campaign by Axe body spray in a post that was removed after officials complained it accused the company of advocating "worldwide mass rape."
-- In March 2013, a post by Tanner Ringerud, a former employee of BuzzFeed's business side and an editorial contributor, about Microsoft Internet Explorer was taken down after it was learned that Ringerud should not have written about it because he had previously worked on an ad campaign for the product.
-- The third post, titled "These Brands Are Going to Bombard Your Twitter Feed on Super Bowl Sunday," was shelved after BuzzFeed's business side complained that it bashed Pepsi's Twitter feed, for which the business side was producing content for the NFL's biggest game.
These examples may seem harmless to some people, but given the media's responsibility to be fair and truthful, anytime an advertiser has sway over editorial content, that core media mission is compromised.
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